More from the Add-on Eskimo
The next morning one of Okfagit’s sons complained of not feeling well, so Nisana insisted that he stay home from trapping. Before leaving, the others gathered around him and prayed.
“Jesus, you are the Creator. You can heal the sick. We pray that you will touch this boy and make him well. Thank you.”
Okfagit then took his oldest son and Ayit and went out to hitch up the dogs. As he left the house, Ayit looked over the kennel area and suddenly shouted, “Father, one of the dogs is missing!”
They went over to look and saw that the dog’s tether had been cut. They looked for a trail, but there were so many tracks in the snow that it was impossible to follow any specific one.
“Come,” said Okfagit, “hitch up the others. We will see what happens while we are gone.” Then he paused, “Maybe this is because of the curse the shaman has put on us. Let’s pray before we go.” They stood in a tight circle and Okfagit prayed, “Jesus our God, you know about my son’s sickness, about the dog missing. I pray for healing and for restoration. Protect us as we go trapping.”
They left the village a little later than normal, but because the days were getting longer, they would easily be able to reach their hut before dark. They went from trap to trap and got several foxes. However, when they came to the last trap, they found that fox mostly eaten.
“Look here,” Okfagit said, pointing to tracks coming and going from the trap. “A polar bear did this. It must be really hungry to be this far from the ice. We must be careful as we travel.”
However, they arrived at the hut in good time without incident, lit the seal-oil lamps and set to work skinning the fox they had caught. As usual, they put the bodies of the skinned fox on the roof of the hut.
During the night they were awakened by a loud creaking and found the hut shaking around them.
“It’s the bear,” whispered Ayit. “It must be reaching up onto the roof to get the dead fox we put there.”
“Be still,” commanded Okfagit. He quietly got up and took his rifle. “We will wait and see what happens.”
After a pause, Ayit added, “Jesus, help us, protect us!”
The shaking continued, then it was quiet. Suddenly the door of the hut burst open and the bear stuck its head in as far as it could, following the smell of living flesh. It roared and pushed harder trying to break through the door frame. The whole hut leaned to the side and Ayit was sure it would fall, that the bear would then easily get to them.
“Help us, Jesus” he cried out again. His prayer was followed with the load blast of his father’s rifle, magnified by the very small room. The bear turned and pulled back. But they could hear it still pacing about.
“A wounded bear is doubly dangerous,” said Okfagit. “We must stay in here and wait.”
The wind that came in with the attack of the bear had blown out the seal-oil lamp. Ayit relit it so they could see to shoot if the bear attacked again. Okfagit seated himself with his rifle in the back of the hut, directly across from the door and waited. They could hear the bear roaring and stomping outside.
Suddenly, again without warning, the bear ran at the hut, put its head through the door and roared. Okfagit already had his rifle raised and shot right into the bear’s mouth. The bear immediately drew back, roared again and then was quiet.
They all waited in suspense, not knowing if the bear was trying to draw them out, or if it was really dead. Finally, Ayit said, “I will look.” He carefully stuck his head out, and in the moonlight saw the bear lying on its side, blood running out of its mouth.
“It’s dead, I think,” he told the others. Slowly and carefully they came out and looked the bear over. It was a big male, but somewhat thin, probably from the poor hunting possibilities.
“Come,” said Okfagit, “We must prepare it before it freezes.” They all went to work, taking off the skin, cutting up the meat and tying it up in bundles which they put on the meat platform.
Then they went back to the hut and laid down to sleep, surprisingly at peace in spite of the traumatic attack.
As they lay in the dark, Okfagit said, “Thank you, Jesus, for protecting us. You are our good Boat Captain.” And they slept.
They were up early, fed the dogs, and after a breakfast of dried fish, loaded the polar bear meat and skin along with the fox pelts, and set off for home.
As usual, they stopped at each trap and found five more foxes. They arrived home at dusk to find their missing dog waiting for them in front of the house and the sick boy well.
Word spread quickly in the village as one person saw the polar bear skin and ran to tell others. Soon the whole village was standing around the sled, and one elder spoke.
“What is this, Okfagit? You have another polar bear! Three in one winter!”
Okfagit told the story of the bear’s attack, their crying out to Jesus and how he helped them. He also told about his missing dog and his sick son, how he prayed for each and how Jesus had restored both.
The crowd talked with one another in low voices. Then an elder stepped forward. “In spite of the shaman’s curse on you and your family, Jesus has protected you. He certainly is more powerful than our spirits, than our ceremonies, than our shaman. I, for one, choose to leave the old ways and follow Jesus!”
Some in the crowd also stated their belief, while others wavered and some glowered, unhappy with the change.
Okfagit spoke up, “Jesus’ Way is the good way. Only he can protect and provide for us everywhere. But he requires obedience to his good commands. Here, Ayit, tell them what Jesus wants.”
Ayit stepped forward and recited the passage of 2 Peter 1:5-7.
“Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control endurance, to endurance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness God’s love.”
The elder nodded. “No one can fight against such wonderful words, such goodness and power. Yes, I will follow Jesus.”
Before departing, Okfagit said, “Any of you who have chosen to follow Jesus, come to my house tomorrow morning and Ayit and I will teach you more about him.” The crowd broke into chatter and slowly moved away to their own houses.
“Father,” said Ayit as they turned to enter the house, “You spoke so well! You certainly added endurance to your self-control. In spite of the shaman’s curse and the people’s opposition, you have stood firm. Thank you for your faith and obedience! A great example to me.”
Picture: trapping foxes at 50 below zero.