First of all, we want to thank you for praying for us on our recent US ministry trip to North Dakota. This report has turned out a bit longer than anticipated – in part due to giving the ‘type ups’ of the verses mentioned. I have also included some ‘one liners’ taken from my notes! For some of you it may also have a personal teaching element in it, for others it will stimulate personal, tribal or national issues to bring to God in prayer.
Having flown in to Bismarck, North Dakota the day before, we were picked up by Bobby GreyEagle and brought just over an hour south, to the Indigenous Healing the Land Conference venue: Prairie Knights Resort, Fort Yates – land of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. He was our introduction to a number of Native Christian leaders who have such a compassionate heart for their people, that they would experience a culturally relevant encounter with Christ. As we drove we could not help but notice the difference between the undulating prairie landscape, with its wide horizons and vast open skies and the wee, green hedged fields of Ireland! Nearing our destination, we went through Cannonball, which is close to the site of the confrontation between the Water Protectors and builders of the controversial Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL).
The first evening of our gathering was given over to a very special Native American dynamic – protocol. This is a time, during which the Tribal Chairman or his representatives welcomed us on to their land and we honored them with our gifts. Joe Donnell (who carried the vision for the Conference for many years) welcomed everyone and introduced the theme/purpose of our time together.
He also introduced our speaker for the conference, Pastor Sevenaca Nakauyua from Fiji. Along with his father, they have experienced revival coming to the Tribes there. He brought to us principles for revival (entitled Heal the Land) which they taught and saw the fruit of, there. While we had received similar teaching in Ireland from people like George Otis Jnr. and Alistair Petrie, what impressed us most was its relevancy to a tribal based culture.
The worship, led by a combination of worship leaders/groups, was very anointed. It often started off with what I could describe as contemporary (such as we would have experienced here in Ireland), yet so often flowed into a Native American expression, with flutes, drums (both the larger one, which people sat around and the hand drum), dancing – such a wonderful celebration of Christ!
Some personal notes and reflections from the teaching:
I was immediately struck by Savenaca’s opening challenge to us, to be committed to the land God has us in. For me, that could be the land of my birth; the land where he has brought me to in ministry and one which I have added – the primary land of my heart.
He told us, that in Fiji, they have the same word for land and people. Both are so integrally connected – what we do on the land and to the land can affect it and therefore affect us. This was a theme which he continually brought us back to.
2 Chronicles 7:2, 13-14. “The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.”… “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Jeremiah 29:28. “He has sent this message to us in Babylon: ‘It will be a long time. Therefore, build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’” (v.7 ESV) n.b. We are to seek its welfare!
His second point related to our commitment to seeing the cleansing of the Church there and lastly the removal of any hidden agendas that we may have. E.g. Nationalism, denominationalism, leadership prestige … This brought me back to the times in Ireland when God led us to do just those things: laying our agendas down – even those we brought in to our prayer gatherings, as to how we thought the day should go; our national and religious identities. All were laid at the foot of a large cross!
He also talked about the need for us to redefine our community – it should not be defined in our hearts and minds by the negative things of history or the wrong moral and ethical issues surrounding us etc., But rather – what is the destiny of our community which God wants and which he alone can bring? It is seeing our community with His eyes; identifying with it, falling in love with it, willing to die for it.
Like the Fijians, the indigenous people of North America have a very different understanding regarding their relationship with the land. They do not see themselves as owners of it but rather as stewards! They have been assigned to it by God to respect it and care for it – what they do on it affects it for good or evil. That is in part why they have stood firmly against the oil pipeline being pushed through their treatied land. Our western worldview has lost something of this and that the land can be either blessed or cursed, depending on our good or bad stewardship of it!
Here are a few other scriptures to reflect on:
Genesis 2:15. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Psalm 24:1. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it …”
Jeremiah 22:29. “O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord!”
Jeremiah 14:1-7. Creatures suffer. “This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought: “Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem. The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads. The ground is cracked because there is no rain in the land; the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads. Even the doe in the field deserts her newborn fawn because there is no grass. Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights and pant like jackals; their eyes fail for lack of food.” Although our sins testify against us, do something, Lord, for the sake of your name. For we have often rebelled; we have sinned against you.”
In 2 Chron. 7:14. God speaks his word. When we receive it , we position ourselves in prayer to hear from him.
