Posts Tagged ‘native spirituality’

Can Cultures Be Redeemed? – Emerging Church Says “Yes” – Bible Says “No”

By Nanci Des Gerlaise

[Indigenous People’s Movement] leaders teach that God has been redeeming cultures and that He placed in all cultures a way for men to have a relationship with God outside of the Gospel.1

DID GOD CREATE CULTURES?
A growing trend in the evangelical church is what is referred to as “redeeming the cultures” or “Cultural Identification.” Essentially, it is the idea that God created cultures and has no desire for anyone to leave their cultural practices but can incorporate their belief in Jesus into their already existing culture. Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries has studied this “redeeming the culture” movement extensively and writes:

The new idea being presented is that God has left certain elements in every culture that are redeemable qualities, pathways to Himself . . . that He revealed Himself to nearly all indigenous people groups prior to the Gospel being brought to them [and that] in every culture “God has left treasures and worthy traditions within the indigenous cultures” [and that] we can bring Jesus Christ to people and then leave them to worship God in their own cultural and religious ways. . . .

What is taught is that God set forth His plan of salvation through all ancient cultures and that “redemptive analogies” can be found in most, if not all, cultures.2

But did God really create cultures? I do not believe He did because cultures are man-made. Webster’s Dictionary defines culture as being: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” Another definition states:

The quality in a person, or society that rises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc. 2). a particular form or state of civilization.3

On the contrary to what leaders in the “redeeming the cultures” movement teach, most cultures were “pagan, polytheistic and animistic.”4 For most of these cultures, there was a significant emphasis placed on religious practices. Oppenheimer points out that the words culture or society cannot be found in the Bible, but rather it talks about “nations” and how these nations worshiped false gods as opposed to the “one true God”5 (read Romans 1).

What does the Bible have to say about the different nations (cultures)? In Deuteronomy, we are cautioned to:

Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them . . . that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-32)

And Deuteronomy 18:14 tells us not to “follow the abominations of those nations.”

In all of human history, God has sanctioned just one culture, and that was Israel. This may be a humbling thing for other cultures to accept, but this is what the Word of God clearly demonstrates as the prophet Isaiah said, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:13). Then, after Jesus came and died upon the Cross, people from every other culture were given the opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we can be grafted in as adopted sons and daughters. And God takes the born-again, grafted-in believer and separates him or her from the world to Himself “to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).

Also in Acts, Barnabas and Paul cried out to the Gentiles, who were about to offer sacrifice to them, saying:

[W]ho in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14:16, emphasis added)

Paul and Barnabas said this because they were shocked by the ignorance and blasphemous behavior of the people.

The apostle Peter reminds us that God has set apart “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” so that we who believe on Him would be called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:6-10). God calls people out of their cultures and invites them to come into His kingdom.

CAN WE REDEEM THE CULTURES?
In the Gospel of Matthew, it says:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We are to go and preach to the different cultures and teach them “to observe all things” that God has instructed in the Word of God. Nowhere in Scripture does it even remotely suggest that one’s culture is to be redeemed. And yet, there are leaders within Christianity who are teaching this very thing. In a YWAM training manual, it states:

Appreciating one’s culture is appreciating the creation of God in a unique and beautiful manner. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are also called to redeem our culture as we grow in God.6

Within the Indigenous People’s Movement, leaders are teaching that each culture already had God’s truth before they ever heard the Gospel. Leon Siu, a leader of this movement, states:

A few years ago some friends and I were contemplating how we would be able to reach indigenous peoples and we thought that what was prevalent at that time was a misconception among, within the church of God’s presence here in the islands. The misconception that, as was expressed earlier, was that God didn’t arrive until the missionaries arrived. You know, and so when we started to look at this we started to look into our culture and see what things within our culture what God had originally intended for this particular group of people, Hawaiians.7

But Scripture tells us that the Gospel was kept a “mystery” hidden “from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:25-26). This is why Jesus gave that command to the disciples to go to all the nations sharing the truth of God’s Word. The people of the world’s cultures did not have that truth until it was brought to them.

On Leon Siu’s ministry website, it states that they want to show “indigenous people, missionaries and Christians . . . the true nature of Jesus,” saying that His way is not to be a “foreign religion that destroys people groups and their cultures, but one that brings people groups and their cultures to their highest fulfillment.”8

Sandy Simpson, founder of Deception in the Church ministry in Hawaii, has written an expose titled “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’s Movement.” He tells readers:

In the Old Testament God revealed Himself to the Jews exclusively and there was no salvation apart from the Jews. In the New Testament God revealed Himself through the apostles, and especially through Paul to the Gentiles. All the gods of the nations were and are false gods (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20, Jeremiah 16:19, Amos 2:4).

Even the “supreme beings” of the nations are not God, as in the case of Amen (Amon) of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25), Hadad of the Arameans (1 Kings 20:28), Marduk of Babylon (Daniel 3:16-18) and many other “detestable” gods.9

Another research ministry, Discernment Research Group, warns that “the new heresies teach that man can come to Christ without the Gospel of Salvation but by some other avenue inherent in their culture and religion.” DRG describes what this view is really like:

And they don’t need Jesus to be saved, but can call upon their own local deity. And once they get “saved,” they can “redeem” the pagan religious practices in their culture and make it part of their new faith. They never need to separate from their old ways. In fact, they are encouraged to bring back the old pagan ways!10

We cannot call on strange gods and find salvation. The Bible is absolutely clear about this:

Hear, O my people . . . if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. (Isaiah 81:8-9)

This “progressive” way of looking at evangelism is prevalent and widespread now. One of its key leaders, Daniel Kikawa, author of Perpetuated in Righteousness, believes that:

Christians should cease representing Jesus as the Son of the foreign God of a foreign people. . . . We should instead introduce Jesus as the Son of their creator God.11 (emphasis added)

John Dawson, president of YWAM, would agree with what Kikawa says. He states that Kikawa’s book “points the way to an exciting new understanding” of the Gospel.12

But this “new understanding” is very flawed. You can’t just add Jesus to any religion or cultural belief system and say that is the biblical Gospel. The Bible says, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14). In man’s carnal mind, he cannot accept this. But when we learn to trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and when we come to believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then we can rejoice that He has provided a way of escape from eternal damnation. He has not left us alone. We no longer complain or lament that there is only one way to Heaven—rather, we rejoice that there IS a way to Heaven. It is like this little analogy: A woman is in a house caught on fire, and there is no way to get out. Suddenly, in through the door bursts a big strong firefighter. “Ma’am, I am here to rescue you.” Will she say, “Are you the ONLY way out?” No, she will rejoice that there IS a way out. That is how God earnestly, zealously, and jealously longs to have it be with us.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The following comparison chart shows the differences between man’s view and God’s view of cultures:13

Man’s View: All cultures are equal in their worth.
God’s View: All cultures are not equal.

Man’s View: God loves all cultures and nations as they are.
God’s View: God does love all people but not their cultures. He does not accept their various ways to worship but has given man the correct manner in which to worship.

Man’s View: All religious practices and rituals are acceptable ways to approach God.
God’s View: Only one way is given by God that is acceptable, through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.

Man’s View: We are all united as one humanity and should accept everyone as they are.
God’s View: Our humanity is united in sin (in Adam), resulting in our separation from God, and we need to be united in Christ. Christ, and Christ alone, then becomes our common denominator.

Man’s View: All the gods of the nations are the same or have insignificant differences.
God’s View: The gods of the nations are false; YHWH alone is God, and there is no other according to His own Word.

Ephesians tells us that before we heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we were without hope. We cannot obtain this hope through the gods of the nation’s cultures.

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh . . . That at that time ye were without Christ, being . . . strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12)

What will happen to the false gods, which have no life in them? Jeremiah tells of their future:

The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11)

NATIVE AMERICANS & THE MISSIONARIES
Native American author and lecturer for the Indigenous People’s Movement, the late Richard Twiss, taught that the Gospel was a “source of division and stumbling block for First Nations peoples and this is to be blamed on Western missionaries.”14

In a sense, Twiss is partially correct in saying that the Gospel was a source of division. It was, and it still is! Quoting from the Old Testament, listen to what Paul says about Jesus:

Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and a rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:33)

And Jesus said:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

It is true that the Gospel does divide. It divides truth from error.

Western missionaries did lead First Nations people to God through the Gospel and still do today. But the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples (WCGIP) teach the traditions of men and belittle those faithful missionaries who gave of themselves to lovingly share the Gospel with the First Nations and Native American people. Sandy Simpson explains that while there were some “misguided missionaries” who tried to “change indigenous cultural values to Western ones,” the IPM leaders “ignored the many missionaries who, in presenting the Gospel and sound doctrine, necessarily preached things that were in opposition to demonic cultures and practices like those of the Indians.”15 Simpson explains further:

The missionaries were faced with heathen cultures, not unlike their own in the past, and attempted to apply biblical principles, in cooperation with those in First Nations, to come up with a way of living in accordance to the Word of God. . . .

