Truth Be Told

I am currently writing a book about the Doctrine of Discovery along with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah. There is a crowdfunding campaign to support the writing process with reward levels that includes SIGNED COPIES of the book once it is released! Click here for more information.

Friday, May 2, 2014

5 Small Loaves

In the Bible, there is a story of when Jesus was teaching a large crowd. At the conclusion of his teaching his disciples observed that it was late in the day, they were in a lonely place and the people were hungry with no food to eat. Jesus responded by telling them, "You feed them." The disciples immediately panicked and pointed out that doing so would be massively expensive, costing up to 8 months of a man’s wages. They also implied that they did not have enough money to make even a dent in that need. Undeterred, Jesus asked them what they did have. They went out and returned with a young boy who was willing to share his 5 small loaves and 2 little fish. Jesus took it, looked up to heaven, and GAVE THANKS! Then he just started passing out the food. And not only did more than 5,000 people eat to their heart's content, but afterwards the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers! (See Mark 6:30-44 and John 6:1-15)

Did you ever stop to wonder how the young boy who gave his lunch to Jesus felt? Can you imagine the exhilaration he must have had watching his 5 small loaves and 2 little fish feed a crowd of well over 5,000 people?  I bet he went home and told that story over and over and over again.  He probably felt like, as long as he was with Jesus, anything was possible.

One young boy who was willing to share his 5 small loaves (and 2 little fish) was all Jesus needed to meet the overwhelming needs of a very hungry crowd.

A new organization: 5 Small Loaves 
And it is in this spirit that Rachel and I are starting a new organization, called 5 Small Loaves. This past decade of living on the Navajo reservation has taught us that our community, the church, our country, even the world is in critical need. But God had also been pounding into our heads, that we, people (both individually and collectively), are simply unable to meet the overwhelming needs. But God can. And like the young boy and the 12 disciples He wants to allow us to be a part of the process. Because it's not just about collecting the resources, or even feeding the people, but it's about encouraging, empowering and producing faith.

Twelve years ago, we began our ministry in Native American when I accepted a call to pastor the Christian Indian Center, a Native American Christian church in Denver, CO. Two years later, God called our family to move to the Navajo Reservation. We understood that the primary purposes of this call was to experience life on the reservation, learn more about my Navajo language and culture, and identify more closely with our native peoples. Because of this, I made the intentional decision to shed all of my leadership responsibilities and positions. I knew that eventually I would be called again to lead, but first my call was just to "be" among my people and allow the Creator to deepen his work in me. I began blogging during this time and I welcome you to read my thoughts and reflections as I experienced this wilderness journey with my family (Blog article: When I Grow up I want to be a Shepherd).

For the past 5-7 years, I have mostly participated only in dialogues where I was invited to engage. This included joining the Boards of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). I also accepted invitations to speak, and even lead (in partnership with other organizations) on issues of diversity, racial reconciliation, and other faith issues.

But in the past 3-5 years, there have been 3 specific issues that I have been compelled to speak out on and lead into primarily on my own. These issues were so important to me but yet incredibly controversial throughout the broader country that I found if I did not speak then nothing would be said or done. These issues were:
  1. Creating a space for native voices in national political elections.
  2. Advocating for the inclusion of the indigenous peoples of this land in the dialogue to comprehensively and justly reform our nation's immigration laws.
  3. To publicly and respectfully read the U.S. apology to Native peoples that was buried in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

The experience of leading each of these 3 conversations in addition to all the other work has been incredibly rewarding but physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually exhausting. And that is why we are starting 5 Small Loaves. We sense that the season of being in the "wilderness" is coming to an end, and a new season of building partnerships and leading is beginning.

It is our hope that through this organization, we will be able to not only engage in dialogue where we are invited, but also to initiate and bring these conversations to various communities, groups, institutions and organizations throughout the country.  We will also be able to receive people for training and provide education on issues of missions, contextualized worship, and other aspects of culture and faith.

Broad Goals:
  • Reshaping American church missions from a charity, assimilation and parental model to one of humble learners in need of partnership from a rich and culturally-diverse body.
  • Giving space for Native Americans to speak and participate in American politics and policy issues such as immigration reform and national elections.
  • Equipping and empowering Native American Christians to participate in missions from the context of indigenous cultures and world views
  • Encouraging Native Americans to embrace their God-given cultural characteristics that result in authentic worship of God.
  • Empowering Native Americans to embrace their collective role as the host peoples of this land, and offering this “nation of immigrants” wisdom, leadership and adoption.

Core Values:

*In obedience to God, racial reconciliation is a commitment to building cross cultural relationships of forgiveness, repentance, love and hope that result in walking in beauty with our fellow man and God.