God speaks to:
1. The humble
2. Seekers of his face
4. Those who turned from their wicked ways.
He promises that he will:
2. Forgive sins
3. Heal our land
Prayer releases Divine revelation from heaven. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Ever since God created us, he wanted us to work in partnership with him. We do our part on earth, He does his in bringing heaven to earth. He is there to instruct us, to guide us. In Daniel 9:20-22 we read – “While I was speaking, and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.””
The context of Daniels’ prayer is one of Gods’ protection being removed leading to exile.
One phrase that really caught our attention was – “God calls us to be fruit inspectors.” On reflection, I also sensed that He was also calling some of us to be root inspectors. Over the past number of years, I sense this has been part of my calling – first of all regarding the role of wrong Covenants in Ireland (such as the Ulster Covenant in 1912) and in more recent years, what my forefathers (Puritans and Scotch-Irish) brought to New England in the 17th & 18th Centuries to eventually become the negative legal and spiritual foundations of current governmental Indian policy – including the Doctrine of Discovery, paving the way for Manifest Destiny, Indian land removal and reservations, and the Boarding Schools.
Matthew 7:17-20. “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
It begs the question – What fruit is our community bearing? If the root is rotten then the fruit will be rotten!
Quiet a sobering, heart searching opening session!
In the next session, Sevenaca continued to expand on this.
When God made man, his verdict was – “very good.” But along with creating him was a potential problem – the capacity to wrongly use our God given will, leading to a curse and a defilement being placed on the land. These are so intertwined! If man is affected then the land is affected.
1. Self governed not God governed
2. Gives our will the authority to do whatever we like on the land
3. It prefers independence rather than God dependence.
Genesis 3:17-18. “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.’”
Isaiah 24:1-6. “See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants— it will be the same for priest as for people, for the master as for his servant, for the mistress as for her servant, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.”
Lev. 25:23. “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” Bad stewardship of it begins when we say in our hearts that “the land is ours.”
Sins of our fathers: Deuteronomy 5:9. “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me …”
1 John 1:8-10. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
Regarding corporate sin – How far back do we go? The blood of Abel?
Matthew 23:29-36. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.”
He then said something that I don’t think I have ever publicly heard before within the context of Native/Euro-American reconciliation: The First Nations must rise up and take ownership and responsibility for the original defilement in the land. As the first people of the land you defiled it first – before white man came! This was a First Nations speaker, speaking to a First Nations people – perhaps, not something Euro Americans can readily do! Certainly something I have been reluctant to do – there has been enough to confess regarding the sins of my people towards them!
At least 10 years ago God spoke to me regarding another issue but it included these words regarding the Native American nations:
“Your destiny, your full destiny was denied a long time ago – long before the white man came here. It was denied to all of your tribes when an angel in heaven rebelled against me and I cast him to earth, where he led man in rebellion. Something was profoundly lost and denied there.
Back then, without the wisdom that comes from God, your elders even led you in ways that denied your destiny which I had planned for you.
Your destiny as nations will never fully be restored here on earth – but what I want to give you is dignity – as people, as nations – IN ME!”
Meanwhile there are the groans! Romans 8:19-23. “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
He then said: “The land is waiting on you – sons of God – do something!”
Numbers 35:33-34. “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.”
Over the next few sessions Sevenaca pointed out a number of issues that are related to defiling the land, that cause God’s goodness to be removed from us. I will highlight a few of them that clearly spoke to me:
1. Bloodshed and murder: Blood – is very special to God.
Numbers 35:33-34. “‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.’” Clearly, a very serious issue!
Issues of the heart:
Habakkuk 2:12. “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!” If a city is built on bloodshed – bloodshed will continue to occur! Talking here about foundations, roots.
Hosea 4:1-3. “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away.” Bloodshed – the land mourns.
How can we be satisfied with church/programs while the land is mourning?
Waiting for the sons of God to rise up.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Nevertheless, appropriation is needed!
WE NEED A REVIVAL OF REPENTANCE – THEN REVIVAL WILL COME. This is a statement which Sevenaca referred to on a number of occasions. So often we look for revival, thinking of how good things will be for us, without considering the issue of repentance. Revival praying has a lot more appeal to us then repentance praying.
Our responsibility is to remove the blockage – let the river flow! Only with a heart of humility can the true nature of sin be exposed before God.
This is not a time for cutting off branches – roots need to be cut!
