(Larry Anderson, Garland Brunoe, Richard Twiss, Grayce Bentley, Donita Fry, Gary Eastty)
Richard Twiss (Sicangu Lakota) and Wiconi International organized and hosted the first bi-Annual Portland/Vancouver Native American Prayer Breakfast on April 1st, 2011 at the Native American Youth and Family Services (NAYA) center. Richard and Donita Fry, (Shoshoni/Bannock) from NAYA, co-hosted the morning.
(Grayce, Richard, Donita & Gary enjoying some laughter)
With sixty-seven people in attendance, the morning began with a prayer from one of the local elders followed by a song of worship sung by Gary Eastty. Nu Sumu Besa’yoo (Only I am Good) was written and given to Gary by his Shoshone-Paiute mentor on the Walker River Reservation. The song reminds us that only God is good and we should pray only to him, followed by the promise that Jesus has died over all the bad things we have done.
Grace Bentley (Black Cherokee), shared how as a child she would attend church with her grandmother on a regular basis. However, at the age of about sixteen years they abruptly stopped going. When asked why, Grace’s grandmother took her to church at which point Grace became keenly aware of a sermon that revolved around money and a congregation that was chastised for not have the means to tithe more. Though Grace is thankful for the foundation the church has brought to her spiritual life, that final sermon has led her to rethink her spiritual journey and of trying to understand the world; racism; oppression; economic systems; and understanding herself as a woman of color.
Larry Anderson, a retired police officer and a native to the African-American Portland community shared his journey. As a child and a young man, Larry had a “disability” that caused him to stand out in a crowd. It is what has taught him that he is unpredictable and often “outside the box” or the norm. While attending college, his mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he was told that her prognosis was bad. Struggling with the idea that his mother could die, he remembered the Methodist Church he grew up in and returned to the Bible. It is there that he found a connection with Jesus and was drawn into relationship with Him. Through prayer, his mother fully recovered. And, it is through his relationship that he has found healing and a bridge that crossed a chasm between himself and the white community.
Gary Eastty closed the morning with a song of worship and Garland Bruno (Wasco/Chippewa) offered closing remarks and a doxology. Garland, former Tribal Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, senses that there is healing and reconciliation moving across the Pacific Northwest in a grander way than he could have expected.
Though the breakfast was over, the room was still buzzing with the words of the morning. Many people echoed similar sentiments-ones of excitement at the possibilities that future breakfasts like these would bring.
Leroy Goertz of Art of Reconciliation, appreciates the meaning that this prayer breakfast has which is “it is opening up people of all races and bringing them together.” But, Linda Hunter of Our United Villages stated it best, “This breakfast is about building inclusive and vibrant community. This goes beyond reconciliation and goes much deeper.”
(Randy Woodley, Dave Gomez, Garland Brunoe)
At close of the breakfast there are a few things that are clear; 1) whether someone calls Jesus/God, Abba, Father, Creator, Yahweh, Great Spirit doesn’t matter so much as genuine loving relationship does. 2) How affection, love, and adoration are declared is valuable regardless of presentation. 3) Reconciliation cannot happen without vibrant relationship first. These seem to have been the common threads running through the speakers and the conversations of the morning.
(Tribal elder & Doug Crane)
Richard Twiss will be hosting the fourth annual Tribal Leaders Prayer Breakfast for the National Congress of American Indian National Conference this November. This Portland/Vancouver breakfast is one of the outcomes to Richard’s commitment to help people gather together in unity, community and friendship in the spirit of Jesus … and people are coming. For information about the prayer breakfasts, contact Richard at Wiconi International, www.wiconi.com.