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My father is Oglala Lakota/Sioux from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and my mother is Sicangu from the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux Indian Reservation, both located in South Dakota. I lived among my mother's people as a child.

When I was 18, I participated with 600 others in the American Indian Movement's forced takeover and occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office Building in Washington, D.C. We protested the federal government's breaking of more than 700 congressionally ratified treaties with our tribes. For eight days we occupied the building and were surrounded by riot police. During this period, I allowed hatred toward white people to grow in my heart.

A few years later, however, after enduring drug and alcohol addiction, a stint in jail, and a growing despair over my lostness, I became a follower of Jesus.

Many tribes refer to North America as Turtle Island. More that 700 different tribes believe that Creator put them on this land long before Columbus got lost and "discovered" the New World. In Acts 17:26 Paul writes about how Creator pre-determined times and places for people to dwell in. We are the First Nations peoples of Turtle Island. It would appear Creator brought the Europeans to Turtle Island, too. Perhaps in Jesus, we could have walked together as brothers and sisters, forming a great new community of Christ. But it was not to be. Instead, our people suffered the horrors of genocide and ethnic cleansing. What makes the story most tragic is that biblical narratives were misappropriated to validate these atrocities. Thankfully, however, the story is not finished.

As I have reflected on my conversion experience, I am glad I did not find faith in Jesus in a church building; it spared me from having become Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Pentecostal, or Wesleyan. I just became a follower of Jesus!

But then I was told I needed to become a Christian too, specifically a Euro-American Christian. I learned that only English speakers had the "Authorized" version of the Bible. I discovered the Christian culture, complete with Christian music, Christian T-shirts, and even Christian haircuts. It was almost as if the Bible read, "When a person becomes a Christian they become a new creation. Old things pass away and all things become white."

When Jesus came into my life and overwhelmed me with his love, I wanted nothing more than simply to follow him. I began a life of transformation because he rescued me from a life of addiction, abuse, self-destruction, and likely from a premature death. I longed for the same transformation for our people. Yet I found myself tripping over the cultural trappings of American Christianity. Following the ways of Jesus seemed one thing; becoming a white Christian quite another.

Yet, in spite of all of this, I find in Jesus the possibility for forgiveness, reconciliation, and the path toward Shalom alongside my fellow human beings. We are all ikce wicasa ...

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From Issue:Transformation, Summer 2012 | Posted: October 8, 2012

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Displaying 1–5 of 16 comments

Kenn Parker

March 02, 2013  6:24pm

Richard Twiss was one of the most godly, loving, wise and Christlike men I ever met. He has been referred to as one of the leading missiologists on the planet. I'm not sure if the editors of CT are aware, but Richard passed away in February of 2013. I might have missed it, but I didn't see any acknowledgement of that at either the beginning or end of the article. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Pray for his family as they mourn. Pray that the spirit in which Richard taught, wrote and ministered will become more prevalent amongst ministries today.

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Craig Gephart

February 13, 2013  7:01am

I can not begin to say how thankful I am to receive this breath of fresh air. I pray this message finds its way to countless people, tearing down walls, humbling the arrogant, breaking up fallow ground in the lives of those who have become complacent, and softening hardened hearts.

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Robin Ainsworth

February 13, 2013  1:40am

Oh, and 5 stars!!!

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Robin Ainsworth

February 13, 2013  12:49am

My life was just touched by this great man of God. I didn't even know of him until a friend posted for prayer for him. After reading excerpts from a couple of his books, I knew it was truth and I just cried tears of happiness. I know that my experiences with God and my songs are not wrong, (I knew that), but I was struggling with it all still. I'm not anymore. I'm so grateful, and can't imagine how grateful First Nation Christians are. I have very little native blood in me, but I've had several First Nation friends tell me, "You're Indian." (I knew that too.) They were Christians too. I can't wait to share this all with them. I thank God so much for these last couple of days of learning, and feel honored to have known about Richard Twiss and been able to pray for him and his family and friends before he passed on into Jesus' arms. And I'm grateful for what I'm learning now. God Bless the Twiss family in their time of loss. In Jesus' Name Amen. Dusty

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February 12, 2013  10:10pm

Thank you for sharing. I had a friend who studied Native American history and was passionate about cultural contextualization of the gospel for everyone, but his heart was for the Native American people. Sadly, he went to be with The Lord a few years back but in memory I am reminded to pray for this to happen. I pray no one would ever feel they have to leave their heritage, as I too believe the Creator purposed us to bring intricacy and beauty to the gospel message through the uniqueness of each culture in worship to him.

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