He’ll be dead by Christmas, unless…
The following are recollections, excerpts of letters and conversations with Newton Bohanan, Nez Perce, 32. Thank you, Newt for allowing us to tell your story. May it encourage many! Since his dramatic life and death experience Newton has already been a huge blessing to many by his enthusiasm and love for God. Volkhard Graf
I had heard some stories about him, but never met him in person. The descriptions I’d heard seemed to fit the stereotypical picture of a Native American male. He was known as a person who you’d have to be lucky to meet in a sober condition.
My intent was to visit him and an upcoming regional Promise Keepers meeting provided me with an occasion to see him. Newton welcomed me to his home and to my surprise he immediately accepted my invitation to come with some another friend to the PK meeting. The evening before we were to leave, I visited him briefly, only to find that he was drunk. He was apologetic and said: “You probably don’t want to take me along now?!” I felt, that he still should come, if he’d promise not to drink anymore until we’d have to leave.
The Worship and caring presentations of the PK speakers touched Newton powerfully. He seemed to feel somewhat self-conscious about his tears–but they flowed freely. Yet, nothing else happened. He did not go forward when the altar call was given.
In the weeks following I would sometimes go over to visit with Newt and share with him, that Jesus loved him very much and that he is the only one, who could bring true freedom to him. It didn’t take any convincing, he knew from experience that the successfully concluded Therapy session or Rehabilitation programs hadn’t been able to get and keep him off drugs and alcohol. Yes, for a while they would prove helpful but soon unresolved pain, anger and partying friends would draw him back to the old life.
One night after sharing with him that Jesus would never push his way into a persons life, because he wants his relationship with us to be based upon love not coercion, I asked him whether he wanted to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, but he declined.
Several weeks later, very early in the morning, I heard a rap at our front door. It was Newton, saying that he was ready now. Waking up from sleeping I wasn’t sure if I’d understood what he seemed to be ready for. He obviously was intoxicated. Waving a bottle of drugs he said with tears that he was sick and tired of this life-style and wanted to invite Jesus into his life. He tossed the remainder of his drugs into the toilet and prayed a sincere prayer of repentance and dedication to the Lord. He wanted to never ever drink and do drugs again. Hopeful yet skeptical I went back to bed.
Several weeks later, while overseas in Germany, I received a letter from him in which he shared how he had gotten drunk again one night and passed out. His mother had called the ambulance and some fellow staff workers. The EMT’s took care of his physical needs, the YWAM workers prayed for him. According to Newton’s own description, during this moment between life and death, he was squarely faced with the truth, that he either was going to be serious about his walk with the Lord, or he would die right now. He decided to give himself completely to the Lord. The ambulance driver later told him, that he couldn’t understand why he survived. He said he had no oxygen left in his body. In the weeks following, his physical health improved and he found a church home with caring and loving people. But–his cravings for alcohol remained. In desperate prayer he poured out his heart before God and asked him for deliverance. HE answered and filled him with the Holy Spirit and the strong desire to drink and take drugs left him.
In the month’s following Newton continued to deal with hurts, angry feelings and sporadic temptations to go back to the old life, but his developing strong relationship with the Lord, prayer and continued counseling helped him stay on the right track.
Almost a year has passed since that decisive night. God’s grace continues to be evident in Newton’s life. He successfully completed his G.E.D., got his drivers license, worked steadily for one of the Nez Perce Tribal offices and enrolled at Messenger Bible College in Joplin, MO. V
From Hard Rock to Solid Rock
It was like driving straight into the old West. Tan colored adobe villages broiling in the scorching sun were dotted across the landscape.
My husband was scheduled to be the baccalaureate speaker for the commencement exercises at Nazarene Indian Bible College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As I sat in the oval chapel watching the young people file in, I was intrigued to see one of the graduates, arrayed in the black gown and mortarboard, propelling himself in a wheelchair. Later he wheeled himself up front, was handed his guitar, and sang a beautiful song as he accompanied himself. As he shared a short testimony, I found myself wondering about the circumstances that had brought him to this day. And I later sought him out to commend him and to find out more of his story.
Amerson Dayea, a Native American from the Navajo tribe grew up in his sun-drenched town, and for the most part had a happy childhood. As was customary, he attended boarding school until he began high school.
The grandson of a medicine man, Amerson recalled riding into the canyon nearby with his grandfather and uncles to gather herbs needed to make the native medicines. Amerson’s family was steeped in tradition and folklore, and his uncles taught them ancient tribal practices. His mother told them stories of the atrocities that were brought upon their people after the Indian wars. In this way he learned to respect his people and their traditions.
