Will you share ‘The Book of Life’ with a lost soul?
September 28, 2004
In Oliver Nixon’s 1885 book entitled, How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon, he writes, “The city of St Louis in that day was so near the border of civilization that it was accustomed to seeing much of the rugged and wild life of the plains; yet in 1832 the people beheld, even to them, the odd sight of four Flathead Indians in Indian dress and equipment parading their principal streets.”
Nixon, in his book about the western travels of rugged, soul-winning medical missionary Whitman, went on to write that General Willliam Clark, who commanded the military post of that day, was promptly notified and took the strangers in charge. He had been an Indian commissioner for many years in the Far West, knew the tribe well and could easily communicate with them.
“With it all he was a good friend to the Indians and at once made arrangements at the fort to make them comfortable. They informed him that they were all chiefs of the tribe and had spent the entire summer and fall upon their long journey. Their wearied manner and wasted appearance told the fact impressively even had the general not known the locality where they belonged. For a while they were reticent regarding their mission, as is usual with Indians; but in due time their story was fully revealed. They had heard of ‘The White Man’s Book of Life,’ and had come ‘to hunt for it’ and ‘to ask for teachers to be sent’ to their tribe.”
To Clark, writes Nixon, this was a novel proposition to come in that way from wild Indians. Clark was a devout Catholic and treated his guests hospitably. After they were rested up he led them on tours he thought would entertain and interest them. Frequent visits were made to Catholic churches, and to theatres and shows of every kind. And so they spent the balance of the winter.
“During this time,” Nixon writes, “two of the Indians, from the long journey and possibly from over-eating rich food, to which they were unaccustomed, were taken sick and died, and were given honored burial by the soldiers. When the early spring sun began to shine, the two remaining Indians commenced their preparations for [the] return home.”
Clark proposed to give them a banquet on the last evening of their sojourn, loading them with all the com-forts he could provide. At this banquet one of the Indians made a speech. It was a speech brimming over with Indian eloquence. The speech was translated into English and thus doubtless lost much of its charm, Nixon wrote.
The chief said, "I come to you over the trail of many moons from the setting sun. You were the friends of my fathers, who have all gone the long way. I came with an eye partly open for my people, who sit in darkness. I go back with both eyes closed. How can I go back blind, to my blind people? I made my way to you with strong arms through many enemies and strange lands that I might carry back much to them. I go back with both arms broken and empty. Two fathers came with us. They were the braves of many winters and wars. We leave them asleep here by your great water and wigwams. They were tired in many moons and their moccasins wore out.
“My people sent me to get the ‘White Man’s Book of Heaven.’ You took me to where you allow your women to dance as we do not ours, and the book was not there. You took me to where they worship the Great Spirit with candles and the book was not there. You showed me images of the good spirits and pictures of the good land beyond, but the book was not among them to tell us the way. I am going back the long and sad trail to my people in the dark land. You make my feet heavy with gifts and my moccasins will grow old in carrying them, yet the book is not among them. When I tell my poor blind people after one more show, in the big council, that I did not bring the book, no word will be spoken by our old men or by our young braves. One by one they will rise up and go out in silence. My people will die in darkness, and they will go a long path to other hunting grounds. No white man will go with them, and no ‘White Man’s Book’ to make the way plain. I have no more words.”
Today my Missouri brothers and sisters in Christ, Flathead Indians may not come through the streets of your town and the doors of your church, but there are people with a pagan heritage just as great that do show up. Will they find the “Book of Life” in the message of your life and the worship services of your church? The dates and faces may change from this story, but the people and events do not change. When was the last time you spoke to a soul to show them the plain trail to heaven?