When these things abound, we cannot do church as usual!!
2. Broken Covenants: God is a God of covenant.
Gen. 15:9-19. God ‘cuts Covenant’ with Abram and seals it with blood. Normally it is made between two parties drawing up and agreeing with the conditions and terms. Here it is unilaterally made by God.
This is such an incredible story of the Gibeonites duping the Israelites into making a covenant with them and its consequences. It is worth reading in full, here is a portion of it:
Joshua 9. “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them. So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” … So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.”
Generations later, we pick it up again. It shows the power of covenant and what God thinks about it when it is broken. They did not make the original one, and David was not responsible for what Saul did but its generational power and the consequences of them breaking it are clear:
2 Samuel 21:1-14. “During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, ‘It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.’ Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted, ‘We have no share in David, no part in Jesse’s son! Every man to his tent, Israel!’ The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them. David asked the Gibeonites, ‘What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?’ The Gibeonites answered him, ‘We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ David asked. They answered the king, ‘As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord’s chosen one.’ So the king said, ‘I will give them to you.’ … After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.” Rain!!
David humbles himself – he went down to the Gibeonites. They had to be part of it. They had the right to release.
Sin was exposed before God. No cover-up – own up to sin as it is!
Again, I immediately thought about the ongoing effects of the Ulster Covenant. But this time with the clear awareness, that it has defiled the land.
It can no longer be church as usual. We can go to Church, we can worship – but there is no rain! So much of how we do church is not working anymore – we need the rain!
People in society should see what is happening in the body of Christ! We are here to affect society!
When root issues are dealt with, things begin to happen – rain!
Joshua 23:16. “If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”
Isaiah 24:5-6. “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore, earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”
3. Taking anything that does not belong to you:
Deuteronomy 5:21. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
We cannot honor God if we cannot honor the person sitting next to us! Now, that’s a challenge!
Land Boundaries: This particularly hit me in a new way!
Acts 17:26. “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
Deuteronomy 19:14. “Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”
Hosea 5:10. “Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.”
Proverbs 22:28. “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.”
Proverbs 23:10. “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless …”
I thought back immediately to issues such as: the Pale around the Dublin area that was directly under the control of the English government in the late Middle Ages; Cromwell banishing Catholics to west of the Shannon River – “to Hell or Connaught”; The Plantation of Ulster – all are major examples of the English and the Scots-Irish moving the ‘boundary stones’ and the displacement of tens of thousands of Irish Native people off the good lands in the east, either on to the poorer land in the west or into forced exile or slavery. I’m not sure that this is something we have specifically owned in this way before!
Hosea 4:1-3. “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away.”
Hosea 5:15. “Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face— in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”
Matt. 3 – Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. V.6. Confessing sin – back to a revival of repentance.
At one point Joe Donnell told us that he had undertaken a 9 year study on the belief systems of his people to determine what were the “dark things” in his Tribes culture.
One thing that struck both of us was what took place at the end of most of the sessions. People were being asked to respond by coming to the front of the staging – but, not to be prayed over or with. Instead the microphone was handed down to them and many people prayed out their responses to God for all to hear – something that went on for some considerable time. They meant business before God!
Lastly, on the final day we went out on to the land overlooking the site of the recently disbanded camp and the DAPL drilling platform. There we were led by Sevenaca and another man from Fiji (now living in the Artic), who modelled for us, onsite, healing of the land praying. What was amazing for all of us, happened as we said our corporate “Amen”. Out of nowhere there appeared several bald eagles, soaring high above us. The Native Americans in our midst went crazy in their thanksgiving to God. For them, the eagle is the symbol of the Great Spirit of Creator. It was sign that he had been there with us and heard our prayers. I had been told by others about this also happening when they had taken part in such healing prayer gatherings on the land. This is not so dissimilar to what we had experienced in Ireland, when having prayed into some of the covenant issues, a rainbow appeared overhead.
When the conference finished, we were taken by Joyce Kitson (one of the tribes elders), to the Tribes Council Chambers in Fort Yates and were introduced to their Chairman, Dave Archambault II. Joyce then brought us back to Bismarck to stay overnight, before the next leg of our journey commenced: to visit our son Nigel, his wife Kyria and her family in Boyne City, northern Michigan. On all accounts, this was a very special trip for us, full of precious memories having met with God and so many precious people!!