Living Waters Family Camp & Powwow 2006

This year’s 2nd Annual Living Waters Family Camp was a great success on all accounts. As Katherine said after last year’s camp, “It’s the best thing we do!” From the young to the old, everyone experienced the presence of the Lord in great worship, awesome bible teaching and long hours of lively fellowship. The special Friday youth night of activities was great. Groove Nation, a multi-ethnic hip-hop dance team inspired the youth to live passionate and committed lives for Jesus Christ. The even coerced me and Pastor Corey to learn a short hip-hop dance routine where were able to “bust some moves .” Jerry Chapman and Cheryl Bear really helped open our hearts to the Holy Spirit through their anointed worship leading.

The powwow was again a great success. Several dozen dancers came, along with three drum groups and was attended by nearly 400 people. Many great stories came out of the powwow. One of our core leaders, Mike, has been trying to get his cousins drum group to sing at their fellowship. The cousin has adamantly refused because it is a Christian gig, which he does not do! They reluctantly agreed to come and sing to help out Mike. The drum leader said when they drove up, “when we saw that cross in the middle of the arena, we almost turned around and left.” They chose to stay, however to keep their word to Mike, and see how it went. The long and short of it, they liked it so much they agreed to come back next year, and even told  Mike if he wanted, they would come and sing for him at his fellowship. I believe it was the presence of the Spirit of the Lord in that circle, combined with the fact we conducted the powwow in way they honored the traditional protocols of a traditional Northern powwow that won their hearts. Both of the other traditional powwow drum groups want to come back next year as well. It is only this kind of Christ-centered traditional powwow “gospel witness” that will reach the traditional non-believers, or as we believe, “pre-believers” for Jesus Christ. They will never attend a Christian event, but they will attend a powwow. Despite the blatant and harsh criticism that we receive from some of our Native brethren for having a powwow, these testimonies make it all worth it!
The bible teaching and preaching this year was outstanding. Dr. Jerry Yellowhawk, Rod Wilson and Pastors Corey and Gina Greaves shared some challenging and inspiring messages and bible devotions. Pastor Randy Barnetson gave a powerful word about the “lost coin.” First he spoke of Jesus teaching about the lost sheep, saying this is where the focus of Native ministry has traditionally been. He spoke of Native people as the coin, that when found, finds its value when it is put back into circulation. The coin is not found only to be put somewhere safe or unused. That circulation he defined as their place of importance in God’s Kingdom economy as valued and needed co-equal participants in the life of the church, and especially global missions. We prayed for people to receive a heart for involvement in world missions. Pastors Casey and Laura Church opened with a challenging word about our level of personal commitment to Christ in all areas of our life. We closed with a beautiful time of extended prayer.
Dr Jerry Yellowhawk instructs another
generation in the ways of life.
In addition, many new relationships were made, strategic ministry partnerships formed and much encouragement received to walk with Jesus in a new and refreshed way. Again, a very special word of thanks to everyone who provided financial scholarships that allowed some fourteen families to attend who could not afford it and would not have been so powerfully impacted for Christ the way they were. Some of these young people were among the sixteen who made commitments to receive Jesus as their Savior. Special thanks also go to Debbie Schwartz and her amazing team of 23 volunteer workers fro m the Lighthouse Church in Seattle who again led all the children’s ministry activities.
We are finalizing dates for next year, which will be the last weekend of July or first weekend of August. We’ll post it on the website as soon as we confirm it. Aldersgate Conference Center is a great location with even greater staff; however, we will outgrow the facility in two years at our current growth rate.
Peace and Blessings,
Richard & Katherine Twiss
Co-founders, Wiconi International

Teens gather at Gazebo

Michelle & Rita
Lead a time of Prayer in the Chapel

Groove Nation
Bustin' a move for the Lord

And now an eye witness account...
Wiconi ‘Living Waters’ Powwow
Different than any other

by Timothy Akimoff
“Have you ever danced at a powwow before?” Rod Wilson, of South Dakota, asked me.
“No, come to think of it, I haven’t,” I said.”

