On February 9, 2013, Richard Twiss — Taoyate Obnajin “He Stands with his People” — died, leaving an aching void not only for his family but for the Church, and the world.
My wife and I were only able to spend a little bit of time with Uncle Richard, but his life, ministry, and words left a profound impact on both of our lives. Uncle Richard was not only an advocate for First Nations peoples, but for all people. Though his personal experience with injustice was grievous — abuse of his family members and tribe at the hands of treaty-breaking colonial governments, Christians attempting to stamp out his ethnic and cultural identity all in the name of “Christianizing” him — he chose the path of grace and truth.
In his book One Church, Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You, Uncle Richard shares not only about the painful history of and sins committed against First Nations people in North America, but the ways in which God can bring beauty from the ashes of our burned out lives.
As we spoke this weekend about Uncle Richard, my wife described his impact on our lives: He demonstrated what it looked like to live a redemption-life — to celebrate who God made us to be, to see our ethnic and cultural backgrounds as gifts, intricately tied to who we are meant to be in Christ and to be redeemed for His purposes. When Christ invites us to His table, He doesn’t ask us to check our heritage at the door. Instead, He takes our broken lives into His hands, breathes life into them, and sets us free.
The Church is not better when we are all forced into some kind of Stepford homogeneity; we come alive for the glory of God when we represent the incredible, dizzying, difficult, beautiful diversity of the Creator together under the banner of Jesus.
That’s why, even now as Uncle Richard worships the One he so gracefully represented as he walked this earth, we know he’s joined that chorus of the rescued,
A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” – Revelation 7:9-10
You can read more about his lasting impact on many lives here.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger shares a thoughtful, heartfelt post about Richard’s life and ministry, and how we can carry on his good work. “Victory awaits us all, if we stay on that justice path that Jesus made and which Richard walked so well.”