Sunday, June 25, 2006

Nadine the Eskimo

I'm back in Oregon, but my heart is still in Alaska. To be more specific, it is located in a tiny village on the Yukon River. May it ever be.
Nadine will be the focus of my blog today. She is the Yupik woman I wrote about previously. I spent the majority of my time in the village with Nadine and she educated me about the local culture.
She grew up in an Eskimo village and first heard the gospel in the Assembly of God church there. She met her husband while firefighting in the lower 48--he is Athabascan. She married him knowing full-well that she would face intense predjudice in his village.
And Nadine, along with her four children, has suffered at the hands of her fellow Alaskans.
She always has a smile on her face, however. She laughs freely and always has positive comments about her children. The last day we were in the village, she gave me a tour of their home, which is down by the river. I didn't see any food or many furnishings in the ramshackle house, but I did see her children's drawings and certificates of achievement papering every wall. Nadine's love for her kids is quite evident.
I asked her about the differences between the Yupik and Athabascan cultures.
"Oh, in Yupik culture, we like to celebrate--even small things," she told me.
"In this village, the only time we have a pot-latch is after someone has died. When I was a girl, my mother and grandmother celebrated everything--from the first catch to our 'coming out' ritual."
Nadine faithfully attends the Catholic church in the village, but she begged our team to come back and start a church for her children. While her desire for spiritual food was evident, it was also clear that Nadine was confused about Christianity. In our conversations, she talked about Native spiritual beliefs with the same respect that she quoted scriptures.
On our last day in the village, Nadine asked me to hike up to the land she and her husband owned and pray over it. I did, asking for God's blessing on the property and family. On the trek down the mountain, she chatted about her son's "strong medicine" and her totem (guardian spirit), the grizzly bear.
On a whim, I asked her what she thought about Jesus--what His role was in her life.
"God is up there," she said, pointing skyward. "But Jesus is like you are, standing right next to me."
Nadine may be confused on some issues, but she got that right.
Pray with me that Nadine and her family will be sanctified in the Truth and that they would become a light in their village.
More stories to come . . .