Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trail of Tears

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going…” (John 3:8, NIV 1984).

Yesterday my wife and I traveled for three hours to a small town in Missouri, among the rolling forests at the foot of the Ozarks. One of my patients, a Cherokee Indian, was performing his last ceremony as chief to name his new granddaughter. After he smudged her with white sage smoke, dipped her in the water four times and held her up to the Spirit of the North, Spirit of the East, Spirit of the South and Spirit of the West, he then named her Hawk-Watcher. This man, who doesn’t have long to live, has become a friend. I have felt guilty for not speaking to him of Christ during his time as my patient. After the ceremony I learned that this chief, Hawk, completed a master’s of divinity and was a Methodist minister for 20 years before being badly injured in a motor vehicle accident.

One of Hawk’s very close friends Ken is a renowned Indian flutist. After a great supper of pot roast and banana pudding, this man stood by the television in a cramped living room and told a story of Cherokees walking the Trail of Tears. A white minister’s child, whose family was forced to walk the trail with the Native Americans, recorded an incident in her journal. Along the journey, she spotted a baby lying dead by the side of the road; further along, the baby’s parents were forced by bayonets to continue the march without burying their child. As the Cherokees on the trail took in this event, they began, one by one, to sing, until the entire band joined in singing Amazing Grace in the Cherokee language. When Ken completed his story, he began to play his flute and my chief’s daughter Beverly began to sing Amazing Grace in the Cherokee language.

As we set around the room and chatted after the concert, I was amazed that most of these Indians, devoted to their culture, expressed a genuine, deep love for Jesus.

I do not understand God’s work in this world or the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and redeem both lives and tragedies. I cannot fathom all the ways that Jesus Christ is comprehended by different people and different cultures. But my prayer is that Christ will manifest Himself through me in the same powerful way that He manifested Himself to me through my Cherokee friends and brothers in Christ.

“Give God elbow room. Let him enter his universe the ways that he chooses.”
Oswald Chambers

Dear God,
Thank you for your mysterious power, a power that redeems the world.

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