Renee Begay’s story expresses the heart of Nations and our desire for First Nations people around the world. Renee tells the story of how the Creator pursued her throughout her life and how he cares for her today as she discovers what it means to be Native and a follower of Christ.
My name is Renee Begay, wife of Donnie Begay… I grew up on the Zuni Reservation believing and being faithful to their spiritual way of life. I took part in the ceremonies, fastings, and rituals. At a very young age (8ish-9 y.o.) God began working in my heart (putting very profound questions in my heart about traditional ways, eternity, life after death, whether what we worshipped was real, why we do our ceremonies the way we do). I began to ask my family about these hard questions. They had no answer. They knew that there was a purpose to our way of life but they couldn’t explain or they didn’t know. They kept telling me to stay faithful, that my identity rested in my participation of the Zuni religion. I dug deeper and was more faithful. However I was continually frustrated that I wasn’t fully satisfied. Worshipping my ancestors gave me a sense that I didn’t know my creator. My mom sent me to a Christian high school only because she had heard it was a great academic school. They told me to get a great education but to leave the talk of Jesus and Christianity alone. I tried but I couldn’t. 🙂 I watched my classmates as they prayed to this God expecting that he would hear them. What surprised me was that the prayers were answered!
I went back to my grandmother telling her what I would see. Why did we have to make sure that every step in our rituals were perfect before our prayers would be heard? Who was the God that they were seeking and why was he so personal? I wanted what my classmates had, but it took me over a year of weighing the consequences of my decision before I accepted Christ. What did it mean to be a native and a Christian? Where did my identity now lie without my traditional religion? I was so confused but my high school counselor helped me–reminding me that God wanted a personal relationship with me (which I really desired) and that he was patient with me because he knew what was in my heart.
I jumped ahead in my walk with God and got involved with Campus Crusade at New Mexico State. I met Kristin Torres (on staff with Destino at NMSU). She discipled Donnie and me and played the key role in helping jumpstart Nations. I had a vision from the Lord in 2002 about where mine and God’s heart to reach the Nations. I was burdened to reach my people but the Lord had bigger plans. He showed me a vision of thousands of people from different tribes praising and glorifying his name. My heart and Donnie’s heart grew bigger to reach all tribes, tongues and nations. Kristin took our vision and made it happen. She trained us intensely (how to lead, how to tailor our evangelism specifically to the native culture, etc…) It came time to name the movement. We prayed about what God would want his movement to be called. Nations was the word that kept coming up!