Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Crow Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid speaks on the subject of God’s blessing Friday afternoon at Apsaalooke Veterans Park in Crow Agency.Sunlight shines below the Crow Tribe’s new Israeli flag as officials hoist it into place.

Crow officials seek ‘bond with Christ’

A chorus of applause and car horns greeted Crow Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid Jr. Friday afternoon as he walked onstage before a crowd of about 40 people at Apsaalooke Veterans Park in Crow Agency. To his right were a 33-foot billboard stating “Jesus Christ Is Lord on the Crow Nation” and a tattered Israeli flag.
Shortly after Not Afraid’s speech, he would help replace the flag – depicting a blue Star of David – with a new one that hadn’t weathered Montana’s sun and storms as the previous had since October 2015.
One might wonder why the Crow Nation’s Pastoral Committee, a Christian group, had decided to put up the Israeli flag, the symbol of a predominantly Jewish nation. As explained by Pastor Duane Bull Chief of The Father’s House church in Crow Agency, this was because “the heritage” and bloodline of Jesus Christ – the world’s savior, according to Christianity – “comes from Israel.”
“[This] isn’t a political thing, but it’s a bond with Christ,” Not Afraid told the crowd. “We’re on the verge of a breakthrough in the Crow Nation for God to bless [us] seven to tenfold and even more.”
With “unity in the faith,” Not Afraid said, “we’ll see benefits right around the corner.”
The biblical Gospel of Matthew states Jesus is a descendant of King David, Israel’s second monarch who is believed to have ruled sometime around 1,000 B.C.E. It places 14 generations between Jesus and David, as well as 14 more generations between David and Abraham, who is referred to as  patriarch of the Jewish religion. Oftentimes throughout the Bible’s New Testament, Jesus is referred to as “Son of David.”
The Crow Tribe’s official support of Israel began in April 2013 when the Legislative Branch passed a resolution stating it would back up the country “on a nation-to-nation basis.” In the document was a direct quote from the Book of Genesis, which states that God told Abraham, then called Abram, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee, and in thee all families of the Earth be blessed.”
“We need deliverance from the meth problem, we need deliverance from poverty, and diabetes, and the cancer epidemic on the reservation, and a shortage of housing,” Bull Chief said. “We honor God, but at the same time, we want the blessing of God.”
The ceremony occurred on the Jewish celebration of Purim, which concluded that day in Jerusalem – a Middle Eastern city that U.S. President Donald Trump, as of December 2017, considers the capital of Israel. Despite significant resistance from the area’s Palestinian population, many of whom claim Jerusalem as their own, Trump plans to move the U.S. embassy from nearby Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.
Purim commemorates the actions of Esther, a former queen of Persia according to the Book of Esther, who thwarted a plan to wipe out the Jews by a royal advisor to former Persian King Achaemenid. These events are placed historically around the late fourth century B.C.E.
To help the tribe celebrate Purim, they invited Pastor Steve Heimbichner of the Everlasting Covenant Congregation in Billings. Heimbichner – who wore the traditional yarmulke skull cap and carried a Torah scroll – said he leads a “Hebrew” congregation, who follow both Christian and Jewish customs.
He noted that, if tribal members were to visit Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles – set from Sept. 23-30 this year – they would see a scene similar to the thousands of teepees present during Crow Fair. Rather than teepees, however, Jewish people spend the harvest celebration living in sukkah booths constructed with wood, canvas or aluminum siding.
In the “last days,” he said, God is giving people a chance to restore their identities. Jesus was a Jew, he continued, so his church is trying to follow “what he did and what he practiced.”
“We’ve had our identity stolen, much like the Crow people; their identity was stolen a long time ago,” Heimbichner said. “They tried to make them into us and now they’re coming back, understanding that their identity is in the messiah.”
Before they raised the new flag, Not Afraid gave credit to tribal officials who he said spearheaded the first flag’s installation: Bull Chief, Vice Chairman Carlson “Duke” Goes Ahead, then Crow Sen. Conrad “C.J.” Stewart and Crow Revival Center Pastor Gary Bird.