SALEM — For starters, the fact that both “cowboys and Indians” were on the Oregon State Capitol steps in unity perhaps indicated how unusual the next four to five hours would be. Close to 500 people on Saturday, April 16 witnessed an event some might consider unprecedented, but for which organizers saw much historic precedent — a Christ-centered recognition of the spiritual underpinnings behind settlement of Oregon and the larger Pacific Northwest.
Organized by Aaron Auer’s ROAR (Reviving Oregon’s Amazing Roots) Ministries, the ROAR?180 Rendezvous marked not only the 180th anniversary of this region’s Native tribes’ efforts to learn about the Christian faith, but it also sought to call the Northwest to make a “180-degree turnaround” to its historic Gospel roots.
Endorsed by state Rep. Bruce Hanna, co-speaker of the state House of Representatives and one of the dozens of people who spoke briefly at the gathering, the event was a full display of tribal regalia, historic costumes and pageantry. Although rain showers had been firmly predicted all week, skies remained largely just overcast and conditions stayed dry through most of the time together.
In what historians term “The Macedonian Call of the West,” Salish and Nez Perce tribes in 1831 requested that missionaries be sent to the region to teach their people. Jason Lee answered that call, and his work encouraged additional settlement of the Willamette Valley, which led to the establishment of Oregon as a U.S. territory.
In opening comments following music from the Cowboy Church of Junction City, John David Gomez, a member of the Native community and pastor of Jerusalem Center church in Medford, remarked on the mix of backgrounds represented, but also the presence of unity in Jesus.
“Only our God can bring a people together like this, where they will love and respect one another,” he said. “Only God can do it!”
Dressed as Jason Lee, Auer expressed his belief that the region’s Christian heritage will continue to be rediscovered and that the spiritual climate in this part of the nation will be changed.
“The state of Oregon is never going to forget that we are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” he proclaimed.
Hanna expressed his appreciation to Auer and the other event organizers for their efforts.
“Thank you for bringing our God and sharing Him at the Capitol,” he said. ROAR Ministry leaders and Native representatives later in the program surprised Hanna with special honors he humbly ac-cepted, including having bestowed upon him the Native name “Undaunted Courage.”
The program began at 11 a.m. and ran until the late afternoon. Dozens of representatives of Oregon ministries, Native groups, churches, civic groups and more read brief historic vignettes covering the almost two centuries of settlement history. Also recognized was the potential today for additional ethnic groups, including the state’s many Russian, Slavic, Romanian and Hispanic churches, to positively influence the spiritual climate and win Natives to Christ. In one of the closing segments, there was a reading and signing of a declaration of commitment to evangelism among Natives.
For more on the region’s Christian heritage, and on ROAR Ministries, go to www.roaroregon.org.
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