Mistakes were made, but if you talked to the first generation of converts . . . you would understand fully what First Nation’s cultures were like at the time. Sexual perversion, women and child abuse, murder, human sacrifice, ruling elite who lorded it over everyone else, worship of demons, and other atrocities were commonplace. Those who heard the Gospel preached to them and recognized the freedom in Christ offered were saved and delivered from the evil in their cultures.16

The IPM leadership does not understand what these cultures were like before the missionaries came. Simpson also states:

[The missionaries] were not sent to bring culture nor was that their purpose. They were primarily bringing God’s values, the Bible, and applying its time-tested truths, together with First Nations peoples, so that they might be light and salt to the nations.17

Terry LeBlanc, a leader in the Indigenous People’s Movement, tries to convince people that the “American Indians were not worshiping different gods or worshiping incorrectly before the missionaries brought to them Christ.”18 LeBlanc states:

There’s a myth that we have labored under for centuries in indigenous communities and the myth is that we are a godless heathen people.19

What the IPM is teaching in their vilifying of missionaries is a tactic also used by leaders in the emerging church movement, which convinces people that the former or biblical way of doing things is inherently bad. This is the platform they use to introduce radical new ideas to create a paradigm shift that is, unfortunately, unbiblical and leads people further and further from the Gospel message of salvation.

A book that I recently wrote the foreword to is titled Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires. The book was written by a Canadian missionary who lived for many years among the Cree people in Manitoba in the late 1800s. When you hear Egerton Ryerson Young’s account of his life with the Cree as a missionary, it is a much different account than what is being told in North American public school history books and by groups like the Indigenous People’s Movement. In the foreword of Young’s book, I wrote:

“[T]he Gospel was shared with Natives, including medicine men, which so often resulted in decisions being made for Jesus Christ. . . . [Mr. Young] shares very extraordinary events as he journeys to the remotest parts of Canada sharing the Gospel to the lost. He describes witnessing boldly to medicine men regarding their pagan beliefs with very encouraging and positive results achieved by no other than the Holy Spirit.

“Young tells [a] story of an old Chief who was taught the truth by a missionary regarding his belief in paganism. The missionary urged him to renounce this pagan, mystical spirituality and become a Christian. The old Chief was aware that he was a great sinner and needed a Savior. What an illustration this story is to show that God has placed in each of our hearts a conscience to know right from wrong.

“[T]he Gospel is indeed for everyone, and a loving God desires that none should perish without hearing about the Gospel (2 Peter 3:9). God does not accept the diverse spirituality of all cultures as being locked into truth. For Him to accept false and contradictory spirituality, while the Gospel calls all to repentance and belief in the Savior, would make God a liar—because there can only be one truth. And God cannot tell a lie because He is just and holy.”20

What is being taught in the new “emerging” way of doing missions (or the “new missiology”) is that we cannot teach that salvation is the finished work of the Cross and that we must incorporate any unredeemable “articles of affection” to godly worship such as: fetishes, tobacco, peyote, sweet grass, drums, prayer feathers, frenzied dances, etc.

But to do so is idolatry in God’s eyes and is blatant syncretism, from which we need to repent if we have engaged in these forbidden practices. We are redeemed and purified only by the blood of Jesus Christ, not through man-made efforts such as sweats, smudging ceremonies or via any ritual or ceremony. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross and declared, “It is finished!” Therefore, no other avenue is available by which we can be purified or redeemed. Remember, there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ Himself (1 Timothy 2:5). But look what He promises those who remain true in standing in the faith:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife [the saints] hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19: 7-9)

Titus Coan was a missionary in the 1830s to the Hawaiian Native people. Though he is little known today, some say he was the greatest missionary who ever lived. His is another example of the contrast between biblical missionaries to the Native people and the new missiology that is being presented by Leon Siu, Richard Twiss, John Dawson, Terry LeBlanc, and the other IPM leaders. In this account by Coan, it’s not difficult to see what happens when the true biblical Gospel is preached:

At one place where I preached, there was an old and hardened Chief, who neither feared God nor regarded man. I preached to him fearlessly, personally, pointedly, calling him by name, and in the presence of his people. I charged home his guilt upon him, and in the name of the Lord urged him to immediate repentance. He was much moved, and promised repentance the first day, but I was not satisfied that his proud heart was broken.

On the second day I renewed the charge. He stood the siege for awhile, but at length his feelings became insuppressible, and all of a sudden he broke forth in a cry that almost rent the heavens. The sword of the Spirit was in his veins. He submitted on the spot, and appears like a newborn babe. The effect of this scene on the congregation was overwhelming. The place was shaken. Multitudes cried out for mercy, and multitudes turned to the Lord. I could tell you of many similar facts. God has done great things for us. I feel like lying in the dust and adoring His grace.21

Oh that more missionaries today could have such zeal and confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is that glorious thing that washes away all our sins and gives us garments of purity and cleanness to wear for eternity.

THE TOWER OF BABEL
This brings us back to Genesis 11:3-4 where the people decided to build a temple or ziggurat (ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides), which was built as a monument to their own greatness. In verse 4, the tower was a great human achievement to the people themselves and not to God. We often build monuments to ourselves such as those described above. It can be in the form of expensive clothing, fancy vehicles, huge homes, or jobs with titles that we use to give us identity and self-worth. Yet when we do this, we are usurping God from His rightful place in our lives. Are there “towers” like this in your life? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves. Since the attempt to build the tower of Babel, man has never ceased in his attempts to attain greatness and stature.

Cultural spirituality, with its many traditions, is not supported by Scripture; rather we are met with God’s consistent warnings throughout the Bible, one of which is found in Colossians:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

And in the Gospel of Mark, we find:

Making the Word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7:13)

The word ‘culture’ appears nowhere in the Bible from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. The Greek word paradosis translates into the English word “tradition.” Pay careful attention to what God has to say about tradition in the following verses:

Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:2-3, 6)

Also see Matthew 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:3-13; and Colossians 2:8.

Man developed culture at Babel and passed down this same teaching to all generations to this apostate age in which we live. Grandpa used to share how the New Age (the New Spirituality) hijacked Native Spirituality. Yet, in all this, one thing remains certain—all unbiblical teaching originates from Babel.

The “redeeming the cultures” mindset:

. . . permits the Word of God to be “contextualized” to a pagan culture through images, icons and symbols, thereby retaining the pagan elements of that culture. Using “redemptive analogies” (another heresy), these pagan beliefs and practices are claimed to be “redeemable” and are “christianized.” Even the name of God is being changed to that of pagan deities!22

The resurgence of Native Spirituality made a huge comeback because these traditions were kept alive in the underground world and originate from the age-old idolatry and witchcraft Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns against. To blend error with truth results in damnable heresies resulting in swift destruction, which the Bible warns us strongly about:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2: 1)

Scripture gives no indication at all that we are to esteem the cultures or traditions of men. In Amy Dueckman’s article about the circle event, she says:

Opening the evening, members of the Sto:lo Coqualeetza Elders group of Chilliwack presented a special welcome with songs. Aldred then addressed the group, telling of his experiencing Christianity as a Native person who wondered if the Gospel was just for white people, or if it could speak to him, too. “When the Gospel is shared, it must be in the heart language of the people,” he concluded. “Instead of telling [people] how to be Christian,” he asked, “how about just telling them the story?”23

What story would that be? We do not have the authority to change the way we are to share the Gospel! We are commissioned to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is in the business of redeeming individual people that He might set apart a people for Himself. He did not say, “Go into the world and disciple the nations using stories!” The only story we are to share is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to preach Christ crucified!

Man’s rebellion against God in Babel, following the flood, once again became a situation requiring God’s judgment and intervention due to mankind’s wickedness. Had God not confounded man’s language, which in turn resulted in man being dispersed and disseminated into nations, man’s wickedness only would have worsened with no end in sight. If you read from Genesis 1 to Genesis 11, you will read that God created man, birds, animals, fish, and creeping things. It does not say that He created cultures. God told the people to be fruitful and multiply. Man disobeyed, and instead, in his rebellion, man attempted to build a city to avoid being sent away. But God did just that anyway after they rebelled the second time by refusing to go forth and multiply (Genesis 10:30-32; Genesis 11:1-11). Man developed his own heathen traditions and passed down this teaching at Babel. In the Old Testament, plenty of evidence exists where God told the Israelites what they should do about other gods that were worshiped within the constructs of other belief systems (other cultures):

And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. (Exodus 23:13)

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. (Psalm 96:5)

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. (Deuteronomy 18:9)

Today, God is bidding Christians everywhere, from all cultures, to separate ourselves from all the idolatry imbedded in our traditions and to hold fast to the Gospel–God’s plan for salvation for whosoever will believe on Him (John 3:15).

To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed? in booklet format, click here.

