“Come tonight to the teacher’s house, Okfagit, and you will learn more about the great Creator God,” Kolawi said. “And if you’d like, you can stay now and listen to what I am going to teach Ayit.”
Okfagit grunted and settled back to listen. Kolawi turned to Ayit and said, “I want to teach you now about how Apa loves us, cares for us and provides for us. The teacher, Mr. Campbell, says the name of this portion of the Bible is Psalm 23. It was a song and it paints pictures to help us understand. Listen as I speak it.
“‘The Lord is our boat captain. He gives us all that we need.
“‘He makes me stay in a good place. He leads me to drink from clear water springs. He refreshes my being. He leads me in the right ways, for this brings honor to his name.
“‘When I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, even there I will not fear, for Jesus is with me. His spear, his hunting stick, they comfort me. He prepares a meal for me in the presence of my enemies. He blesses me with much seal oil, my cup overflows.
“Certainly goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of Jesus forever.’”
Kalowi was silent for a moment. “This song will help you to get to know Jesus, to see how he provides, and will protect you as you obey him. Memorizing this means you will be adding knowledge to your faith. As you have surrendered to Jesus, now you can learn more about his character. He is, as you said, the good creator God who is glad to have you as his son.”
Ayit smiled, “That won’t be hard to memorize, it’s mostly pictures.”
Okfagit looked at his son in surprise, “You have accepted this New Way? You have accepted this Jesus? You have surrendered to him when you know so little about him!?” he exclaimed. “What will happen when the spirits know this? What about the elders when they learn you have left our traditions, which may bring evil upon us?”
Ayit was startled, “I hadn’t thought about that,” he said. “I was thinking about this good creator God who has power over life and death, who loves us and wants us to come to Him. This is Apa, the God we have always believed in and sometimes pray to. What could be wrong with surrendering to him?”
Okfagit looked down. “We must think about how this will affect our community, our family, our hunting, our future,” he said.
All were silent for a while. Then Kalowi spoke, “I have not only thought about these issues, but I have lived them. After seeing Apa heal my son when Mr. Campbell prayed in the name of Jesus, I knew that I had gotten more than the healing of my son.
The great longing of my heart had come to pass.
“I always feared the spirits and performed all the ceremonies I should. But it was so hopeless. I never could do everything the spirits wanted. We had to guess most of the time what they wanted and then if we got it wrong the spirits would be angry and bring disaster on us.
“And then in the end when we die, our physical bodies will decay, our spirits will wander desolate over the tundra, and then what? No one knows.
“But here is Apa and his son, Jesus, the God who loves us, who promises to provide for us, who can protect us with his great power, who offers us eternal life!”
Okfagit, bowed his head. “What you say about the spirits is true. What you say about Apa and Jesus sounds wonderful. But it is hard to leave the old way, and we will be rejected by our community if we follow Jesus.”
“That is true,” replied Kolawi, “but it is better to have eternal life than have this hopeless life go on as it has always has for our people, hard and brief, followed by an unhappy death.”
“Father,” said Ayit, “you said there was no hope, but now there is. I want to embrace it, to follow Jesus. Will you let me?”
Okfagit hesitated, thinking, evaluating like a hunter faced with a surprising and challenging situation. Then Kolawi spoke, “Think about this Okfagit, remember what we heard from this Psalm 23. See what it says about this new Apa. Ayit, recite it for us again.” And he did.
Then Kalowi led him in prayer. “O great God, Jesus, I thank you for my new brother, Ayit. Help him to follow you well, to add on each of the things you have given him. May he be a light to his family, his village, this island. Amen.”
Picture: hunting boat frame at sunset on the island