Later in the afternoon the others of Okfagit’s crew gathered at the boat and they left for their camp. Ayit was sitting in the back of the boat, while he faced his father at the tiller. “Will we visit here again before we return to our home?” he asked.
“Yes, when we are done with our hunting we will stop again. Why do you ask?”
“I want to visit Kolawi again with you and then with his friend the teacher.”
“Hm,” said his father.
The next day they went seal hunting in the boat and this time Ayit was allowed to do some shooting. In his first hour of watch a seal surfaced and Ayit shot true and clean. As the seal floated in the water, they brought the boat alongside. Ayit was excited to see that it was a bearded seal, much larger than the other types, weighing around 300 pounds. They hauled it into the boat with difficulty, taking care not to capsize, and returned to their camp.
Their hunting overall was very successful and as the time came to go home, they loaded all the dried meat into the boat. They had dried the meat to preserve it, but also to make it possible to take it home, for if the meat hadn’t been dried, the boat would have sunk under its weight. As it was, it sat quite low in the water.
They set out mid-morning, paddling the loaded boat to the village of Sivukuk. After beaching the boat and appointing a guard to keep the dogs away, Okfagit lead his crew up the gravel beach to the village.
Ayit immediately took Okfagit and went to Kolawi’s house. He had questions about the passages he’d memorized, and desperately wanted explanations. Kolawi recieved them warmly, rubbing his chest in the traditional greeting.
They sat together on the floor of the inner tent, lit by the seal-oil lamps, waiting while Kolawi’s wife made them tea.
“I have been thinking through the song you taught me—you know, the Psalm,” said Ayit. “Can you tell me more of what it means?”
“Certainly,” said Kolawi. “You say a line and I’ll explain it.
“‘The Lord is our boat captain. He gives us all that we need,’” said Ayit.
“What does your boat captain do for you?”
“He is my father,” replied Ayit. “He teaches me, he helps me, he provides for me and our family, he protects me as he can from the bad spirits by performing the right ceremonies. He is my leader.”
“Exactly,” said Kolawi. “Jesus does the same, only on a much bigger scale. He created the world and has much power, immense power. Much more than the spirits we have feared.
“We can trust him to protect, provide, teach and guide us. He will help us with hunting and harvesting food. The word ‘Lord’ means ‘powerful leader’, so we are to follow Him.”
Ayit continued, “‘He makes me lie down in a good place.’”
“As you know, life here is dangerous and hard,” said Kolawi. “Jesus knows what’s best for us, and he brings us into situations where we will mature, even though it is hard, difficult and dangerous, places we would like to stay away from. But if we stay, we will mature. We can trust him to protect us in whatever he brings or allows.”
Kalowi continued, “Notice that it says, ‘he makes.’ He doesn’t ask us; he commands us to stay in what He knows is a good place. It is he who decides, not us.”
Ayit continued, “‘He leads me to clear water springs. He refreshes my soul.’”
“Fresh water springs are so important. Without them we die. Jesus provides refreshment and quiet times for us, giving us peace in our souls. He wants us to come to him in prayer, in thanksgiving and in praise. These bring us refreshment, changing our thoughts, our motives and eventually our emotions,” said Kolawi. “Now, tell me the next line.”
“‘He leads me in the right ways, for this brings honor to his name,’” said Ayit.
“Jesus is wise and good, he shows us the right way in each instance, showing us his wisdom and kindness. He wants us to do what is right.
“This means leaving the old ways, not trying to control the spirits, not trying to control the animals, not offering the water after we have killed them. Instead we pray to Jesus for help, asking him to send walrus, seal and whales, and then follow his lead. The way of Jesus is better, higher, stronger,” said Kalowi.
Ayit went on, “‘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.’”
Kalowi nodded, “Hard times will come, death may stare us in the face, but Jesus is always there. He will guide us with his hunting stick, he will defend us with his spear. The evil spirits want to control us, but Jesus wants to free us from them— and he will free us as we follow him.”
Ayit went on, “‘He prepares a meal for me in the presence of my enemies.’”
“Our enemies may be people, or spirits, the shaman or raiders from other villages, but Jesus makes it possible for us to sit down and eat with him in spite of our enemies, he will hold them back,” explained Kalowi.
“‘He blesses me with much seal oil, my poke overflows.’”
“Jesus gives us more than we need because he loves us, and then we can share it with others.”
“‘Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.’”
“God’s goodness and mercy are always there even though we can’t always see them. They follow us, so later we can look back and see how God was being good and merciful to us in our difficulties.”
“‘And I will live in the house of Jesus forever.’”
“As a follower of Jesus, you now have eternal life. When you die you will certainly go to heaven to live with Jesus forever!”
“These are wonderful truths,” said Ayit, “aren’t they, my father! This must be the good news that was prophesied!”
“Yes, they are good,” replied Okfagit. “But I must think more on them. I admit they are beginning to make sense to me.”
Picture: ivory carving of a spotted seal like the ones Ayit got.