Notes:
1. Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church, “Reasons to Reject the “World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People” Movement” (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
3. Random House Dictionary, taken from Let Us Reason website: “Looking For God in All the Wrong Places” (http://www.letusreason.org/Emerge13.htm).
4. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
5. Ibid.
6. YWAM, Island Breeze Training, “What is a Discipleship Training School?” (http://web.archive.org/web/20070712212212/http://www.islandbreeze.com.au/training.htm).
7. Leon Siu, Aloha Ke Akua, Word to the World with host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001, show #544, courtesy Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church who transcribed this program.
8. Aloha Ke Akua Ministries (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha – no longer online).
9. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement” (March 2006, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
10. Discernment Research Group, “The Indigenous People’s Movement” (August 2, 2007, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/08/indigenous-peoples-movement.html).
11. Daniel Kikawa, Perpetuated in Righteousness (Aloha Ke Akua Pub; 4th edition, 1994), p. 27.
12. Aloha Ke Akua “Books” page (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha/id3.html).
13. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
14. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement,” op. cit.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
19. Terry LeBlanc, Word to the World program #542, as cited by Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
20. Nanci Des Gerlaise, from the foreword of Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2011).
21. Titus Coan, Missionary to Hawaii (http://www.path2prayer.com/article/1051/revival-and-holy-spirit/books-sermons/new-resources/famous-christians-books-and-sermons/titus-coan-missionary-to-hawaii).
22. Discernment Research Group, “The Newest Heresy of the NAR: Orality” (Herescope blog, March 8th, 2006 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/03/newest-heresy-of-nar-orality.html).
23. Amy Dueckman,“Listening Circle Brings Together Two Cultures” (Intotemak, Mennonite Church Canada, Summer 2006, Vol. 35, No. 2, www.mennonitechurch.ca/files/news/intotemak/intotemakv35n2.pdf).

To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed?, click here.

The information in this booklet is extracted from Muddy Waters. Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality is written by Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree First Nations. Nanci is the daughter and grandaughter of medicine men and was raised on a Canadian settlement.

Related Material:

Ten Questions for Those Who Claim the “Supreme Beings” of the Nations are the True God by Sandy Simpson

Cutting-Edge Christianity or Shamanism?

By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails Publishing

I find it rather interesting how God has orchestrated things in life, which demonstrate His great love and ongoing mercy to ordinary people like myself. But, more specifically, I am thinking right now about how years ago I happened to come across a copy of a nearly forgotten book at the university library while working on a project. I still find it amazing that this secular humanistic library even had a copy of Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires – a book written by a missionary to the Canadian Native peoples of the 1800s sharing not only his life among them but the amazing stories they would tell him as they would warm themselves before a fire. This book is a treasure of the long-forgotten heritage of the Cree and Saulteaux tribes and how their lives were wonderfully transformed through the proclamation of the Gospel.

Though I first read that book over thirty years ago as a young university student, in 2010 God put it in our hearts here at Lighthouse Trails to publish this nearly forgotten book; then, when we were preparing to release it for publication, Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree, contacted us about a book she had written titled Muddy Waters. The great surprise was that Nanci, whom we then sent a review copy of the Wigwam manuscript, recognized in it the name Mask-e-pe-toon as being the name of the best friend of her great, great grandfather. Nanci agreed to write the forward to that book. We also agreed to publish Muddy Waters. Later we added a DVD (not our own) titled I’ll Never Go Back!: The Testimony of Chief Shoefoot. In this film, Chief Shoefoot shares his own story of what life has been like for him both before and after he received the Gospel, hence his words “I’ll never go back” became the title of the video. Chief Shoefoot is a member of the native people known as the Yanomamo. The Yanomamo reside in a northern region of South America bordering Venezuela and Brazil. Hearing that Chief Shoefoot is part of a Yanomamo tribe especially caught my interest because I remembered studying these people in an anthropology class back in 1972.

Chief Shoefoot

Chief Shoefoot

Anthropologists have been studying the Yanomamo for many years now, and the typical reaction by many anthropologists to missionary outreaches to these people is that they would have been better off if they had been left alone. Granted various missionary efforts were probably not conducted as they should have been, the fact remains that Jesus commissioned the Gospel to be shared with the whole world. What makes this video unique is that it is the testimony of an actual member of the Yanomamo tribe sharing his viewpoint and his side of the story, and his conclusion is an emphatic yes to having received the Gospel. Contrary to what these anthropologists are saying, Chief Shoefoot makes it clear that his life has been forever changed for the better.

Today, even much of the mission field has been marred by the mentality that we should be less intrusive about sharing the Gospel (see New Missiology). Now don’t get me wrong; it’s true that there may be many non-spiritual aspects of a culture that don’t need to be changed, but the Gospel is very intrusive in calling all people everywhere to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came as Savior to the whole world, and people from all tribes and nations are offered one way to God. But today organizations, like YWAM, have been taking a more politically correct approach in assuming that every culture already has within their religious traditions an acceptable pathway to God, and our only duty is to encourage them in what they already believe and are already doing with little more than perhaps an occasional reference to the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The sad truth and reality is that, although many peoples and cultures may believe in some type of supreme being and do have a sense of right and wrong, the Gospel is unique in that it is God’s revealed Word and offer of salvation based on grace through faith alone as opposed to a gospel of good works based on a belief in the innate goodness of mankind and God’s willingness to accept any and all man-made plans of salvation.

The truth is that God has declared in his Word that all are sinners and in need of a Savior. So while it may be true that God has not called us to impose European customs on the indigenous peoples of the world, the Gospel is God’s “culture” for all mankind in that it calls all people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. All I can say is that I personally am so glad that God “imposed” Himself on me when I received Christ as my Savior; and in both Muddy Waters and in the I’ll Never Go Back video, you will witness the powerful and convincing testimony of two people – a medicine man’s daughter (in the book) and a former shaman or witchdoctor (in the film). Their stories are evidence that knowing Jesus Christ as Savior is more precious than anything the world has to offer and does require us to forsake those things that are displeasing to Him.

So, while it may be true that people from all over the world have a sense of right and wrong, the spirituality of all tribes and nations must give way to the truth of the Gospel rather than trying to reshape the Gospel to make it more palatable to any culture. After all, what part of the Gospel would we change? The fact of the matter is that the “preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Thus, it remains that the Gospel will always be offensive and politically incorrect to the unbeliever regardless of cultural setting. The Gospel is offensive not because it is the “white man’s religion” (which it never was) but because it is the way God chose to redeem mankind – which appears foolish to the carnal mind. But as Scripture declares, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Now, let me share something that caught my attention as I was watching the I’ll Never Go Back video. I was listening to Chief Shoefoot share how he became a shaman or witchdoctor and about  the spirituality that ensued, and I was amazed by the realization that as he was describing his spirituality as a shaman, he was describing the spirituality that is being promoted in the church today as “cutting-edge Christianity.” In fact, Chief Shoefoot’s spirituality was far ahead of contemplative spirituality and the New Age of today. Furthermore, they were already incorporating spiritual disciplines into their meditative practices. When I realized this, I listened to Chief Shoefoot very attentively and with much interest because I understood then that they had been practicing “contemplative spirituality” and the “spiritual disciplines” probably for many centuries – perhaps even longer than the Desert Fathers. In listening to him describe his spirituality as a shaman, I also realized that he was at the same time describing where the spirituality of contemplative prayer, the New Age, and the spiritual disciplines will be in the future.

So, while the meditative practices and disciplines of the Desert Fathers phased out to near extinction after the Middle Ages and is being resurrected today, the Yanomamo have preserved and developed these practices and brought them to full fruition. In other words, as the church and the New Age movement are in unison developing these practices, they will in time become like the Yanomamo.

In the film, Chief Shoefoot describes how he was introduced to shamanism at an early age because he was far advanced for his age in spiritual acuteness. Like contemplative prayer and New Age meditation, connection with “God” is accomplished by going into an altered state of consciousness (i.e., the silence). A drug is used for this purpose along with chanting (mantra), rhythm, and dancing. Spiritual disciplines – to include the withholding of food and sleep (i.e., fasting) – were also used to make the spiritual senses more acute. Chief Shoefoot, as I listened to him describe his story, was much more advanced than the mystics and contemplative prayer leaders of today. He literally saw into the spirit world and beheld various spirits which the Yanomamo even had names for.

The Yanomamo shaman recognizes the spirit world as a reality, not a superstition. According to Chief Shoefoot, spirits of various sorts are seen as desirable and are invited to “get inside your chest” while others are avoided as being evil. I am reminded how contemplative leader Richard Foster warns his students to beware of dangerous spirits when they practice contemplative prayer. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland talks about this:

Proponents of contemplative prayer say the purpose of contemplative prayer is to tune in with God and hear His voice. However, Richard Foster claims that practitioners must use caution. He admits that in contemplative prayer “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” and that sometimes it is not the realm of God even though it is “supernatural.” He admits there are spiritual beings and that a prayer of protection should be said beforehand something to the effect of “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”1

What Chief Shoefoot realized too late is that none of these spirits are good and those considered to be evil cannot be avoided either. He learned that once a person enters into the occultic or contemplative realm, he becomes subject to the spirits that inhabit that realm. Christian mystics who engage in contemplative prayer think they are encountering the Holy Spirit, but Chief Shoefoot literally saw that this realm is inhabited by nothing more than demons who in time also made their habitation in him (and in other members of the tribe).

