Daniel would smile at the wind saying, "I wonder where the wind is going. I know where I'm going - to heaven to live with Jesus."
At age 13, Daniel was losing his battle with cancer but gaining victory in Christ.
In his final months, Daniel loved to listen to the local village small talk - speculation on the upcoming fishing and hunting seasons... the comings and goings of individuals, all of whom he knew... the latest activities of the "big town" down the road (7,000 people, 45 minutes away). But most of all, he enjoyed turning those small talk occasions into opportunities to share his faith.
Daniel loved to weave a Bible story into a seemingly unrelated conversation, and he would often sincerely ask, "What place does Jesus have in your life?" Though still a youth, Daniel delighted in sharing his faith and knowledge of Christ with others.
Daniel came to know Christ through Lutheran Indian Ministries Vacation Bible School. The same church group would arrive in Daniel's village every summer loaded up with snacks and games for the children. But it wasn't just the children who were impacted, his mother was influenced, too, and she encouraged him in his faith.
Daniel's struggle with pain and sickness reminded an entire village of their mortality, and his constant testimony reminded them of their need for a Savior.
His funeral was a community affair. Family and friends struggled graveside with losing someone so young, so dear, and so passionate.
Then, came the sound of rustling leaves in the trees. A schoolmate piped up, "Remember how Daniel used to smile at the wind, wondering where it was going?"
He didn't have to continue. Everyone knew the rest of the story. Daniel had gone to heaven to be with Jesus and the seeds of salvation had been planted in the hearts of an entire village.
Daniel was a unique gift to his family, his community and to all who knew him. There will never be another Daniel, but there are still children in Native communities who are waiting for the seed of the Gospel to be planted in their lives, who will grow and bear fruit in their own communities as they share their faith with others.
As we enter the VBS season, please take time to pray for our volunteer teams, who work tirelessly to reach remote villages and reservations with the Word of God and the love of Christ, and for the Native people that their hearts would be open to God's promises of hope and salvation.