Sunday, January 30, 2011

Maniilaq: A New Picture?

Maniilaq was born in the area of Qala, which is uninhabited now, but was in the upper Kobuk River area, near present day Kobuk and Shungnak. His birth date is uncertain, but most place it in the early 1830's

I have picked up some interesting facts in my reading that would somewhat alter the traditional view of this godly man. The first fact is that nothing is ever said about his father though his mother and sisters are well-documented with their names and the names of his sisters' descendants.

The second fact is that at about the time Maniilaq was born Qala was an Athabascan village, not an Inupiaq one. Athbascans and Eskimos have traditionally been enemies. Could it be that none of the Inupiat elders, who are the source of all we know of Maniilaq, know anything of his father because he was not Inupiat, but Athabascan?

The last fact is that at least one of the elders recounted that Maniilaq sometimes talked in a language that no one could understand. Being of the persuasion that the gift of tongues is given to help people who speak different languages better understand each other, this was uncomfortable for me to read. But it does fit perfectly if Maniilaq's father was not an Eskimo and thus Maniilaq was bilingual.

Maniilaq's story is full of unexplored details that we can not know the answers to until we meet him and his family in heaven. Then every tongue and tribe and nation will praise God together in one mighty voice and I know that many of Maniilaq's family will be there among them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Maniilaq: Questioning his way to God

Over the past couple of years, I have been repeated challenged in my Christianity as I followed the dialogue between Warren and a former Christian turned atheist that I will call Kelly. Each time I have come away stronger in my beliefs. I have come to see it is important for every Christian to regularly examine their beliefs to truly understand the essence of Christianity. This is best done by getting to know non-believers.

This week I again examined my beliefs courtesy of Kelly. This time I realized that like Kelly there is no middle ground for me between atheism and Christianity. But for me the desire for righteousness and the evidence for Christianity are too strong to abandon my beliefs. I believe for Kelly the pain caused by Christians is too deep to trust "their God", though Kelly would tell you the reasons are scientific.

Maniilaq must have been asking questions as well before God revealed himself. God can only show himself to those who are looking for him. I see Maniilaq as a boy with a tender heart who didn't like what he saw in the shamanistic beliefs around him such as restrictive taboos, shamans who used their powers against others, and the isolation of teenage girls. God saw a boy he could use to show his people a God who loved them and a better way to live.

God choose a very gentle way to begin to talk to him. It began with a small white bird Maniilaq had never seen before. This bird spoke of Father and Son, Father and Son. Source of Intelligence, Source of Life. This is a very trinitarian and biblical picture. The dove (strange, small white bird) didn't talk about himself, but instead about God the Father and God the Son. I believe further revelations helped Maniilaq to know the Father as The Grandfather and the Son as "One in White". (Jesus was revealed to Ezekiel, Daniel, and John the Revelator as dressed in shining white linen.)

People need satisfying answers to their questions. We need to be people who are always exploring. This is the only way that we can know what the questions are and thus be always ready to give an answer for our hope with meekness.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Maniilaq: Prophet Who Cared

Maniilaq's message was dominated by his desire to see his people less fearful and their lives easier. He often confronted the shamans and showed his people that God was stronger. But what really stands out to me is his caring for adolescent girls.

God really does work circumstances out so we learn the lessons he wants us to. Maniilaq had three younger sister and God began to speak to him when he was in his teens. Now the people of his area had the custom of sending girls to live by themselves for a year when they began adolescence or, if they got to stay at home, they had to wear a hood that would keep people from seeing their faces for that year. So about the time God would have shown him that this practice was wrong, his sisters were experiencing this themselves. His sisters were certainly the first girls that he began to visit and comfort during their year of isolation.

God has always cared about all of his creatures. He demonstrates this in his frequent denunciations by Jesus and the Bible prophets of the mistreatment of the poor and helpless.
His messages to Maniilaq were no different. What a loving God we serve!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Maniilaq Key

Many who are familiar with Native Alaska are aware of the story of Maniilaq the Eskimo Prophet. It is a wonderful story of how God can use a willing seeker to teach truth to those who have never heard of Jesus.

Maniilaq began to hear God as a boy though a small white bird. Soon he was lead to choose a supportive wife and he began to challenge the shamans' and their taboos. He kept the Sabbath, and promoted cleanliness and the rights of girls.

I feel his story has much to teach us about how to reach the Eskimo culture and we need to dig deep until we have learned how create solid native congregations who can lead and bring in new seekers. Of course it is not the only key, but it has not been used to its full advantage.


Friday, January 7, 2011

When there are no words

Pain. How do you deal with it on a daily unrelenting basis?

Right now, I have a friend who, in about one week, has been raped, had a close cousin die, discovered her boyfriend was cheating on her, was evicted from her place, and felt forced to give up her parental rights. She grew up with people making bad choices that hurt her deeply and she turned to alcohol. Not long ago she turned to Jesus and was trying to live a straight life. But her daughter was temporarily staying with someone else and that person molested her. This hurt my friend all over again and her life spiraled downward.

There are no easy fixes for problems like this. Selawik is a place dealing with constant tragedy. There have been four deaths (cancer, suicide, old age, heart attack) and a home burned to the ground since early November. This is in addition to the usual daily conflicts.

I do believe that Jesus is the answer, but that sounds like just a cliche when you don't trust anyone and feel no one really cares. It takes a lot of work to believe, to change, and to stick with it when you are surrounded by those who don't and won't.

Our job is come alongside people who are hurting and just care for them as Jesus did. We need to hold them up as best we can without encouraging destructive habits. Then when they are ready and able to trust and change, we will be able to help them. It doesn't matter how many times they fall, every step they take with Jesus will be there as a memory of what life can really be.