Understandably, much of the activity of the tribe was marked by immorality and violence. Even anthropologists who are unsympathetic to the Christianizing of these tribes recognize that there is a problem in their social and domestic interactions. Consider, for example, the following quote from an anthropological source regarding the role and treatment of wives in Yanomamo culture:

It is interesting to watch the behavior of women when their husbands return from a hunting trip or a visit. The men march slowly across the village and retire silently into their hammocks. The woman, no matter what she is doing, hurries home and quietly but rapidly prepares a meal for her husband. Should the wife be slow at doing this, the husband is within his rights to beat her. Most reprimands meted out by irate husbands take the form of blows with the hand or with a piece of firewood, but a good many husbands are even more severe. Some of them chop their wives with the sharp edge of a machete or ax, or shoot them with a barbed arrow in some nonvital area, such as in the buttocks or leg. Many men are given to punishing their wives by holding the hot end of a glowing stick against them, resulting in serious burns. . . . It is not uncommon for a man to injure his errant wife seriously; and some men have even killed wives. Women expect this kind of treatment. Those who are not too severely treated might even measure their husband’s concern in terms of the frequency of minor beatings they sustain. I overheard two young women discussing each other’s scalp scars. One of them commented that the other’s husband must really care for her since he has beaten her on the head so frequently! . . . Some men . . . seem to think that it is reasonable to beat their wife once in a while “just to keep them on their toes.”2

For lack of space, let me just say that the interactions of men with each other both within and between tribes is often not peaceable either. But, in any case, Native Spirituality plays a highly significant role in the happenings of these tribes.

Now, I imagine my statement made earlier that those who practice contemplative prayer or New Age mysticism will eventually become like the Yanomamo must now sound too extreme or at least a tongue-in-cheek statement. Actually, it would bring me much comfort if I were to know that I am completely wrong in this assertion. But I am deeply concerned about people, many of whom are Christians, delving into contemplative prayer, eastern meditative practices, and New Age mysticism thinking that they will better themselves by doing so. All of these are occult practices that will tie the user in with the demonic realm though he may think he is connecting with “good” spirits or the Holy Spirit.

It is not unusual for people to join the New Age movement or engage in Yoga or meditative practices like contemplative prayer to reap health benefits to include higher levels of relaxation or to live a more victorious life, but, all the while, they are being introduced to something demonic both in origin and operation. The Bible makes a clear statement about occult or mystical practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 by sounding the alarm that these practices are “an abomination unto the Lord.” Then, too, Jesus warned against praying as the heathen do by using “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7), which is a clear indictment against chanting or the mantra-like words and phrases used in contemplative or meditative prayer.

Yet, more and more Christians are joining in contemplative or mystical prayer, thinking it will make them stronger spiritually when the opposite is the case. In fact, what Christians are being drawn into is very antichrist in nature. Our research shows that those who engage in contemplative prayer in time see less and less relevance to the Cross (the atonement) to where it becomes unnecessary. The reason for this is quite simple: contemplative prayer makes a person feel one with and a part of God to where a sacrifice for sin no longer makes any sense.

Contemplative prayer is one and the same thing as New Age or mystical prayer; both are occultic practices in that they bring the practitioner into the demonic realm though he believes all the while that he is connecting with God. Then when I heard Chief Shoefoot’s testimony, I realized that shamanism is one and the same thing as contemplative or New Age mystical prayer as well. As one adherent of mysticism explains, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics.”3 Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, who helped pioneer the modern-day contemplative prayer movement identified with Buddhism (saying he “intend[ed] to become as good a Buddhist as [he] can”)4 because he realized that the prayer of the Buddhist monks was the same as his. Alice Bailey, whom I consider the mother of the New Age movement, predicted that New Age (or occultic) spirituality would not go around the Christian church but rather through it. She called it the “the regeneration of the churches.” In explaining this, Ray Yungen says:

[I]nstead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary  vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness!5

In other words, occultic prayer all over the world is coming to a head and bringing about the great falling away that the Bible predicts will happen. Modern day proponents refer to it as quantum spirituality; and through borrowing terms used in physics, they tell us that if enough people meditate at the same time, we will achieve a critical mass, and we will then witness the dawning of the age of Aquarius where peace will guide our planet. However, Alice Bailey and New Age leaders who have followed her see Christians who do not practice New Age style meditation as in the way because they are not being “vibrationally sympathetic.” Such people, they maintain, will have to be eliminated! Having come from the New Age movement, Warren Smith has been warning Christians about this for some time. New Age leaders speak of love, but those who have birthed and perpetuated the movement have something much more sinister in their hearts.

We at Lighthouse Trails, as do other ministries like ours, have a sense of urgency to call all Christians to return to their true roots – namely the Gospel. Our loyalty needs to be with our Savior and not with the traditions of men. Whether we are Native American or of any other descent, Jesus Christ needs to be more precious than any of the things that would make us appear politically correct or gain the favor of men.

Notes:

1.  Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing),  p. 99.

2.  Napolean A. Chagnon, Yanomamo: The Fierce People (New York, NY: Holt, Reinhart adn Winston, 3rd edition), pp.112-113.

3.  Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism (London, UK: SPCK, 1979), p. 7; as cited in A Time of Departing, p. 32.

4.  David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969), as cited in A Time of Departing, p. 78.

5. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd edition), p. 124.

Note: To access information about the books and DVDs we mention in this article, click here.

I’ll Never Go Back – DVD

The Story of An Old Conjurer—And His Conversion to Christ

By Egerton Ryerson Young
(A Canadian missionary from the 1800s and the author of Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires)

Far away in the forest wilds, several hundreds of miles north-east of the city of Winnipeg, there dwelt in an Indian village a notorious old conjurer. His reputation was very bad among the people. To the deadly effects of his poisons the sudden deaths of numbers of the Indians were ascribed, and many a maimed and disfigured Indian in secret muttered his denunciations against this wicked old man and blamed his “bad medicine” as the cause of all his troubles.

When reports reached him that the missionary with the great book was going around through the land among the Indians, traveling in summer in a birch canoe and in winter with his dog-trains, and that scores, and in some places hundreds, of the people were gladly listening to his words and giving up the old habits as well as the old religion of their fathers and accepting Christianity, the heart of this old conjurer was filled with wrath, and he declared that if ever that missionary came to their village neither he nor the Indians who brought him should leave the place alive.

A photo from Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Lighthouse Trails)

A photo from Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Lighthouse Trails)

So remote and apparently inaccessible was the Indian band that years passed away before it seemed possible for the missionary to make the long journey to that place. It so happened, however, that the same year the missionary heard of the old conjurer’s threat, that summer the way opened by which two Christian canoe-men could be secured to go with him on the perilous journey—perilous in more ways than one. The dangers of the way and the old conjurer’s threats were all talked over, and then with their eyes open as to the character of the undertaking, and earnestly seeking the divine blessing, they began the trip. They were twelve days on the way. Of course, it was impossible to carry in a birch-bark canoe sufficient food to last for such an extended trip.

However, as they were armed with a good rifle and shotgun, and had plenty of ammunition, and much game abounded in that part of the country, they had abundance of food. So full of rapids and falls were the rivers that they had to make over fifty portages during the trip. At these obstructions, one Indian would carry the canoe on his head around the rapids until he reached the smooth water beyond. The other Indian and the missionary would carry the blankets, kettles, guns, and other things which made up the load. Then all would be re-arranged and on they would go. It was not an unpleasant trip during the fine weather, although the mosquitoes and flies were very numerous. When it rained, however, it was somewhat trying. They had no tent, and there was not to be met with on the whole trip a single house. Several times were they drenched to the skin and had to remain so, which was on one occasion for several days, until the warm sun came out and dried them with its welcome rays. Their bed was made where night happened to overtake them. A smooth granite rock was preferred, although there were times when even this could not be found. At length, after a variety of adventures they drew near the end of the journey. When about six miles from the Indian village, the hearts of the two Indian canoe-men seemed to fail them, and, to the missionary’s surprise, they wanted to turn around and go back.

“What!” said the missionary, “come at least two hundred and ninety-four miles and not travel the other six! Never! Let us go on.”

Vainly they pleaded their fears of the old medicine-man and his terrible deeds and threats. However, the missionary was firm, and so the men yielded, while he appealed to their manhood and promise to him ere they left home. He also cheered them with quoting some of the promises of God, whose servants they all were, and for whose glory and the good of these poor people this journey was undertaken. Encouraged by these things, the paddles were resumed until the wigwams of the Indians were visible in the distance. Then resting on their paddles the faithful Indians said:

“Missionary, there is one thing we want to ask of you. You know we, like you, have left our wives and children behind and came on this dangerous journey. How could we think of going back if any thing should happen to you? We think we can take care of ourselves, but our great fear is about you. This old conjurer with his ‘bad medicine’ is very wicked and cunning. What we want you to promise us is that you will not eat any food except as we prepare it for you.”

While admiring their devotion, the missionary only laughed at their fears and said: “You make my heart very warm toward you for your love and anxiety about me, but I have another plan in my mind. I think I will eat with that wicked old conjurer before the sun goes down.” They were amazed at this, and protested most earnestly. Very blood-curdling were some of the things they had heard about this bad man and his medicines, so powerful that a little dropped into the food would cause death in a few minutes. However, the missionary was firm, as he had decided on another method for dealing with this old Indian, whose reputation was so bad, than that very timid one suggested by his faithful canoe-men.

