More From The Add-on Eskimo
When the monumental task of harvesting the whale was done, Okfagit, as was customary, gave a feast for all the boat crews and the leaders of the village. The shaman also was invited. After they had eaten and were served tea, Okfagit spoke.
“You may have noticed that I did not perform the required ceremonies of a boat captain to call the whales to us, to pray to Apa, to offer sacrifices. The reason I did not do these traditional practices is the prophesy we all know about, has come true!
“You all remember that many seasons ago a powerful shaman predicted that an outsider would come to Sivukuk and bring good news. That has happened!”
The crowd was amazed and began to talk to one another.
“So, Okfagit, what is this good news?” the shaman asked.
“The news is that Apa, whom we knew to be far away from us, sent his son into the world to live as a man. Not only that, but Apa’s son, called Jesus, was sacrificed to pay the penalty of our sin. In his death he removed our shame and our weakness. And then Jesus rose from the dead!” The crowd gasped.
“Oh, no, that’s impossible!” exclaimed the shaman. “That has never happened in the history of the world!”
“That’s right,” Okfagit answered. “But it did happen once! Jesus came and lived as a man, but he was also Apa’s son, which makes him God.
“He has immense power. He created all that we see around us, the mountains and clouds, the sea and land, the elk and fox, the walrus and whale.
“Because of his great creative power, death could not conquer him. He defeated death and rose again. And, in rising from the dead, he bought eternal life for all who follow him!”
Again, there was stunned silence. After a pause Okfagit went on, “Our traditions did not promise us eternal life. After death, we were told, our spirits would roam the earth looking for peace, never finding it. But Jesus promises us eternal life with peace never ending.
“And not only that, but he takes those who follow him into his family, into his work, into his boat where he provides, protects and cares for us.”
The shaman spoke, “What does this have to do with your abandoning the ways of our people? Why didn’t you do the whaling ceremonies? You angered the spirits! You may bring disaster down on us!”
“Ah, that is part of the good news,” said Okfagit. “Jesus, the good creator God, is very powerful. He can free us from the fear of the spirits because they are afraid of him. And he, the Creator of whales, can help us when we hunt.”
Okfagit paused, ready to give his proof of Jesus’ love for them all. “Instead of the ceremonies, instead of sacrificing to the spirits, our ancestors, even to Apa, I prayed to Apa through Jesus, asking him to help me in my hunting, to bring the whales to me.
“He heard me and brought this great whale right to us, and then he had the whale swim to the village, not away from it. That has never happened before! Jesus can help us in our hunting, trapping and work. We can trust him; he is always with us; always at work with and for us.”
“What happens if the spirits attack us, attack our children?” asked one of the other boat captains.
“Let me tell you about Kalowi who lives in Sivukuk. His child was sick. He tried all that he knew, giving the child a different name, offering sacrifices and calling the shaman who consulted his spirits and did his ceremonies, but the child only got worse. Then the messenger from outside, the teacher, came and prayed to Jesus for the child, and it got well!”
“This means that Jesus is stronger than the spirits,” said one man.
“But,” said one of the elders, “That may be true if you follow the way of Jesus. What about those who don’t, who follow the traditional way?”
“There would be no change for them. In the old way we are attacked by the spirits, they bring sickness, famine and hardship. We are already enslaved to them, so if we go on in the old way we will be without hope, without salvation. And without the possibility of eternal life.”
Everyone was quiet for a while. This whole new perspective was too much to comprehend. Then the shaman spoke up, “I think this New Way is wrong. We have always lived in our traditional way. We must pray to and sacrifice to the spirits, to our dead ancestors. I say that if we leave this way for Jesus, disaster will come upon us. Okfagit is leading you astray!”
Okfagit stood. “I stand firm with Jesus. He helped Kalowi, he answered my prayers for a whale, he is changing my life, making me more generous. I do not want to stay in the old way of fear, hopelessness and then death. Jesus gives me peace, hope and eternal life. I choose Him.”
The shaman shook his head. “You will be sorry,” he said with a sinister look in his eyes, his face twisted with anger. He stood and strode out of the circle, leaving them all silent.
In the end Okfagit spoke again, “I challenge you to watch my life and see who is greater, the spirits or Jesus, the shaman or the good Creator God.”
Later that evening, Okfagit spoke with Ayit. “You remember the words from the Bible which Kalowi taught us, that we should add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control and then to self-control endurance?”
“Yes, I remember,” replied Ayit.
“Well, we have learned about Jesus, we have seen him answer our prayers, giving us the whale and we have obeyed him in telling others. Now there will be difficulty, and we must add endurance to continue to follow Jesus.”
“You are right, father. I constantly remember what we have learned, that Jesus is our boat captain, that he will protect us, that he will provide for us. He will save us from our enemies, the spirits, and lead us in the right paths.”
Picture: Akfagit, willing to stand alone for Jesus