By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
The Lipan Apache tribesman is proud of his heritage.
'I am Native American,' said Ed 'Lone Red Hawk' Hernandez.
Raised on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, he embraces all parts of the culture - and celebrates it.
'I respect the spiritual side too,' Hernandez said. 'I know that Creator is real and true as do all the good people of the old way. But what got left out of the lesson is that Creator had a son named Jesus.'
That's why Hernandez launched the Native American Baptist Fellowship.
'I want to reach out to Native Americans, and show them how the gospel fits to the Creator,' Hernandez said. 'It is the same God.'
The fellowship meets at 11 a.m. Sundays at Memorial Baptist Church.
'They meet in one of our conference rooms,' said the Rev. Ridge Adams, the pastor at Memorial. 'The traditional service still takes place in the worship hall.'
At 3 weeks old, the fellowship has seven regular attendees.
But both Adams and Hernandez are confident the group will grow.
'I'm excited to see what God will do through this group,' Adams said. 'There's a great need for the outreach that Brother Hernandez wants to provide. The demographics show there are a lot of Native Americans in the area from Waco to Fort Hood.'
And as servants to Christ, Adams and Hernandez share the desire to spread the message of the gospel.
'I also think there is a need for the outreach because of the recent shootings at Fort Hood,' Hernandez said. 'Our fellowship is open to soldiers.'
Non Native-Americans are also welcome.
'It's open to anybody who wants to worship with us,' Hernandez said.
The co-pastor of the fellowship, Andrew Tijerina of Temple, is Hispanic.
'I'm not Native American,' Tijerina said. 'But I like the fellowship because it's welcoming.'
It gives him the support he needs.
'I'm a new Christian,' said Tijerina, 22. 'I gave my heart to Christ a year ago this month. Since then, it's been on my heart to share my testimony.'
His faith arose from struggles with bad friends, drug abuse and an overdose that led to a hospital stay.
'I almost died,' Tijerina said. 'I couldn't do anything but cry out to God and when I did, I saw that He had a purpose for me.'
Hernandez's conversion to Christianity came in a vision.
'Many moons ago, I was visited by two gentlemen. We called them medicine men,' Hernandez said. 'They wanted me to do the old ceremonies.'
But Hernandez had already read the Bible and was intrigued by its message.
'So I fasted,' he said. 'And in my meditation, the Lord showed me where he was born. He said, 'I am the way.' And then then I knew what to do.'
He respectfully declined the invitation of the medicine men.
'God was tugging at my heart,' Hernandez said. 'He told me part myself from those good men in a good maner.'
So as a young adult, he started to live a Christian life, reading the scriptures and saying prayers. But he didn't abandon his heritage. He still attends Native American programs and shares the cultural knowledge he has with others.
A theology student at Baylor University's Truett Seminary, Hernandez got the idea for the fellowship about three months ago.
'I fasted for 30 days,' Hernandez said. 'God mentioned the idea of the Fellowship to me. And questions ran through my mind. 'Are they (Christians) going to accept us and accept us as brothers?''
Despite his worries, he launched the fellowship on Nov. 8 with the help of the Rev. Adams and Memorial Baptist Church.
The fellowship's reception was nothing but positive.
'The people there have welcomed us with open arms,' Hernandez said. 'We are brothers.'