Another half -hour’s paddling brought them into the Indian village. It was small and poor and looked like a place blighted and cursed. Quite a number of careworn and sad looking women and children were around; but very few men were visible. However, the majority of them seemed pleased to see the missionary, although some quickly began to speak out their fears that his life was in danger on account of the threats of the old medicine-man. “Where is the wigwam of this old medicine-man about whom I hear so much?” said the missionary. His tent was pointed out. It stood off by itself in a gloomy-looking place, and toward it the missionary, taking with him a few things, immediately started alone.

When he reached it, he pulled aside the blanket which served as the door, and, stooping down to avoid striking his head against the poles, he entered. So gloomy and dark was the interior that it was a few seconds before the missionary, coming in out of the bright, dazzling sunlight, could clearly make out, or rather take in, the situation. However, he soon observed the object of his search sitting on the ground directly opposite. With some tea and tobacco, the missionary went over in front of him, and, reaching out his right hand, he cheerily addressed him in the Indian way, saying, “What cheer, mismis?” which in English is, “How do you do, grandfather?” But the old man, who by some fleet runner had already been informed of the missionary’s arrival, with a growl of disapprobation refused to shake hands with the white man who had thus dared to brave his wrath and crowd himself into his wigwam. But the missionary was not to be thus easily rebuffed, and so, stooping down quickly, he caught hold of the Indian’s hand and shook it heartily in a pump-handle sort of a style. While vigorously doing so he began talking to the old man, saying, among other things, “What cheer, mismis, what cheer? I am not your enemy, but your friend. I have come all this long way to do you good. Our feet have been sore and our hands blistered. Our bones have ached with the hardships of the journey. We have been drenched by the rains and have tried to sleep in our wet clothes as we lay down on the rocks, while in the distance we have heard the howlings of the gray wolves. We came not to buy your furs or to trade with you, but to do you good. The Great Spirit has given us white people his book, and as its wonderful story is for his red children too we have come to tell it to you. You had better listen and let us be friends. It is true you will have to change your life, and you will have to stop your drumming and conjuring and burn your bad medicines and make your own living by hunting and fishing as do the other Indians.” Still he refused, and so the missionary adopted another plan. He took a large plug of tobacco and placed it in his hands. Tobacco among Indians is like salt among the Arabs. If he accepted his tobacco, he must be his friend, and would not dare to injure him while in his wigwam. For a time, he refused to accept it, but the white man continued talking kindly to him, but all he could get in response were his growls of annoyance. “Take it, grandfather,” he said; “I never use the stuff myself, but those who do say this is a very good kind.”

Perhaps fortunately for the missionary, the old man’s supply had run out a few days before, and so his appetite was proportionally keen for the narcotic, and after a little more persuasion his hand closed upon it, and the missionary knew he had him. Then taking up a pound package of tea, the missionary said, looking up to some dirty dried meat that hung in shreds like straps across a pole, “You have meat, and I have tea. You furnish the meat, and I will the tea, and we will eat together.”

A gleam of malignant triumph passed over his face as he seemed to say to himself, “Is this missionary such a fool as to thus put it into my power to so easily poison him?” The missionary had observed that look and had read its meaning, and so he said, “Never mind your poisons. I come as a stranger and challenge you to a dinner, if you furnish part. Never mind your fire-bag with its bad medicines about which you are thinking, and let us as friends eat and drink together.”

Egerton Ryerson Young

Egerton Ryerson Young

The old fellow fairly quailed under those words, especially at the reference to his bad medicines, and began to think that the man who could thus read his innermost thoughts must be a bigger conjurer than he was himself. So turning quickly to his old wife, who was crouched down on the ground a little way from him, he ordered her to take the tea and get down some meat and prepare the dinner. She quickly set to work. The meat was dirty, but she did not stop to wash it. Dirty and dusty as it was it was soon in a pot over a fire quickly kindled. In a half sulky manner the old man invited the missionary to sit down beside him, and they talked about various things until the dinner was ready, and then together did the missionary and that old conjurer eat and drink. The old fellow said the meat was venison; the missionary thought, and still thinks, it was dog-flesh; but what it was is of very little consequence. The old conjurer was conquered, and not long after burned his fire-bag and bad medicines and became a sincere, earnest Christian. Only twice a year could the missionary visit that distant region; but whether he came by canoe in summer or dog-train in winter no one could give him a more cordial welcome than did the once notoriously wicked conjurer, but now the earnest, consistent Christian. He followed the missionary around like a shadow. He heard every sermon and address. He acted as guide to the different wigwams where personal visitation and talks could influence unconverted ones to decide for Christ. He also took the missionary to the homes of the sick and sorrowing ones, and drank in with avidity the sweet promises of the word of God which were there quoted and the prayers there offered. Sometimes so hungry did he seem for every thing spiritual that he would follow the missionary to the spot where he was about to unroll his camp-bed and rest after the day of this blessed toil. And when he bowed in prayer ere he wrapped himself for sleep the old man would kneel beside him and softly whisper, “Missionary, please pray out loud, and pray in my language, so that I can understand you.” And then again at the morning devotions, no matter how early they were, the now dear old saint was there, and again his earnest words were, “Please, missionary, pray out loud, and pray in my language, so that I can understand you.” Such genuine conversions repay a thousandfold for all the risks run and privations endured. Very blessed indeed is it to be able to quote Paul’s words and say:

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.   (2 Corinthians 2:14)

A False Native American Messiah

By Nanci Des Gerlaise
(Canadian Cree author of Muddy Waters)

Wovoka_Paiute_Shaman

Jack Wilson – “Wovoka”

False “Christs” exist among Native Americans just like they exist in other ethnic groups. One of the most memorable is Wovoka (born c. 1858 in Nevada), also known as Jack Wilson. Wovoka was a Paiute religious leader who combined Christianity with Paiute mysticism. He founded the Ghost Dance movement in 1890, which spread throughout much of the western United States. Wovoka saw the power Jesus wielded as magic. One biographer of Wovoka explains:

He [Wovoka] learned about Jesus—palefaced wizard of long ago. Jesus was adept at magic. He had only to touch a man to heal him. He could change plain water into firewater. He could take one small trout, and with a hand pass, turn the trout into enough fish to feed the whole tribe. He could breathe on a dead man, and the dead man’s eyes would open once again into life.1

Wovoka claimed to be the Messiah and told the Natives who followed him not to tell “white man” about him, saying, “Jesus is now upon the earth. He appears like a cloud. The dead are all still alive again.”2 Wovoka believed he had made a personal visit to Heaven in which he learned that:

The enlightened ones must perform the stately circle dance in the precise manner which God and the spirits demanded. They must sing the songs the Messiah prescribed. They must wear the holy garment, which protected against danger and death. This visible badge of oneness was a shirt, marked with mystic symbols, which not only guaranteed everlasting life to the believer, but had the miraculous power to turn back even the white man’s bullets.3

The book Ghost Dance Messiah states:

To the desperate and conquered Plains tribes, in 1890, the doctrine and promises of the Paiute Messiah struck almost instant response. The Sioux, the Arapahoes, the Cheyennes, and Kiowas, in the throes of their desperation, sent investigative teams out to Nevada to sit at the feet of the Indian Jesus. The fever caught on to dozens of other tribes. Soon, across the nation, ten thousand Indians were shuffling in the Ghost Dance, and experiencing its miracles.4

Wovoka became the “Jesus” of his nation and of many other Native American nations. However, to truly fit the description, he needed to have been God, conceived by a virgin, sinless, holy, obedient to the Gospel, and dying a cruel death on the Cross to pay for the sins of mankind. Wovoka was nothing more than a deceived sinner and one who led many into his own deception. In the Gospel of John, it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).

The apostle Paul knew that false teachers and false Christs would present themselves. He warned in the Book of Acts:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20: 29-30)

Paul said that through deception, our minds could become “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” He warned about those who preach “another Jesus,” “another spirit,” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Satan is roaming about the earth, seeking those he may deceive. We are warned to be on the lookout for his devices:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

When something (or someone) looks good or sounds good, we automatically tend to think it is good. The same holds true when something feels good. But think about how many times in the Bible we are told about spiritual deception and about those who deceive. It’s one of the major themes in the Word of God. And as for false Christs (or antichrists), we are told there will be many. The prefix anti in antichrist means pseudo, another word for a counterfeit of the real thing. It may look similar and may promise the same things, but in reality, it is not the real thing. And following a counterfeit will lead one down a path to destruction at worst and deep disappointment at best. This is the very reason why we should not lean on our own understanding but acknowledge God in all our ways.

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (1 Corinthians 3:18–19)

To learn more about Native Spirituality and the Emerging Church, read Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality

Endnotes:

1. Paul Bailey, Ghost Dance Messiah (New York, NY: Tower Publications, Inc., MCMLXX), p. 12.
2. Ibid, back cover.
3. Ibid, pp. 5-6.
4. Ibid, p. 6.

Other articles by Nanci Des Gerlaise:

Two Sources of Power But Only One Source of Truth

Dream Catchers – Those Popular Spidery “Sacred Hoops”

Native Spirituality “Renewal” Emerges

The Dangers of Sweat Lodge Ceremonies

The Merging of Native Spirituality and the Emerging Church . . . for the “Healing” of the Nations?

Unequal Contenders in the Spiritual War

Living Waters – From Darkness to Light

 

Shamanism or Cutting-Edge Christianity?

