“Now, Ayit, a further point,” said Kalowi. “The third thing you are to add to your faith is self-control, that is, living what you have learned. Sharing your faith is part of that.
“But I warn you, people do not easily leave the old ways. They are afraid of the spirits, they don’t want to ignore them or to anger them, for they believe the spirits can bring sickness, kill children, prevent to animals from coming. But we know that Jesus is more powerful. If we follow him, he will help and protect us.
“Do not be surprised that your father at first hesitates. You are deciding for you. He must decide for many, as he is an important leader; he must make good decisions to lead his family and his boat crew. If he realizes the Way of Jesus is right, he will step out and believe.”
Kalowi looked at Okfagit and said to Ayit, “Pray for him, obey Jesus and he will work in your father’s heart.”
Ayit nodded. “Alright. I will do that.” Then he smiled, “And now, could we see the teacher?” he asked.
“Let us go and see if he has time,” replied Kalowi. Standing, he pulled aside the inner tent cover and led the way out of the house. Okfagit took his leave and went to find his men.
The teacher’s house was different from the Eskimo dwellings, being made out of lumber with glass windows and a wooden door. As this was his first visit, Ayit was amazed to see such a different dwelling. Kalowi led the way to the door and knocked. The teacher, Mr. Campbell opened it and welcomed them in.
Since Mr. Campbell could speak some Yupik Eskimo, Ayit could speak with him directly.
“I would like to see the book Kalowi spoke of,” he said.
Mr. Campbell went to a shelf and took down his Bible, handing it to Ayit who opened it and looked at the writing, “the little pictures,” as Kalowi called them. They meant nothing to him since he neither knew English nor could read. He handed it back.
“Kalowi taught me some of it,” he said and recited Psalm 23. Mr. Campbell was impressed. They talked and prayed together before Ayit had to go.
“My father will be waiting for me,” he said. “Please pray for me that I will be a good follower of Jesus,” he said as he stood to leave.
“Let me pray now for you before you go,” Mr. Campbell said. Ayit stopped and waited.
“Lord Jesus, I thank you for this new brother. It will be hard for him as he tries to leave the old ways. Help him to stand firm, to be a good follower, to effectively share his new faith. And bring him back to visit again. Amen.”
Okfagit gathered his crew and they set sail for their home in far East Asia. The boat was heavily loaded, so they had been waiting for a clear day without strong winds. The sail strained on the mast as the light wind pushed the laden boat through the water.
Okfagit, sitting at the tiller, was thinking about what Ayit and Kolawi had shared with him. It was true that all around him was beautiful and that the spirits could not have created so much beauty when they were so ugly themselves.
“Yes, there must be a good creator God,” he said to himself.
He then thought of his ancestors who from time immemorial had lived according to their traditions, appeasing the spirits, fearing the spirits of their dead ancestors, showing respect to the animals they killed, carefully performing ceremonies to ensure good hunting. And the reliance they’d had on the shaman, as he stood between them and the spirits, ineffectually working to bring healing and guidance.
All this he must abandon if he were to follow Jesus. As Kalowi said, others would see him as a traitor, one who would bring the village into danger by angering the spirits and the spirits of their ancestors.
“But,” he said to himself, “I will not bring them into any more danger than already exists, for the Jesus Kalowi told us about is stronger than the spirits, stronger than the shaman, than the devil, even. He can protect us. He is our great boat Captain.
“He can also provide for us, as he is the Creator of all things. And besides, in him is the hope of eternal life. Our old traditions gave us no hope, only fear and burdens. I think I will follow him.” And with that decision made, he settled back against the stern, clutching the tiller, suddenly experiencing a peace he had never known.
Picture: at the tiller