Right after Richard Twiss' memorial service stopped streaming online, I contacted Terry and we began chatting. I wrote very cautiously to Terry and shared, worried about how crazy it sounded and definitely not wanting to presume to be something I was not.
As I re-read what we wrote in that conversation and the following day, I thought it might be helpful to share our first few comments here for anyone else who might experience something similar.
I can't describe what I'm feeling watching Richard's memorial service. I didn't know him, but what he shared from his heart went into mine, and he went into my heart.Terry:
Often I don't comment about Richard because I never actually met him, and I think I should allow others to speak who have. And, also, because Native culture is new to me, I want to let others speak first, and I want to understand instead of assuming or presuming.
At the same time, I can't describe what is happening to me... as they played "Welcome Home" at the end of the ceremony, God, I feel like *I* am coming home.
I know there were Natives in my family tree, distantly far back in time, but somehow it's like there was and is a root there into my heart stronger and more powerful, stirring my heart in deep ways that bring me to tears.
I'm at a loss to explain or understand... but that's not true. It's more like I am crying *because* I understand. And I think I don't have the right to feel this way or say this, but with God, all things are possible.
I understand what you are saying bro. Welcome home.Ramone:
Terry, thank you for letting me share this with you. Thank you so much. There's almost no one else I can share this with who I think will understand.Terry:
My heart was just... it's literally like a root inside of me lit up and is shining. I ask God about it, I pray, and I just weep overwhelmed. I heard rumors of Natives in the family tree, but so distant that I didn't think it counted, that I didn't think it mattered... and I thought that if I did think it mattered, then I would be presuming or something. What God did with me today was say to my heart, "Yes, it does matter; it's part of you."
This really shakes me up, Terry. I thought this didn't matter, and never identified with it except as a passing fantasy. I asked Him, "So blood does matter to You?" And He said, "Yes! Because I love every tribe and tongue and nation!"
I had no idea this was possible. I had no idea that my heart could have such a root in it, tapped by hearing Natives sing and dance praises to Creator. I knew my home was in Him, but when they sang "Welcome home" suddenly I wept because it was like they were calling *me* home...
I'm crying, but in modern thinking I'd think this is ridiculous, but God is telling me it matters to Him, and my heart and spirit are agreeing with Him.
I just have no words. I'm crying. What the heck. It's like He's telling me I am something, and I'm resisting believing Him... because I've been looking with my eyes all of my life? I don't know. I feel ridiculous telling this to you. But you welcomed me, and I'm melted. God, I'm confused.
I was okay being stirred by Native songs and culture, I was okay identifying with white America and Mexican-America as my ancestors... I was okay with identifying with Natives only spiritually.
I didn't expect this, Lord. I didn't even dare to dream to ask for this, except in the longings of a young boy. I thought I didn't have the right to claim any of this... that I didn't have "enough" in me. I thought I should have more, that what I had was nothing.
But now You're overwhelming me, telling me that it *is* something. My heart is exploding resonating, even though my mind still protests.
Sorry for rambling so much, Terry. Thank you for listening. I'll spend more time talking with Him and probably crying.
When I was a boy, maybe around 10 or 12, I heard there was Apache in my father's side of the family. I looked for whatever books I could find. I made clothes that looked like the pictures I found. I wore whatever Indian-looking leather I could find around the house. I sewed my own moccasins. I made a little leather dogtag-like necklace that I wore underneath my clothes for probably more than a year.
All these years I thought it was just some wannabe part of me, some fantasizing. Now He, of all people, He tells me that no, it was part of me longing to come out. I longed for it because it was part of who I am. I loved it because it was part of how He made me.
This can't be true, I keep thinking. And I was fine praying for other people to discover God in their culture, to see it redeemed, etc. I was not prepared at all for this to get personal. I thought it was for others. What are You doing, God...
Many Native Americans understand the "native hearts" many non-natives have. Some Natives can be harsh and very rejecting of anyone who says they have Native blood. I have experienced both attitudes, but for the most part I have been welcomed by Native people whether Christian or traditional. Many have said, "its not really about blood" while other make it all about blood, especially how much you have.
I felt God spoke to me through a couple of Hopi men who visited us when we lived on Second Mesa pastoring a small mission church there. They saw me from a distance and said to my wife, "Oh the pastor is native." They saw something. They came up to me and asked what kind of Indian I was. I replied that I was only "part" Indian. They laughed and said, "What part?"
From that time I felt the Lord spoke to me about blood and what it means. Jesus was fully God and fully man, not half God and half man. Which part of Jesus was God and which part was man? He showed me that we are 100 percent of whatever blood we have in us. I am 100 percent Ojibwe, Yaqui, English, German not just a percentage of each. I carry the authority of each blood line and Jesus sees me complete in each one. (I haven't often shared this because I can't "prove" it doctrinally, but it blesses my heart).
Richard Twiss always encouraged me to embrace my Native heritage even though I couldn't "prove" it. I remember when he told me to get some regalia and begin to dance. He said if I was going to minister among Natives I should embrace that part of me. I resisted it because I didn't want to be seen as a phony or a wannabe.
Mixed bloods often feel caught between worlds. Randy Woodley's book "Mixed Blood but Not Mixed Up" helped me. Also in Diane Wigstone's book, "14 Generations", she reveals how God will use and is using mixed bloods to bridge the gap and bring healing to both sides. That is how I see myself.
But remember we are all on our own journey as we walk the road together. Even though I walk beside you on the road I still have to walk the path as if I was alone on it. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn't. Native people are deeply tribal but also deeply individuals who respect other's individuality. But, traditionally they don't allow that individuality to separate them from the family, clan or tribe.
My counsel to you is to embrace this before God and share it with those you trust and love. Don't "cast your pearls" out to those who would trample them.
I rejoice with you my brother as the Creator pulls the cords and brings to the surface things long hidden and buried. The journey is not easy but it leads to His purposes for all of us.