By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails Publishing & Research

I find it rather interesting how God has orchestrated things in life, which demonstrate His great love and ongoing mercy to ordinary people like myself. But, more specifically, I am thinking right now about how years ago I happened to come across a copy of a nearly forgotten book at the university library while working on a project. I still find it amazing that this secular humanistic library even had a copy of Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires – a book written by a missionary to the Canadian Native peoples of the 1800s sharing not only his life among them but the amazing stories they would tell him as they would warm themselves before a fire. This book is a treasure of the long-forgotten heritage of the Cree and Saulteaux tribes and how their lives were wonderfully transformed through the proclamation of the Gospel.

Though I first read that book over thirty years ago as a young university student, in 2010, God put it in our hearts here at Lighthouse Trails to publish this nearly forgotten book; then, when we were preparing to release it for publication, Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree, contacted us about a book she had written titled Muddy Waters. The great surprise was that Nanci, whom we then sent a review copy of the Wigwam manuscript, recognized in it the name Mask-e-pe-toon as being the name of the best friend of her great, great grandfather. Nanci then agreed to write the forward to that book. We also agreed to publish Muddy Waters, which we are happy to announce is our newest release. Then more recently, we have added a new video (not our own) titled I’ll Never Go Back!: The Testimony of Chief Shoefoot. In this video, Chief Shoefoot shares his own story of what life has been like for him both before and after he received the Gospel, hence his words “I’ll never go back” became the title of the video. Chief Shoefoot is a member of the native people known as the Yanomamo. The Yanomamo reside in a northern region of South America bordering Venezuela and Brazil. Hearing that Chief Shoefoot is part of a Yanomamo tribe especially caught my interest because I remembered studying these people in an anthropology class back in 1972.

Anthropologists have been studying the Yanomamo for many years now, and the typical reaction by many anthropologists to missionary outreaches to these people is that they would have been better off if they had been left alone. Granted various missionary efforts were probably not conducted as they should have been, the fact remains that Jesus commissioned the Gospel to be shared with the whole world. What makes this video unique is that it is the testimony of an actual member of the Yanomamo tribe sharing his viewpoint and his side of the story, and his conclusion is an emphatic yes to having received the Gospel. Contrary to what these anthropologists are saying, Chief Shoefoot makes it clear that his life has been forever changed for the better.

Today, even much of the mission field has been marred by the mentality that we should be less intrusive about sharing the Gospel (see New Missiology). Now don’t get me wrong; it’s true that there may be many non-spiritual aspects of a culture that don’t need to be changed, but the Gospel is very intrusive in calling all people everywhere to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came as Savior to the whole world, and people from all tribes and nations are offered one way to God. But today organizations, like YWAM, have been taking a more politically correct approach in assuming that every culture already has within their religious traditions an acceptable pathway to God, and our only duty is to encourage them in what they already believe and are already doing with little more than perhaps an occasional reference to the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The sad truth and reality is that, although many peoples and cultures may believe in some type of supreme being and do have a sense of right and wrong, the Gospel is unique in that it is God’s revealed Word and offer of salvation based on grace through faith alone as opposed to a gospel of good works based on a belief in the innate goodness of mankind and God’s willingness to accept any and all man-made plans of salvation.

The truth is that God has declared in his Word that all are sinners and in need of a Savior. So while it may be true that God has not called us to impose European customs on the indigenous peoples of the world, the Gospel is God’s “culture” for all mankind in that it calls all people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. All I can say is that I personally am so glad that God “imposed” Himself on me when I received Christ as my Savior; and in both Muddy Waters and in the I’ll Never Go Back video, you will witness the powerful and convincing testimony of two people – a medicine man’s daughter (in the book) and a former shaman or witchdoctor (in the video). Their stories are evidence that knowing Jesus Christ as Savior is more precious than anything the world has to offer and does require us to forsake those things that are displeasing to Him. You will learn from both Nanci Des Gerlaise and Chief Shoefoot that Native Spirituality is occultic and needs to be forsaken for the truth of the Gospel.

So, while it may be true that people from all over the world have a sense of right and wrong, the spirituality of all tribes and nations must give way to the truth of the Gospel rather than trying to reshape the Gospel to make it more palatable to any culture. After all, what part of the Gospel would we change? The fact of the matter is that the “preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Thus, it remains that the Gospel will always be offensive and politically incorrect to the unbeliever regardless of cultural setting. The Gospel is offensive not because it is the “white man’s religion” (which it never was) but because it is the way God chose to redeem mankind – which appears foolish to the carnal mind. But as Scripture declares, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Now, let me share something that caught my attention as I was watching the I’ll Never Go Back video. I was listening to Chief Shoefoot share how he became a shaman or witchdoctor and about  the spirituality that ensued, and I was amazed by the realization that as he was describing his spirituality as a shaman, he was describing the spirituality that is being promoted in the church today as “cutting-edge Christianity.” In fact, Chief Shoefoot’s spirituality was far ahead of contemplative spirituality and the New Age of today. Furthermore, they were already incorporating spiritual disciplines into their meditative practices. When I realized this, I listened to Chief Shoefoot very attentively and with much interest because I understood then that they had been practicing “contemplative spirituality” and the “spiritual disciplines” probably for many centuries – perhaps even longer than the Desert Fathers. In listening to him describe his spirituality as a shaman, I also realized that he was at the same time describing where the spirituality of contemplative prayer, the New Age, and the spiritual disciplines will be in the future.

So, while the meditative practices and disciplines of the Desert Fathers phased out to near extinction after the Middle Ages and is being resurrected today, the Yanomamo have preserved and developed these practices and brought them to full fruition. In other words, as the church and the New Age movement are in unison developing these practices, they will in time become like the Yanomamo.

In the video, Chief Shoefoot describes how he was introduced to shamanism at an early age because he was far advanced for his age in spiritual acuteness. Like contemplative prayer and New Age meditation, connection with “God” is accomplished by going into an altered state of consciousness (i.e., the silence). A drug is used for this purpose along with chanting (mantra), rhythm, and dancing. Spiritual disciplines – to include the withholding of food and sleep (i.e., fasting) – were also used to make the spiritual senses more acute. Chief Shoefoot, as I listened to him describe his story, was much more advanced than the mystics and contemplative prayer leaders of today. He literally saw into the spirit world and beheld various spirits which the Yanomamo even had names for.

The Yanomamo shaman recognizes the spirit world as a reality, not a superstition. According to Chief Shoefoot, spirits of various sorts are seen as desirable and are invited to “get inside your chest” while others are avoided as being evil. I am reminded how contemplative leader Richard Foster warns his students to beware of dangerous spirits when they practice contemplative prayer. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland talks about this:

Proponents of contemplative prayer say the purpose of contemplative prayer is to tune in with God and hear His voice. However, Richard Foster claims that practitioners must use caution. He admits that in contemplative prayer “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” and that sometimes it is not the realm of God even though it is “supernatural.” He admits there are spiritual beings and that a prayer of protection should be said beforehand something to the effect of “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”1

What Chief Shoefoot realized too late is that none of these spirits are good and those considered to be evil cannot be avoided either. He learned that once a person enters into the occultic or contemplative realm, he becomes subject to the spirits that inhabit that realm. Christian mystics who engage in contemplative prayer think they are encountering the Holy Spirit, but Chief Shoefoot literally saw that this realm is inhabited by nothing more than demons who in time also made their habitation in him (and in other members of the tribe).

Understandably, much of the activity of the tribe was marked by immorality and violence. Even anthropologists who are unsympathetic to the Christianizing of these tribes recognize that there is a problem in their social and domestic interactions. Consider, for example, the following quote from an anthropological source regarding the role and treatment of wives in Yanomamo culture:

It is interesting to watch the behavior of women when their husbands return from a hunting trip or a visit. The men march slowly across the village and retire silently into their hammocks. The woman, no matter what she is doing, hurries home and quietly but rapidly prepares a meal for her husband. Should the wife be slow at doing this, the husband is within his rights to beat her. Most reprimands meted out by irate husbands take the form of blows with the hand or with a piece of firewood, but a good many husbands are even more severe. Some of them chop their wives with the sharp edge of a machete or ax, or shoot them with a barbed arrow in some nonvital area, such as in the buttocks or leg. Many men are given to punishing their wives by holding the hot end of a glowing stick against them, resulting in serious burns. . . . It is not uncommon for a man to injure his errant wife seriously; and some men have even killed wives. Women expect this kind of treatment. Those who are not too severely treated might even measure their husband’s concern in terms of the frequency of minor beatings they sustain. I overheard two young women discussing each other’s scalp scars. One of them commented that the other’s husband must really care for her since he has beaten her on the head so frequently! . . . Some men . . . seem to think that it is reasonable to beat their wife once in a while “just to keep them on their toes.”2

For lack of space, let me just say that the interactions of men with each other both within and between tribes is often not peaceable either. But, in any case, Native Spirituality plays a highly significant role in the happenings of these tribes.