For as long as he can remember, Amerson has loved music and singing. Finally, he acquired a used guitar, and his brother taught him how to play. He, a brother and friends formed a band when they were teenagers. They began to play and sing together in bars throughout the area. He began to get into rock music and drifted into heavy metal. Amerson had thought that he could be an exception and handle the late nights, the party scene, and the drinking that went along with it.
Time after time, he was involved in brushes with death. Once he narrowly escaped death by drowning when he dove into a swimming pool while intoxicated. Another time he was nearly electrocuted while replacing a heavy-duty-fuse on some industrial machinery. On one hand, he began to believe that he led a charmed life, but deep inside Amerson knew that something drastic would happen if he didn’t change.
On a Friday night in August of 1985, he and a friend, Nick, who brought along his girlfriend, were returning home for the weekend. Both Amerson and his friend had been drinking, and he was a little nervous about riding with them. But Amerson climbed into the back of the pickup truck, snuggled into his sleeping bag, and clasped the headphones of his tape player to his ears. Listening to heavy metal music, he drifted off to sleep. Little did he realize that walking out of that store to the truck were the last steps he would ever take.
While traveling excess of 65 miles per hour, Nick fell asleep at the wheel. Only three-forth of a mile from home, he missed a turn, and the truck plowed into a culvert. The truck flipped over and was totally demolished. His friends sustained only minor injuries, but when Amerson awoke in the hospital eight days later, he found out that he was paralyzed from the chest down. The doctors told him he would never walk again.
As Amerson’s family learned the extent of his injuries and the permanence of his paralysis, they began to seek the counsel of traditional Indian healers and Peyote roadmen. But they did not find answers with these priests of the Peyote cult.
One night in the hospital when Amerson could not sleep, he realized God had again spared his life. In his confused desperation he prayed, “Lord, I don’t even love You. I don’t even care about You. I never did anything for You. I don’t even know if you are real. But if you are real, I need You.”
By this time his sister and her husband, Eleanora and Howard Nez, had become Christians. They came to him in the hospital, and Howard said, “Amerson, you can’t make it unless you give your heart to God. God can change your life and give you a reason to live. You just need to turn everything over to Him and allow Him to forgive your sins.”
He sank deeper and deeper into despair, for he realized he had lost total control of his life and future.
Back on the reservation, winter had set in. The cold, muddy roads prevented outside activities. Soon, in the midst of his despondency, suicidal thoughts came to him as he thought about his helplessness and hopelessness.
One day almost a year after the accident, Eleanora came to visit. She said, “Amerson, Howard and I want to take you home to live with us.” So they moved him into their mobile home in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“God, I want You in my life. I want what the people at that church have–what my sister and her family have. Please come into my life. Forgive me.”
Amerson soon found out that part of the criteria for living with them included attending services at their evangelical church. He was amazed to see people of all ages smiling, laughing, and rejoicing together. What a difference from the atmosphere of hard rock and smoke-filled bars.
As God would have it, revival was in progress, and Amerson immediately felt the presence of the Lord. Although he sat in the very back of the church, he carefully observed all that was going on. He began to feel a tug on his heart as he watched the people, listened to the singing, and then heard the words of the preacher. A totally new feeling of hope began to well up within himself as he witnessed the joy of the Lord demonstrated so vividly around him.
Later, after he returned home, he sat on the side of his bed and prayed a simple prayer: “God, I want you in my life. I want what the people at that church have — what my sister and her family have. Please come into my life. Forgive me.” And a peace like he had never known flooded over his soul.
The next morning he wheeled himself into the kitchen as his sister was preparing breakfast and told her what had happened. She squealed with joy. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “Amerson, you’ve been born again!”
Amerson could hardly wait to go back to church, and he grew in the Lord. He began to feel compelled to learn more and to share his story with others. A strong desire took hold of him to go back to school, and he began to pray for an opportunity. Through his rehabilitation counselor he heard of the Nazarene Indian Bible College. Miraculously, doors opened up, and he enrolled as a student there. The loving, caring, dedicated personnel at the Bible college nurtured him and taught him for four years. He completed his degree in biblical studies. And now it was graduation day.
For Amerson, this disabled man has become enabled! He is no longer handicapped–he is handicapable! Even though he is still confined to a wheelchair, he has been mobilized by the grace and mercy of the Lord. For the Foundation of his life is no longer hard rock but the SOLID ROCK! V
Excerpted from an article by Joyce Williams, which tells the story of Amerson Dayea, Navajo. Thank you, Amerson and Joyce for letting us reprint part of the article which originally appeared in World Mission, October 1994.