As a journalist, I’d covered many powwows before, mostly the big, competition powwows where the ambiance of the event is often overshadowed by the slick, performance-oriented nature of competition.

The fact that I’d never danced at a powwow before might have stemmed from the fact that I didn’t want to be a part of something that wasn’t real, something that only hinted at the truth.
In my mind, a powwow is a place of gathering to share something sacred, something more meaningful than any prize or designation. A powwow is a place to share relationship with family and strangers, with the many tribes of man.

In August, in the tiny town of Turner, Oregon, at a tucked-away retreat near a flowing creek with wide, sun-drenched meadows, I found something real.

The annual Mni Wiconi Wacipi, a family camp and traditional powwow held in Turner focuses on Native American families in a setting that while somewhat pastoral, offers a more spiritual take on a powwow.
The combination family camp/powwow offered more than a powwow in the way of teaching and sharing that emphasized the importance of strengthening native families in an age where the enemy’s onslaught against family seems to be getting stronger.

“We do this to strengthen native families,” Wiconi International founder Richard Twiss said. “A lot of the culture has been eroded by migration to the cities. In light of the challenges, we wanted to create an opportunity for families to be encouraged.”

Some of the speakers at the event included Rod and Alexis Wilson, missionaries to first nations people around the world, and Dr. Jerry Yellowhawk, who served as headman and a spiritual elder for the camp.

Much of the teaching was meant to strengthen ties between native peoples, families and individuals, with an emphasis on the importance of maintaining the spiritual significance of the culture and its importance to this nation and world.
With four hundred attendees this year, the Mni Wiconi Wacipi is growing. Many participants such as drum groups; dancers, singers and even non-believers have asked to participate in next year’s event.
One thing that sets this powwow apart from other Northern-style powwows is the large cross in the center of the dance circle. The cross shows participants that the center of this event, as well as the center of all things is Christ and the sacrifice made on Calvary.
Elvira Shishkanova, 32, is Koryak, from Kamchatka, a land of fire and ice in the extreme northeast corner of Russia.

Like many native people, Ella’s own people are struggling with alcoholism, tuberculosis and a lack of spiritual identity. Shishkanova decided to return to her people as a missionary, to minister through traditional dance.

While studying in Salem for two months, Shishkanova often asked about opportunities to dance among native peoples in America. The opportunity came during the Mni Wiconi Wacipi.  Dressed in reindeer skins and beautiful beadwork, Shishkanova fulfilled a lifelong dream of dancing among North American native people.
Her haunting Seagull Dance with piercing cries that perfectly mimicked the shorebird was so beautiful the response from the crowd was instant. First one and then two and then dozens began to put money and gifts in a pile near where Shiskanova danced in a collective sign of appreciation and honor of something beautiful, something shared.

“I felt like I was among my own people,” Shiskanova said of the opportunity. “We’re very different in the things we wear and what we do, but otherwise we’re very similar.”

Shiskanova’s dance highlighted what is so remarkable about the Mni Wiconi Wacipi, a sense of honor for traditions, but done so that Christ is at the center and in a way that the Holy Spirit can minister through each performer, speaker, dance or individual piece of art.

As awareness of the small powwow in Turner continues to grow, non-native people attend in greater numbers, perhaps because of the Christ-centered nature of the event, or the fact that this powwow is different than any other.

“We’re building a bridge between native and non-native people,” Twiss said.

As a non-native participant, I walked into the dance circle full of misgivings about how appropriate it was for me to be there. In less than 10 steps, the beat of the drums had completely overwhelmed me as I stood shoulder to shoulder with great warriors, women in painstakingly decorated regalia and children with wide smiles on their faces.

I danced many times around the circle, each time feeling more in touch with native traditions older than time and with God, the creator and teacher of the first dance.


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