Every so often there comes a project along that makes you stop and think because it’s downright unique and interesting. The project that has really caught my attention this year is the First Nations Version of the Bible by Terry M. Wildman. This project as Terry describes it is a “retelling of the Scriptures in the tradition of the storytellers of oral cultures.” From what I’ve read it’s fresh, thought provoking, and it brings the Scriptures alive in new ways. All that said, I was blessed to have the opportunity to recently conduct an interview with Terry concerning the First Nations Version of the Bible. It’s my hope and prayer that this project captures your heart as it has mine.
To start with can you take a moment to tell the readers a little about Rain Ministries.
Terry: My wife, Darlene and I founded Rain Ministries in 2002 while living on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona. Since then we have traveled the U.S. and to many other nations sharing the good news of Creator’s Son with our Music and Storytelling. RAIN can be an acronym for: Reaching America’s Indigenous Nations. The music duo RainSong, Darlene and I, are the public face of Rain Ministries.
For the average American who may not know the current state of the First Nations people, can you give us a thumbnail sketch of the conditions?
Terry: I will share the words of Lakota/Odawa friend Warren Petoskey: We, Indian people—those of us alive today—have survived five centuries of near-constant assassination and extermination attempts. We have survived genocide, chemical and germ warfare, terrorism, sterilization, relocation, reservations, urbanization, boarding schools, orphanages and the foster care system, all of which were designed to erase the consciousness of what it means to be an Indian in North America. Our hearts have been on the ground because of all these things. Statistically Indians are the poorest among us. Third world conditions still abound on many reservations. The suicide rate among teenagers is six times higher that the national average. The effects of the past are still with us. Today there are reservation Indians, Urban Indians, Fullbloods and Mix-bloods, encompassing a wide variety of cultures and languages. Websites and periodicals such as Native Peoples Today magazine and Indian Country Today newspaper and network—all point to the durability and resiliency of America’s First Nations Peoples. Native Americans are making movies, writing books and continue to influence the majority culture in unique and thoughtful ways.
Where did the idea for the First Nations Version (FNV) of the Bible come from?
Terry: The idea for this project began in 2002 while Darlene and I lived on the Hopi Indian reservation in Northern Arizona. We were looking for ways to tell the story of the Bible to Native Americans, in a culturally relevant context. After a season of research, we were convinced that no one had yet attempted this.
How do you see the First Nations Version making a difference, considering the heavy saturation of Bible translations currently available?
Terry: The need for an English version was highlighted when we discovered that most Native Americans do not read the Bible that has been translated into their Native languages. They did not have written languages and most no longer speak, let alone read in their language. Many Native Americans have told me they are touched deeply by the FNV and drawn into the “story” in ways that traditional translations fail to accomplish. Those who are not Native have told me that hearing the words of Scripture from a different cultural perspective has opened up new understanding and freshness to the Word of God.
Would you mind sharing a sample of the work you’ve already completed?
Terry: From Luke 3:4-6: A voice is howling in the desert. Clear the pathways! Make a straight path for the coming of the Grand-chief! The low places will be lifted up. The hills and mountains will be brought down low. The crooked places will be made straight and the rough road smooth. Then all people will clearly see the Creator’s Good Road. (FNV) From Hebrews 1:1-3: Long ago, in many ways and at many times, the Great Spirit spoke to our ancestors through holymen and prophets. But now, in these last days when everything is to come full circle, he has spoken to all people through his Son—the one he has chosen to give all things to. It is through his Son that the Great Spirit made the world that is, the world that was, and the one that is coming. He is the light that shines from the Great Spirit’s face and represents him in every way. It is his powerful Word that holds the stars above, the earth below, and all things seen and unseen, in their place. He came into this world to perform a once for all ceremony that only he could perform, to purify us from our bad hearts and wrongdoings. When he was finished he returned to the One-above-us-all to sit at the right hand of the Great Mystery. (FNV) © 2013 Terry M. Wildman, Sharing permitted when authorship and copyright are included.
Considering what you’ve already completed how has the First Nations community responded?
Terry: It is still too early in the process to know the general response. However, I have good feedback and endorsements from respected elders and others. Some members of a California tribe are planning on approaching their Tribal Council to purchase these Bibles for their people.
When it comes to completing this project what is your biggest need?
Terry: Time and finances is the greatest need and they go together. We are a small ministry and live from the donations of individuals, churches, and some businesses. Most of our support comes from offerings when we travel. To stay off the road, travel less and work on this project requires more monthly support.
If someone wanted to get involved in ministering to First Nations people, whether directly or indirectly, how would you recommend they go about it?
Terry: They should educated themselves on the history of America in relationship to Native Americans. Also on the history of missions to them. Begin to look first in your own “back yard.” Often people think they need to go “out West” or to a reservation, but Native Americans can be found in every State. It just takes some patience and research. Visit local powwows and Native gatherings to learn and make friends. Find others who are working relationally with Native Americans and come along side them to help.
What resources has RainSong Music & Storytelling produced so far?
Terry: We have produced four music CD’s, as well as a DVD called Creation Speaks with our music and video from Alaska. I also wrote the book Sign Language: A Look at the Historic and Prophetic Landscape of America, to educate and help people understand the need for reconciliation and relationship restoration with Native people.
In closing, how can people get connected with you and your ministry?
Terry: Visit our website and become familiar with who we are and what we do, http://www.rainsongmusic.com. Attend some of our events if you live nearby, we have a calendar on our website. For specific information pertaining to the First Nations Version visit: http://www.firstnationsversion.com