Thursday, April 14, 2005

faith stories: elka of the wai wai -part 3

(Part 3 of Chapter 8: "Into the Pit of My Stomach" from the book Christ’s Witchdoctor by Homer Dowdy © 1963).

[Introduction] [part 1] [part 2]

part 3...

Bahm came by one day as Elka was helping build an addition to Achi’s house. He asked Bahm about healing.

"The spirits used to honor my blowing," he said. "Why don’t they now?"

"The evil spirits heal sometimes," Bahm said, "but just to fool us. Kworokyam is the Devil’s servant. It is his way of getting us to worship him instead of God."

"Hnnn. Is that the way it is?" he observed, reluctantly. Again it was God against the spirits. Why did it have to be? Why couldn’t a man both blow and pray if he wanted to? Couldn’t he give his worship to God and his service to Kworokyam?

"God’s Paper tells us we can’t be followers of Jesus if we serve another," Bahm said.

In his usual thoughtful way, Elka called Bahm’s words to mind again and again. He knew that to serve Jesus Christ instead of the spirits would bring changes in his life. He did not want to face changes now. They could wait. He would consider them and decide about them at another time. For the present he would sweep aside Christ, God’s Paper, his puzzlement over Kworokyam. He was turning to his old love, dancing.

He asked everyone from the villages around to come to his house to dance. More than a hundred came. They were the ones who on Sundays assembled at Kanashen to learn the ways of Jesus. But their thoughts were not of Jesus this evening. Much drink had been prepared. Their costumes were ready, and the people were anxious to start the dance. Elka had installed a door to keep them out until he was ready.

Inside the house, he lay in his hammock. Ahmuri also relaxed. How calm they were, and soon they would be hosts to a hundred painted, feathered, and thirsting Indians who clamored outside to get in! It might have been the calm before a storm. Elka lay there until he was rested. Then he said to his wife,

"I’d kind of like to have them come in now."

The party got underway noisily. The sour drink spawned drunkenness. Hilarity gave way to violence. With no malice toward the door, but simply because it was in the way, the revelers tore it from the house.

Intoxication continued in some of the villages to which the guests returned the next day. But for those who lived at Yaka Yaka there was a quick sobering, and for Elka a return to the soul-searching that neither drink nor revelry could suspend for very long.

Malu, the third son of Yukuma and Tochi, was missing.

At dusk Tochi became aware that the toddler was neither in the house nor in the village clearing. She stepped to the doorway and called. There was no answer. She called again, loud and shrilly, with the anger of a jay. Still no answer. She remembered where she had seen him last. Quickly, with a clutch of fear in her throat, she ran to the river. She called again, this time rather weakly. She went back to the village, and continued calling.

Yukuma, away for the day, sensed something wrong on his return.

"Where is my son?" he demanded.

"I don’t know," Tochi said, in a meekness unnatural to her.,

"Why didn’t you look after him?"

The people of the village were now disturbed over Malu’s disappearance. Some hurried along the path to Kanashen to see if he were there. Yukuma ran to the river. He jumped and skipped down the slipper banks to the rocks below and dived into the water. A mighty swimmer, he was everywhere–in and out among the rocks, on the bottom of the river. But he did not find the boy.

Yukuma approached Elka. Angry, frightened, and saddened all at once he said,

"Kworokyam has carried away my boy. Two of my children are dead. I want this one to live. I would kind of like to have you go to the sky and look for him."

In times past, Elka would have been quick to comply. Now he wished he could tell Yukuma that he would talk to God. He was feeling that God, not Kworokyam, would be their help. He said nothing, merely looked at the distraught Yukuma. Elka seemed unable to talk. He couldn’t open his jaws. It was like the time when the young man who had wounded himself needed his help, and he could do nothing.

The villagers were now gathered around the two. They wondered why Elka said nothing, why he stood and stared at Yukuma.

"You are a witchdoctor, aren’t you?" Yukuma shot back at him, with some of his old arrogance. "You do have a basket of charms?"

"Um-hum," said Elka weakly. The spell was broken. "I am a witchdoctor."

"Go to the sky," the people demanded, almost in a single voice.

Elka had no choice. A shurifana was quickly built. Elka put on his animal chestbands and feathered headpiece. Clutching his basket of charms he entered the little hut alone. Just afterward Bahm came by, for Kanashen had been alerted to the boy’s disappearance.

"Elka, where are you?" Bahm called.

"I’m in here Bahm," Elka answered. "I’m going off to see Kworokyam." Bahm went away to look for Malu. Elka began his singing, but he merely mouthed the words. For Bahm’s voice had started a different train of thought. His mind dwelt not on going to the sky but on his talk with Bahm that recent day at Achi’s house.

"Jesus came to do away with the evil spirits," Bahm had said. "He came to release us from their power. If you receive Jesus, He will set you free from the spirits’ binding cord. But you must choose either Jesus or Kworokyam."

"I’m a witchdoctor," Elka had replied, raising an issue he felt was worth special consideration. "I talk to the spirits for my people. What am I to do?"

Bahm thought that his position as a witchdoctor made no difference. But he said that Elka himself would have to make the choice; he would not urge him to throw over his charms before receiving Christ. When Jesus comes in, Bahm had said, Kworokyam must go.

on to part 4...

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