Dordt College News

Dr. Schaap publishes collection of stories from Rehoboth

December 3, 2010

Why have so few attempts to bring the gospel to Native Americans been successful? This is the question that Dr. James C. Schaap asked, and the answer helped shape his newest book, Rehoboth, A Place for Us.

“A few years ago, on the Rosebud reservation, I asked a priest from St. Francis Mission why so many Anglo attempts at bringing the gospel and becoming a force within Native America had such a pitiful track record. He said, ‘We just haven’t listened.’ So I tried to listen.”

Schaap, author and English professor at Dordt College, listened to the stories and histories told by twelve families who have influenced or have been affected by Rehoboth, a mission boarding school initially created for Native American students founded in 1903 by the Christian Reformed Church. This book is filled with stories and pictures of Rehoboth’s rich, century-old history.

“Doing the book was an immense privilege because it brought me intimately into family histories and stories that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise,” said Schaap. “My great joy in doing these kinds of books is that I get to be the recipient of immensely powerful and rich stories.”

The twelve families featured in the book were invited to the gala release for the book at Rehoboth Christian Middle School on Nov. 15. In Schaap’s blog he writes about the evening, “I may be gloating, and if I am, may I be forgiven: but Monday night, what went on in that school assembly room climbed to a hot-air-balloon level of blessing. What seemed to reign that night with all those folks in that place was nothing less than joy.”

Recording the stories of history and community is nothing new to Schaap, who in 1985 wrote a book for the Christian Reformed Church called CRC Family Album. This, too, is a listening and retelling of more than 30 stories of people from the denomination from all corners of the continent. In his book On the Trail of the Spirit, Schaap shared stories of people touched by the Back to God Hour radio ministry. Crossing Over included several stories of refugee immigrants from Laos and Cambodia.

It was when he was working on his novel Touches the Sky that Schaap’s interest in Native America began.

“My interest in Native America arose from our proximity to the Great Plains and the assessment that I knew nothing about the original inhabitants of this area, those folks from whom we get our name [Sioux Center] and other names,” said Schaap.

Rehoboth, A Place for Us is a book that can help create understanding and appreciation of the cultures and stories of the Navajo and Zuni people.

Rehoboth, A Place for Us is published by Faith Alive Christian Resources and is available at the Dordt College Bookstore and at True Vine in Sioux Center.

James Calvin Schaap is the author of 23 books and several short stories. His work has received awards from Christianity Today, Evangelical Press Association, Associated Church Press, Best Christian Writing, and the Christy Award.

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