Now, I imagine my statement made earlier that those who practice contemplative prayer or New Age mysticism will eventually become like the Yanomamo must now sound too extreme or at least a tongue-in-cheek statement. Actually, it would bring me much comfort if I were to know that I am completely wrong in this assertion. But I am deeply concerned about people, many of whom are Christians, delving into contemplative prayer, eastern meditative practices, and New Age mysticism thinking that they will better themselves by doing so. All of these are occult practices that will tie the user in with the demonic realm though he may think he is connecting with “good” spirits or the Holy Spirit. If you have never yet availed yourself of our books, you should secure a copy of A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen and Faith Undone by Roger Oakland. These books will help give you a picture of where we are headed spiritually as a nation and on a global scale. Also, available from us are the writings of Warren Smith, an ex-New Ager who joined the movement for all the right reasons (seeking truth) but eventually learned that what was happening to him was very wrong.

It is not unusual for people to join the New Age movement or engage in yoga or meditative practices like contemplative prayer to reap health benefits to include higher levels of relaxation or to live a more victorious life, but, all the while, they are being introduced to something demonic both in origin and operation. The Bible makes a clear statement about occult or mystical practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 by sounding the alarm that these practices are “an abomination unto the Lord.” Then, too, Jesus warned against praying as the heathen do by using “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7), which is a clear indictment against chanting or the mantra-like words and phrases used in contemplative or meditative prayer.

Yet, more and more Christians are joining in contemplative or mystical prayer, thinking it will make them stronger spiritually when the opposite is the case. In fact, what Christians are being drawn into is very antichrist in nature. Our research shows that those who engage in contemplative prayer in time see less and less relevance to the Cross (the atonement) to where it becomes unnecessary. The reason for this is quite simple: contemplative prayer makes a person feel one with and a part of God to where a sacrifice for sin no longer makes any sense.

Contemplative prayer is one and the same thing as New Age or mystical prayer; both are occultic practices in that they bring the practitioner into the demonic realm though he believes all the while that he is connecting with God. Then when I heard Chief Shoefoot’s testimony, I realized that shamanism is one and the same thing as contemplative or New Age mystical prayer as well. As one adherent of mysticism explains, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics.”3 Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, who helped pioneer the modern-day contemplative prayer movement identified with Buddhism (saying he “intend[ed] to become as good a Buddhist as [he] can”)4 because he realized that the prayer of the Buddhist monks was the same as his. Alice Bailey, whom I consider the mother of the New Age movement, predicted that New Age (or occultic) spirituality would not go around the Christian church but rather through it. She called it the “the regeneration of the churches.” In explaining this, Ray Yungen says:

[I]nstead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary  vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness!5

In other words, occultic prayer all over the world is coming to a head and bringing about the great falling away that the Bible predicts will happen. Modern day proponents refer to it as quantum spirituality; and through borrowing terms used in physics, they tell us that if enough people meditate at the same time, we will achieve a critical mass, and we will then witness the dawning of the age of Aquarius where peace will guide our planet. However, Alice Bailey and New Age leaders who have followed her see Christians who do not practice New Age style meditation as in the way because they are not being “vibrationally sympathetic.” Such people, they maintain, will have to be eliminated! Having come from the New Age movement, Warren Smith has been warning Christians about this for some time. New Age leaders speak of love, but those who have birthed and perpetuated the movement have something much more sinister in their hearts.

There will come a day when Christians who have joined up with New Age practices will have to make a decision to return to Christ and have an undivided loyalty to Him and to His Gospel or to continue on in their occultic, mystical practices. Some have already crossed over the line perhaps never to return to the precious hope we have in the Gospel. God has been so merciful, but His mercy will not be extended forever. Isn’t it better to cling close to the Gospel now and to be ready for the Bridegroom when he returns at an unexpected hour?

We at Lighthouse Trails, as do other ministries like ours, have a sense of urgency to call all Christians to return to their true roots – namely the Gospel. Our loyalty needs to be with our Savior and not with the traditions of men. Whether we are Native American or of European or any other descent, Jesus Christ needs to be more precious than any of the things that would make us appear politically correct or gain the favor of men.

Notes:

1.  Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing),  p. 99.

2.  Napolean A. Chagnon, Yanomamo: The Fierce People (New York, NY: Holt, Reinhart adn Winston, 3rd edition), pp.112-113.

3.  Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism (London, UK: SPCK, 1979), p. 7; as cited in A Time of Departing, p. 32.

4.  David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969), as cited in A Time of Departing, p. 78.

5. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd edition), p. 124.

Note: To access information about the books and DVDs we mention in this article, click here.

I’ll Never Go Back – DVD

Dream Catchers – Those Popular Spidery “Sacred Hoops”

By Nanci Des Gerlaise
(author of Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality)

Beautiful dream catcher on green backgroundDream catchers—those spidery “sacred hoops” with feathers. They originated with the Ojibwa tribe during the ’60s and ’70s, supposedly to protect a sleeper by “catching” bad dreams or evil spirits. Then they caught on with other tribes and spread through the New Age movement into popular culture. Today, it is not uncommon to see dream catchers in gift and variety stores.  Dream catchers are even used in some public school settings, as the following describes:

Every classroom displayed at least one dreamcatcher—a magical spider web inside a sacred circle. The students explained that dreamcatchers protect them from evil spirits and nightmares by catching the bad dreams but permitting good dreams to pass though the center. According to fourth grade teacher Ms. Preston, the amber crystal in the center of her dreamcatcher meant proper spiritual alignment with the energy of the universe.1

But you can be sure, most of the general public has no idea of the meaning and purpose of dream catchers.

Basically, using a dream catcher in its intended purpose is nothing more than a form of practicing occultism. How can an inanimate object “catch” evil spirits, much less bad dreams? And why attempt to “catch” evil spirits or nightmares when you cannot fight them physically?

Although Native people can sometimes see into the spiritual world of darkness, dream catchers, or anything having to do with the occult, merely attract evil spirits and demonic activity and provide no means of protection from them. Using dream catchers is an open invitation for more spiritual works of darkness.

If you are a born-again Christian, you have a Protector—God Almighty—Who stands between us and the evil realm. We need nothing more than Jesus Christ Himself who overcame all works and powers of darkness by His death and resurrection. If we pay attention to God’s Word and not to seducing spirits, we can walk in His freedom from fear.

Ephesians 6:12 says that our battle is not against “flesh and blood,” but is against “principalities,” “powers,” “the rulers of the darkness” and “spiritual wickedness in high places.” And in Hebrews, we read:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

(To understand more about Native Spirituality, read Muddy Waters, by Nanci Des Gerlaise).

Notes:
1. Berit Kjos, Brave New Schools (Kjos Ministries, http://www.crossroad.to/Books/BraveNewSchools/1-globalvillage.html), ch. 1.

A Beautiful Simple Gospel That Pierced the Heart of an Indian Named Joe

page33 wgwm-1Editor’s Note: The story below is written in the late 1800s by Canadian missionary Egerton Ryerson Young. We have attempted to preserve the writing style and language of the author. However, some of the terms used  would be considered out-dated and incorrect usage in today’s society. We chose to keep Young’s terminology for we knew of his great love and respect for the Native people he so diligently worked and lived with.

By Egerton Ryerson Young
(author of Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires)

Missionary work among the Indians, like that in all lands, has its hours of sadness and discouragement as well as of hope and rejoicing. We look back with thankfulness that it was not only our privilege to go forth weeping, bearing the precious seed, but that in addition the Master of the harvest gave us the joy of the reapers. It was our great happiness to see “many a sheaf both ripe and golden” gathered in. The work was one of peculiar hardships to both Mrs. Young and myself, but the conversion of scores of souls every year amply repaid us for the sufferings and anxieties of that life so isolated and lonely as it must necessarily be in mission fields so far from civilization. Many encouraging incidents were constantly occurring to cheer the hearts of the lonely toilers and to stimulate them to labor on in the blessed work. It is a joy to record some of these trophies won not only through our own feeble instrumentality, but also through the loving, consecrated efforts of our loved brother missionaries. One of these dear brethren, writing, says:

“A young Indian who was very sick had his friends bring him twenty-five miles to the home of the missionary. He wept when he came into his presence, and said he wanted to learn about Jesus before he died. He said, ‘I am very wicked, and I want to get a new heart.’ When urged to pray he replied, ‘I can’t pray; I don’t know how.’ The faithful missionary, with a conscious sense of the nearness and infinite compassion of the Divine One, earnestly pointed him to the Lamb of God. Next day, when the missionary called upon him, the poor sick man, holding out his hand, exclaimed with rapture, ‘Jesus has heard my prayer and made my heart good. Now pray for wife also.’ He began from that time to recover from his sickness, and a few days later his wife also accepted Christ as her Saviour, and now both are rejoicing in Jesus.”

A beautiful story is told by one of our earlier Indian missionaries of a proud and powerful chief who, under the preaching of the Gospel, became deeply convicted of sin. Trembling under a sense of his guilt, he came to the missionary and offered him his much-prized belt of wampum to have his load of guilt removed. When told that the Lord Jesus did not want this offering he went away very sad and depressed in spirit. Soon after he returned and offered his gun and favorite dog. “These are not what Christ wants,” said the missionary. Again he went away sorrowful, but after a time he returned and offered his wigwam and family. The faithful missionary, who saw the struggle that was going on in his heart, refused for his Master even these, saying that “the Saviour could not accept even these as a sacrifice for sin.” The poor convicted, half -despairing Indian then threw himself down upon the ground, and, lifting up his tearful eyes, exclaimed, “Here, Lord, I can do no more. Please take poor Indian too.” The answer of peace and pardon was not long in coming.

