Bryan & Sierra

I often visit friends around the country who have  joined me in following Jesus. We renew our relationship. I see how they’re getting along and we encourage each other.  I look for how the gospel is growing and producing fruit in their lives.

My recent visit to Bryan and Sierra in Montana left me misty-eyed and in awe.

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They gave me permission to share their story.

Keep reading — you’ll be amazed what happens at the end.

 

Bryan grew up on the Crow Indian Reservation. He became a Jesus follower after Bear, another student, shared how Jesus was changing his life.

Bryan was baptized in a bathtub.

Bryan does the "Water Experience" with Jesus
Bryan does the “Water Experience” with Jesus

A short time later, Bryan’s girlfriend, Sierra, moved in with him.

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I went to talk with Bryan one day, intending to tell him what he was doing wasn’t right for a follower of Jesus. On the way, I felt the Holy Spirit restrict me.

“Why don’t you see if Sierra wants to start following Jesus, too?”

The three of us started gathering regularly. We really got to know each other. We began reading and discussing stories about Jesus together. They even started going through the Disciple book together. They were eager to learn how God could influence their lives.

Bryan and Sierra progressively moved toward centering their lives around Jesus. Sierra soon found some other friends to live with.

But their story was just beginning.

The Way of Jesus was starting to transform their relationship, their family, and thousands from the Crow reservation who they would eventually carry this message to.

Here are some words from Bryan:
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I grew up on the Crow Indian Reservation. I think the reservation is probably one of the roughest environments to live in, to go to school in, and to work in. It doesn’t take a genius to know we have problems. Alcoholism, drug addiction, crime rates, and every kind of abuse you can think of.

 Growing up, I had never been to a church. I’d heard about Jesus, but I’d never had a conversation with anyone about Him.

When I went to Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas, I didn’t know who I was and what I was meant to do on this earth. After high-school kids are riddled with questions about what they want to do with their lives. By the time I was 19, I had dropped out of college twice. All dreams about football were flushed down the drain because of the effects of a kidney disease I had when I was 14.

My hopes were crushed and I was ready to end it all.

Bear

That semester, I met a kid in my English class (above) who said he was a follower of Jesus. I thought he was the craziest person I had ever met. We had a talk in the library I would never forget, a conversation about Jesus. I was 22 years old and this was the first conversation I’d ever had about Jesus.

I was 22 years old and this was the first conversation I’d ever had about Jesus.

I had never been to church, didn’t know anybody in the church, and through my eyes I couldn’t tell a Christian from an atheist. But this kid was glowing with Jesus, and I was embarrassed to be his friend. I was embarrassed because I didn’t know who I was. My identity was in everybody else except myself and God.

If the friends said, “Let’s go to the club”, then I went to the club. If the friends said, “Forget homework and studying, let’s go get high”, I would go get high. But I befriended this kid and he became one of my best friends. He considered himself to be a disciple of Jesus.

So this guy befriended me, taught me, loved me, discipled me. It was the gospel, a simple gospel, that allowed me to be myself, who God created me to be. All I had to do was believe and everything became possible. I denied myself and I picked up my cross. There wasn’t anyone who could make me feel embarrassed ever again. For the first time in my life I knew what I was created for. I knew I was meant for love.

In the following days, I witnessed personally what it’s like to be around Jesus. Not just to hear stories about things people experienced thousands of years ago in the Bible, but to actually walk with Jesus in person today. Followers of Jesus were loving each other; we saw miracles, the gifts, the change He makes, the confidence, the love, the bravery, the truth — these are all the things that came from the gospel that Jesus brought to me.

I learned we can actually live out the “Great Commission” Jesus taught us in Matthew 28:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It was simple, go make disciples!

I finished college in 2012. I decided Jesus was sending me back home to do just that – to make disciples.

First, I went to those who knew me best — my family. Without even trying, doors were opened for me to tell them what I’d experienced from Jesus. I think every single family member I know has received teachings about Jesus by now.

A short time after returning, my father passed away. It was incredibly hard. My dad was cool, he was my buddy. My mother left when I was seven and it was incredibly painful. My dad became my mentor, advisor, comforter, and my own personal comedian.

I wanted a dad again. I told God, “You really have to be my father now.” You have to provide. You have to advise. You have to comfort and most of all you have to make me laugh”. And Jesus, I want to be a husband. You need to show me how to love my bride, the way you love your bride.”

