Shortly after arriving in Richmond from Oregon in 1986, God led me, mysteriously and unexpectedly, to go to the Library of Congress for days on end, to research the beginnings of white-Native relations in the West. God wanted to show me something He did at the beginning, which had been entirely forgotten. I pored over dusty old books no one had checked out for years. I was searching for something without knowing what I was looking for. I felt like Nicholas Cage, groping through the Library of Congress for a national treasure.
Then I found the treasure, located in several dusty old books. It was information about prophecies received by the great leaders of the tribes of the Columbia Plateau, pointing them to Jesus prior to the 19th century. The Coeur d’Alene tribe received prophetic word of the birth of God’s Son, and began celebrating Christmas during the 18th century, according to Chief Joseph Seltice, tribal historian. The Flatheads and the Kalispels received visions of the cross-and wore the cross into battle for protection-according to the testimony of aboriginals interviewed by ethnologists a century ago. The Spokans received revelation of “leaves bound together” that people of white skin would bring one day-the Bible. Could it be that God had prepared these people for Jesus, by giving preparatory revelation through their most respected leaders?
I remembered the book Bruchko by Bruce Olson, a book I had read several years before. It records how God led Bruce to the Motilone Indians of Venezuela, to begin loving them in Jesus’ name, and telling them of what Jesus had done for them. But why had the Motilones let Bruce into their community, when they had killed so many other outsiders before him? One day, Bruce learned that the Motilones had received prophetic revelation from God, that a tall blond man was going to bring “the banana leaves out of which God would come.” Because they had received this prophetic word, they were willing to listen to Bruce when he showed up at their border.
I remembered, too, the book, Eternity in their Hearts by Don Richardson, which reveals this pattern all over the world. When it is time for the gospel to leap from one culture to another, God often prepares the receiving culture with revelation or “redemptive analogies.” These would help the receiving culture to be receptive to Jesus, because Jesus would not be perceived as “a foreign god.”
Now I was reading the story of how this happened right here in America, the very same pattern. I have written up the story of these prophecies and the resulting history in a new book, The Backbone of the World, which is due to be published by Deep River books early in 2011.
When you go back to these beginnings, you can see God’s loving heart for Native people, you can see how carefully He prepared for many of them to know Jesus, and you have to grieve over so much that has gone wrong in the 200 years since then.
In 1993, God spoke to me in a raw download of sheer grief from His heart to my heart, as He then reviewed with me the history of sin, greed, violence and despair that has encroached on this story, whose beginning was so full of hope and potential. This grief was God’s explanation as to why He led me to do the research at the Library of Congress. He wanted me to see His heart of love for Native peoples, and He wanted me to see what human sin and satanic opposition has accomplished during the last centuries.
After receiving this download of grief, we met a Lakota Christian, the late Richard Twiss, who was in process of starting a ministry called Wiconi. We attended his first “Many Nations One Voice” conference in Kansas City, and met many emerging Native Christian leaders there in 1997. I think we may have been the only white people at the conference. It was an exciting time. God was doing something new. Dozens of new ministries were emerging, and have prospered since then. You can find many of these at Richard’s web site, Wiconi.com. But I will never forget the day that Mary Glazier, a Haida teacher, got up to speak. From the moment she opened her mouth, this same grief again seized both my wife and myself and continued intensely until she finished and sat down.
Throughout our forty-plus years of marriage, God has always caused Carla and me to walk together in everything. At this conference in Kansas City, God brought Carla into this prayer calling with me, so that we would share it together. We have lifted this prayer burden together ever since. We have no choice. It is a calling from God. We are convinced that God is about to do something powerful among Native nations on this continent, from sea to shining sea. But He needs prayer, and He is calling people to stand in the gap of sin in this country, until it is accomplished.