Many more delightful instances could be given of the Gospel’s power to save. We give more fully in detail the story of the conversion of Joe. It has been made a blessing to many. We trust the placing it here on record will cause it to be a stimulus and blessing to many more. How true it is that it is not always that the greatest results for God are obtained when the surroundings are most favorable! The crowded, enthusiastic audience does not always yield the greatest number of converts. How often has it been seen by the faithful minister or devoted Sunday-school teacher that their work seemed specially owned of God when under difficulties and discouragements they sacrificed self and personal comfort to be in their place and do their duty!

Many can look back to some cold, wet Sunday or other apparently very unfavorable time, from the human stand-point, when, because they were in their place, precious immortal souls were then influenced by the truth and heartily, believingly accepted Christ as their personal, conscious Saviour. Little did I dream, as I stood up before the little company on that Dakota prairie and preached that short, simple sermon, that it was to be one of the successful sermons of my life.

The last Sunday we spent on the prairies on one of my missionary journeys was the hottest day of which I have any recollection. The fierce sun seemed to beat down upon us with tropical heat, and we all felt more or less prostrated by it. We had been traveling with our horses for nearly thirty days over those wonderful fertile meadows, and as became us, as a party of missionaries, we rested on Sunday, and in rotation held religious service. When we reached this hot Sunday the good minister whose turn it was to officiate was so prostrated by the heat that he declared it was impossible for him to preach. I had conducted the service the previous Sunday, and had the good excuse that it was not my turn. The other good divines also had their excuses, and so it really seemed as though the day would pass by and no service be held. So I volunteered to take the work rather than that it should be neglected. This being announced, the different members of our company, with a few exceptions, gathered round the front of my canvas-covered wagon and seated themselves as comfortably as they could in the prairie grass, improvising sun-shades where they were not the fortunate possessors of umbrellas.

Among the members of our party were two Sioux Indians, who had induced our leader, the Rev. George McDougall, to permit them to join our band. Their wish was to leave their own country and to go and join the Indians on the great plains of the Saskatchewan. And perhaps it was felt best by them to get away, ere a worse evil should befall them; for doubtless they had been seriously mixed up, or implicated in the terrible Sioux Indian war which had raged a short time before, in which hundreds of whites had lost their lives and a large region of country had been desolated. With but one of these Indians we have to do. The only name by which he was known to us was that of Joe. He was a wild-looking fellow, and yet had quite a knowledge of the English language, which doubtless he had picked up in the frontier settlements in times of peace or when he was employed as a guide by hunting-parties on the plains. But he hated the white man’s religion, and generally spent Sundays strolling off with his gun on a shooting excursion.

This hot Sunday, however, Joe felt the heat so oppressive that he stretched himself out on the grass on his back, and, with his old hat over his face, tried to sleep. The spot he had selected for his resting-place was only a few yards in front of my wagon, and doubtless he had taken this position from the fact that as I had taken charge of the service the previous Sunday it would be held this day somewhere else, and so he would not be troubled with it. When I stood up to begin Joe partly got up, as though he would depart, but whether it was the prostrating heat or not he dropped down again on the grass, and looked up at me with his glittering coal-black eyes with any thing but friendliness. As I saw him remaining there for the first time at one of the public services the thought came, “Now, may be this is the only opportunity of saying any thing that will reach Joe.” So I lifted up my heart and prayed, “Lord, give me a message for the poor Indian warrior and hunter that will reach his heart. Help me to deliver the message with such simplicity and plainness that, even with his little knowledge of English, he may understand it.” And with that thought or wish uppermost in my mind I conducted the whole service, and preached the divine word. The service closed as usual, and each did his best to comfortably and restfully pass the remaining hours of the sweltering, oppressive day.

A few days after, our long trip across the prairie was ended. The Territories of Minnesota and Dakota had been crossed, and then, after entering into British territory at Pembina, we traveled on through the French half-breed settlement, until we reached the quaint, old-fashioned, mediæval fortress of Fort Garry. Strangely out of place did it seem to us. As we first looked up at its massive walls and turrets and bastions it seemed as though some freak of nature or magic wand had suddenly transported it from some old historic European nation and dropped it down amid the luxuriant grasses and brilliant flowers of this wild prairie country. For more than a month we had been traveling through the wild, unsettled prairies. For many days we had left behind us all vestiges of civilization. No newspapers or letters had we seen for weeks. The “sound of the church-going bell”or the busy hum of civilized industry had never broken the stillness of those solitudes. The last Anglo-Saxon settler’s cabin was hundreds of miles behind us, and now, after being slowly ferried across the Red River of the North, as we climb up the river’s bank we are suddenly confronted by massive castellated stone walls, round towers, turrets, port-holes, cannons, and piles of balls! Strangely out of place as it seemed at first, there comes a feeling of regret in these later years that it could not have been allowed to remain, but the “land craze” came, and its site at so much per foot was too much for mere sentiment, and so the old historic Fort Garry had to go down, leaving scarce a wreck behind.

Here our party broke up. Revs. George McDougall and Peter Campbell, with their families, Messrs. Sniders, the teachers, and several others, whites and Indians, pushed on still farther west, a distance of over twelve hundred miles. The Rev. George Young remained in the little settlement that was springing up around Fort Garry to open our first mission for settlers speaking the English language.

After a few days’ delay Mrs. Young and I started off on our journey for our home, four hundred miles directly north. Many were our dangers and startling were some of our adventures, but after a couple of weeks of weary toil we safely reached our humble home in our Indian mission field.

But we must now go back to the party that we saw start off on their twelve-hundred-mile trip. Their first stopping place would be Edmonton, on the great North Saskatchewan River. A few days after they had left Fort Garry, while Joe and one of the young gentlemen, a Mr. Snider, who was going out as a mission teacher, were walking along the trail, Joe began asking some strange questions.

“Mr. Snider,” said he.

“Well, Joe, what is it,” was the reply.

“Didn’t that young missionary tell lies when he preached that sermon that hot Sunday?”

“Why, no, Joe; he told the truth.”

“But did he not tell a big lie when he said the Great Spirit loved every body, white man and Indian alike?”

“No, Joe; God is no respecter of persons.”

“But did he not tell a great big lie when he said the Great Spirit gave his Son Jesus Christ to die for the Indian as well as for the white man?”

“No,” was the answer of the pious young teacher; “Jesus, the Son of God, died for all mankind.”

“But—but did he not tell a great big one when he said that the Great Spirit had prepared a fine place for all, Indians and whites, if they would be good and love him?”

“No, Joe; that is all true, and the best thing you can do is to accept it and believe it.” Other conversations were held with the Indian, and he said at last, “Well, if I could believe all that that young minister said that hot Sunday was true I would become a Christian.”

When they reached the far-off mission station Joe, instead of going to the plains and joining the wild, warlike, horse-stealing bands, settled down at the Christian village. He was thoughtful and interested, and by and by became a decided and thorough Christian man. His life was so changed that all who met him were conscious of the fact. No one seeing him then would ever have imagined he had had such a history and that he had ever been guilty of such crimes as were imputed to him.

Some years later, Mr. Snider has since fully entered the ministry and is a valued and useful minister. One day somebody came in and told him that there was a poor dying man outside from the Indian wigwams, who wanted to see him and had a message to leave with him. Mr. Snider’s sympathetic heart was at once interested, and he hurried out. He went down the path, and just as he was getting over the fence he saw the dying man. His first thought was that the man was dead; but seeing there was still life in him, he said, “Are you the man who sent for me?”

“O, yes, Mr. Snider, I sent for you. I could not die until I left with you a message. They told me you had come, and I was so glad.”

“Who are you?” said Mr. Snider, for so terribly had the small-pox seized him that the missionary had not been able to recognize him.

“I am Joe,” said the dying man.

“O, Joe, is this you? I am very sorry. Can I do any thing for you? Can I bring you a drink of water or help you back to the wigwam?”

“No,” said the poor fellow, “but I want to leave a message with you. I cannot see you, but I can see Jesus, and I shall soon be with him.”

“Why, of course I will take your message, Joe. What is it?”

“Well, Mr. Snider, if you ever see that missionary who preached that sermon that hot Sunday will you please tell him for me that that sermon made me a Christian. You remember I thought he was telling lies, but you told me it was all true, and now I have found it to be so. You know I have tried to live right and have given Him my heart, and now I cannot see you, but I see Jesus and shall soon be with him.”

And thus he talked, and soon after he died in sweet and simple faith in that Saviour who would light up his pathway through the valley of the shadow of death, though his bodily eyes had gone through the fell disease.

Years passed away ere I heard of Joe’s message to me and of his happy, triumphant death, and that he looked back to that simple, plain talk on the beautiful verse, the sixteenth of the third of St. John’s gospel, as the time when the good resolution to be a Christian first entered his heart.

Doubtless very much was owing to the faithful words which were uttered by Mr. Snider and others. Still there was a time of seed-sowing, and it seemed to have been that day, apparently the most unlikely when any permanent good would be done.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23:4-6)

(Excerpt from Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires, LT edition)


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