“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:14
Some of the most impactful mission trips that I have taken have been into a remote village in Northern Manitoba, Canada, by the name of God’s River. (Manto Sipi) It is one of a number of Cree Nation settlements dotting that vast expanse of lakes and forest accessible only by air or winter ice roads. In the 1960’s and 1970 there were a couple of pioneering ministers from Minnesota who ventured into that country to serve those communities and bring the Gospel.
I was enriched and blessed to partner with one of those men, Jesse Graham. His first foray into God’s River was somewhat unusual. He did not know anyone when he stepped off the small twin engine plane onto the gravel airstrip, coming only at the invitation of the Holy Spirit. All he had with him was his bible, a small duffel bag and his guitar. From that inauspicious beginning he established a fledgling indigenous church with one of his new converts as the pastor. Jesse made annual trips into the village and on a number of occasions at his invitation I joined him to participate in God’s work in God’s River.
Another of those missionary pioneers was a man named Maynard Howe. Maynard became a kind of legend in the north by establishing churches in many of the Cree villages. Countless remarkable testimonies of salvation among the Cree people came out of the pioneering work these men.
One testimony that made an indelible impression upon me was a story related by Maynard of a native man who had been a medicine man in one of the villages. He had become very sick and by his account had died. In death, as he was descending into utter darkness, on his way to hell, he began to cry out to all his spirits whom he had served. There was no response. No matter how fervently he prayed and cried out to these various gods nothing happened nor could they stop his free fall into the abyss. Finally, in sheer desperation, out of the recesses of a memory of a gospel message heard years earlier, he blurted out the name of Jesus. Instantly, like being grasped from above, he was pulled out of that dark pit and he felt himself being drawn upward to a bright light.
When he awoke, he asked those attending him at his deathbed, “Tell me about Jesus, I want to know this man that just saved me.” Nobody around him could answer his questions. When he was fully healed he eventually found Maynard and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
I love this story because it illustrates so clearly two fundamental truths about the power that resides in the name of Jesus. First, we see with regards to salvation, that indeed “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) That was literally the case for the medicine man who found that only the name of Jesus could save him from the pit of darkness and hell.