Vision Statement:
Pursuing reconciliation through honest education, intentional conversation and meaningful action.
 *See end of letter for additional information on of each of these topics

Where you fit in
We chose the name, 5 Small Loaves, intentionally, so we would have a constant reminder that the responsibility for solving the problems and needs in this world belongs to God. We also want to remember and communicate that the support and funding for this work is not dependent upon any one person, group, or organization and that no gift is too small.

After the disciples told Jesus that they did not have enough of their own resources to feed to people, he told them to go and find out what they did have. And that is what this letter is all about. We do not have enough resources to accomplish the work listed above, but we know that God wants us to do something. So we are taking inventory. What do we have? Who is willing to stand with us? What resources can be given?

We are seeking your prayers, financial gifts, and your partnership to support the work outlined here. Currently, we have 4 members (Mark and Rachel Charles and Tim and Martha Stoner) committed to 5 Small Loaves. Each of us are ready to give 30-40 hours per week to the projects included within this letter. There are also the administrative, operational, and travel costs to support.  As 5 Small Loaves progresses, we will pursue the federal and state non-profit statuses, and we will seek out grants to support larger projects. 

There are several ways that you can partner with and support the vision of 5 Small Loaves. 
  1. Connect with us by filling out our online Google Doc Form.
  2. Host a Conversation - We are eager to work with partners, individuals and organizations who are interested in hosting a conversation regarding any of the work in which 5 Small Loaves is involved (I.e. Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation, US Apology to Natives, Navajo Time Perception, Mission Models, Diversity, 51st vNAs, etc).  Our events coordinator (Rachel Charles) will work with you to setup an event in your local area.
  3. Arrange Speaking Engagements - Mark Charles, the founder and director of 5 Small Loaves is available for any type of public speaking engagement (preaching, seminar, conference plenary, panel discussion, etc.).
  4. Prayer Support - If you would like to pray for the work and needs of our ministry you can LIKE our FB page ( or send us your email address and we will keep you updated on latest praises, needs and concerns.
  5. Financial Support - Instructions for giving to the work of 5 Small Loaves can be found below.
Until a 501(c)(3) is obtained there are 4 options for giving financial gifts.
  1. A tax-deductible gift for the “ministry of Mark Charles” can be made payable to the
    CHRISTIAN INDIAN CENTER and mailed to: PO BOX 211248, DENVER, CO 80221. 
  2. A tax-deductible gift for the “ministry of Tim and Martha Stoner” can be made payable to FREEDOM OF NATIONS and mailed to: 37 ROAD 5297, FARMINGTON, NM  87401
  3. A NON tax-deductible gift can be given directly to 5 Small Loaves
  4. A NON tax-deductible gift can be given thru PAYPAL directly to Mark Charles (designate for the work of 5 Small Loaves in the transfer)
    Use the email address

You can also find Mark Charles online at 

** Doctrine of Discovery: A series of Papal Bulls from the 15th century that are essentially the Church saying to the nations of Europe “Whatever lands you find that are not ruled by Christian Rulers are empty and yours for the taking.” These Bulls are the theological foundation for the American Church and the United States. The fruits of which are: Columbus claiming to have “Discovered” America, Manifest Destiny, Boarding Schools (Kill the Indian to save the man).  Mark Charles serves on a Task Force of the CRCNA that examines the doctrine.

** Navajo Perception of Time:  A research project in partnership with BYU that seeks to understand the impact that time perception has on Native college students in their academic success and retention.

* Missions: Training, empowering and sending Native Americans to share the Gospel throughout the country and around the world.  Additionally, reshaping American church missions from a charity, assimilation and parental model to one of humble learners in need of partnership from a rich and culturally-diverse body.

* “Conversation for Reconciliation” on the 2010 Apology to Native Peoples: On December 19, 2009 President Obama signed House Resolution 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriation Act. This 67 page document contained a buried apology to Native peoples that was not announced, publicized or publicly read by the White House or Congress. 2 years later, Mark Charles organized a public reading of this bill and the enclosed apology in front the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. 

* Native American perspective on Immigration Reform:

** Global Discipleship Network: The GDN is a group of pastors in a mutual learning exchange circle, in which each one visits and hosts every other pastor.

** Would Jesus Eat Frybread? An annual conference for Native American Christian college students in collaboration with CICW, CRU and InterVarsity, where students explore what it means to be both Native and Christian. 

** Contextualizing worship for indigenous peoples, cultures and languages:

* Project is currently being run independently my Mark Charles and will be immediately brought under the oversight of 5 Small Loaves

** Projects is currently being worked on in partnership between Mark Charles and an outside organization. In the next 6-12 months conversations will be had with these outside partners to seek to establish a formal partnership with 5 Small Loaves.


Jennifer Major said...

WHOA!! This is AWESOME!!

Mark Stephenson said...

Mark and Rachel, it's a thrill to read about the vision God has given for 5 Small Loaves. I pray that your ministry will bear much fruit, and speak clearly for those whose voices are not heard. God's rich blessings, Mark Stephenson