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Local educator to lead students and staff of Mokahum Ministry Center to Minnesota Prayer Breakfast

For Cass Lake native Zane Williams, accepting the directorship of the Center for Indian Ministries at Oak Hills Christian College was a homecoming.

He also has come full circle as director of the Mokahum Ministry Center.

In February, Williams was invited to the National Prayer Breakfast where the speakers included President Barack Obama and astronaut Mark Kelly. On April 26, Williams and about 20 Mokahum students and staff will travel to Minneapolis for outreach work at a homeless shelter and to fill food packages for Feed My Starving Children before attending the April 28 Minnesota Prayer Breakfast.

"We're going to be able to share some of our students' hope stories," Williams said.

Williams, a member of the Navajo Nation, returned to Minnesota about two years ago to reopen Mokahum, a center started in 1948 near Cass Lake by the Christian Missionary Alliance to raise up American Indian leaders.

"I was a Mokahum baby," he said.

He was born in North Dakota while his father, a pastor at Mokahum, was on a summer mission trip. He attended Cass Lake High School, then moved to Arizona with his family when his father was reassigned. Until his return to Minnesota, he pastured a church in Arizona, but responded to the call when the opportunity with Oak Hills opened.

"It was a real calling," he said. "I feel good about it."

He said the transition was hard for him when his family moved to Arizona, and it was hard on his wife and three daughters when they relocated to northern Minnesota. But reviving Mokahum, which means "new day" in Ojibwe, has been a blessing, he said.

"It's been a real honor that God has used me to be the director of the Center for Indian Ministry and seeing all these young people grow," Williams said.

When Mokahum reopened in 2009, there was one student in the one-year discipleship certificate program. This year, there are eight, along with seven staff members, probably the highest faculty-student ration in the world, Williams said.

Beginning next fall, Mokahum will offer a three-year ministry certificate.

The school combines Bible studies with practical skills training, both in traditional areas, such as maple sugaring, and mission outreach, such as the work at the shelter next week in Minneapolis.

Students are Christian Indians and come from all over the United States and Canada. The men and women ages 19-60 attend various area churches of their choice and reside at Mokahum.

Applicants must be approved by an admissions committee.

"We just ask that they have a relationship with God," Williams said.

Students pay a room, board and tuition fee of $1,500 per year, which doesn't pay for the services but shows their commitment to the program.

Mokahum Indian Bible School was founded in 1948 by the Christian and Missionary Alliance as a residential school providing Bible training to Indians. After Mokahum's closure in 1978, the school sat vacant for nearly 30 years. In 2006, the Alliance gave the property to Oak Hills Center for Indian Ministries.