He began to answer my prayers. I was no longer scared. I was learning from my Father in heaven that everything was gonna be ok. I was learning how to be a husband. A short time later, Sierra and I were married. We are learning so much as we follow God together.

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It is always “full-time ministry”

I also began my coaching career after college. I coached high-school and Jr high football in my hometown of Lodge Grass MT. Again doors opened and again the Holy Spirit within me showed me what to say and I said it. The gospel was preached and people began receiving Jesus.

As a disciple of Jesus I realized I don’t need a microphone to preach. Every opportunity I have, I preach. I was preaching at practices giving motivational speeches to these young men. I prayed that their lives would change. After practices we would have conversations about Jesus. Sometimes the boys would stay listening for hours, craving  to hear more about Jesus. One time, even the campus security came over thinking we were up to no good. When they saw what was happening, they stayed and listened to the gospel.

The campus security came over thinking we were up to no good. When they saw what was happening, they stayed and listened to the gospel.

Discipleship in the Work Place

I also began working various jobs, hard labor and office settings. Again doors opened to introduce people to Jesus. At first I was scared. I didn’t know what to say, I thought no body wanted to hear this Jesus stuff. But I realized that if I don’t, then who will?

No offense, but I didn’t find Jesus in a church building. I knew that if they were gonna receive Jesus, then they needed to see it. People should look at you and see Jesus. The love should be on display like a light. It made me sick trying to hide it. So I found “full-time ministry” in the workplace. I spend 8+ hours each day with these people. We influence one another. There are so many opportunities to love people in the workplace.

Everywhere I went people got to hear about Jesus — in the gym, in the office, at home, in coffee shops. It’s amazing to see it over and over again, people who don’t go to church and haven’t heard the gospel are now getting to know him. Because of this new and improved fearless attitude, many of these people who were going from crisis to crisis are now beginning to follow Jesus.

Fighting Fire with Fire

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I was a Forest Firefighter during my summers as well, traveling to dozens of huge forest fires. We would be gone for weeks on end with the same crew. Yup you guessed it, doors were opened, even among some of the craziest and toughest people I thought wouldn’t ever give me a chance. As we patrolled the mountains, I would tell my coworkers about Jesus all day! On our breaks from digging line, people would ask questions about God — questions that been on their minds for a long time. I would think “Dang, that’s a good question”. Then I would pray, “Holy Spirit,,, what should I say? You take over now.” And then without thinking I’m answering questions that got me stumped before. Time and time again I would teach and pray for these people. They were often things I needed to hear, too. God was speaking to all of us!

One day, I saw a particularly tough individual out on the fire line. A story came to my mind that I had recently read from the bible. I approached him and asked if I could tell him the story.

Did you know that Jesus was tempted to commit suicide? Satan tempted him to throw himself off a really high building. Sometimes people today get the thought that they should kill themselves. But it’s satan putting that thought into their mind, because God has a purpose for your life and satan wants to stop you from it.”

This guy started crying really hard. He said,

You couldn’t have known this. But this morning, I loaded my gun. A wrote a suicide note. I told God, “If you don’t speak to me today, I’m going to kill myself after I get home from work.

Right there, I prayed with him to receive Jesus and begin following him.

Several of us started meeting at the top of an old fire lookout tower to experience Jesus together. God had created a little church right out there in the forest.

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Lots of amazing things have happened here. But really, I’m just trying to grow as a disciple of Jesus.

So if anyone asks, “What is Bryan doing these days?” I just say ”I’m learning how to be a husband”. The bible can show you a lot of amazing things but it can’t live your life for you. Love isn’t something you learn by reading. You have to experience it. You have to go and actually do it. I’m learning to love God. I’m learning to love my wife. And I’m learning that God wants His love to flow out to everyone around us.

After visiting Bryan, he sent me this note on Facebook:

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I wrote this note on a napkin during one of our times together years ago. It’s a picture showing how one day God would send him from the simple churches at Haskell back to Montana to start a movement.

A prophetic napkin!!!

It literally is happening!

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Remember, in Jesus YOU are powerful, because the one who raised from the dead lives inside you. When you invite people to experience the Jesus Way of life, great things can happen.

Especially if you give them a supernatural napkin. 🙂

Keep loving strong,

Erik

 

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7 Experiences with Jesus to catalyze movements of disciples.

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