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Chris George Ministries — A witness to my own people
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By Haydn Jensen

You likely know the line "Everybody's got a story." For Evangelist Chris George, his story is not only a good one, but it's also powerful as an encouraging message of hope, healing and freedom. Chris describes how God led him from a destructive life of alcohol abuse, addictions, womanizing, and near suicide. God instead brought him into full spiritual restoration with Jesus, reuniting him with his wife kids, and his community...and himself.

When Chris and I met to talk about his outreach ministry to Native communities in the London area, our conversation couldn't really get started without first talking about his own journey. He shared how in the early '80's he left his wife and young family of three children in their home on the Oneida reserve near London and ended up in Alberta for four and a half years, living a miserable life of excessive drinking, other addictions, and plenty of other terrible life choices. Ultimately, this led to such despair that he was very close to jumping off his high rise apartment balcony. It was at this point that God reached him. Chris tells of getting a very clear message at a crucial moment: "Your destiny is not your own--you belong to God." At that point, Chris says it was like a switch turned off and all desires for alcohol and other addictions left him. Just like that. It was also then that his estranged wife, Joyce, telephoned Chris after over four years, saying it was time for them to get back together.

As it turned out, God had also been at work in Joyce's life. She happened to catch an episode of the 100 Huntley Street program when they interviewed a couple who had also been separated for four years but with God's help had been reconciled. Joyce also had a dream about that time, where God told her to hug Chris and keep hugging him. So, she called Chris and suggested he come home.

Because his entire life in Alberta had been supported by what Chris calls "dirty money", he decided to leave everything behin—his car, his apartment, furniture, clothes, food. Packing only two suitcases, he took a bus. Chris shares another curious detail about his bus ride home. As the bus pulled out of Edmonton, a sizeable man took the seat next to him. Chris said he was the kind of guy that you could "feel" his presence as he sat down. Shortly after sitting down, the man looked at Chris and observed, "By the way you're looking out that window, it looks like you're never coming back." A little later when Chris turned to say something to the man, there was no one sitting there! Chris asked the other passengers about the man, but they just looked at him like he was crazy!

Anticipating facing his kids again, Chris said he was ready and deserved whatever negative response he might get from them—especially their youngest who was just a baby when he left. Would he be welcome after what he did by abandoning them all? Yes! They simply hugged him and kept hugging him.

This all could have been a touching story of a broken family mended. However, Chris continues to live out the truth that his life really does belong to God. By living what Chris calls "four and a half years of hell" in the grips of addiction and deep suffering, he brings immense credibility as he encourages others through Chris George Ministries.

A big part of his ministry is to share his story through public speaking, inner healing talks, addictions counselling, and tent meeting outreach events. In fact, annual tent meeting events have become a regular part of his outreach. The last one happened at the beginning of August, and drew 200-300 people each night for 5 nights at the Oneida Reserve, just west of Delaware. At these meetings, people come for the music, teaching and testimonies. Chris is aware that the "Dark Angel" (Satan) has one primary tool that he uses over and over: the wedge, or splitter. It's easy to see the damage caused by wedges of division between married couples, communities, tribes and nations. Chris and Joyce themselves experienced this. Being keenly aware of what damage division can do, Chris works hard to not only help others to recognize division as a spiritually destructive reality but walk with people in addressing problems and challenges brought on by rifts and brokenness.

One key distinction in Chris' ministry approach is that he shows men that it's OK to cry. Although certainly not limited to native cultures, Chris says many native men, himself included, were taught from early childhood that men should not cry. As an example of how deeply ingrained this attitude can go, Chris shared how one man he was counselling told him he felt physical pain from the tears on his face. As we talked about crying, Chris also shared an interesting perspective that God gave us two types of tears: "salty tears" are the crying that we do from the inside corners of our eyes; what Chris calls "crystal tears" are the joyful crying that comes from the outside corners of our eyes. It is this latter kind that God wants to encourage in us most, although both are necessary.

I also asked Chris about what sorts of things are frustrations or challenges for his ministry. As expected, the topics of residential schools and language came up. There are those in First Nations communities strongly opposed to any invitations to follow Christ simply because of association between church-run residential schools and the tragically familiar accounts of chronic abuse. Although not at a residential school himself, Chris told me he started school only able to speak the native dialect taught by his Oneida grandmother. As a result, one teacher felt it right to shame Chris by making him wash his mouth out with soap.

Knowing that such stories have become all too familiar, I wondered aloud to Chris, whether or not non-natives would be welcome at one of his tent meetings or other Christian gatherings on a native reserve. On the surface, I knew all would be welcome, but really wondered about how comfortable everyone would be. Chris offered this helpful perspective: Every human being is part of some tribe. Many white people tend think of First Nations as one culture or people group. In reality, there are between 700-800 distinct tribes in the U.S. and Canada. Even these tribes are not always without tension. For each respective tribe, whether Native North American or not, we each have our traditions and customs. (I must admit I myself was not fully aware that there are actually three First Nations tribes with reservations in our area—the Oneida, the Munsee-Delaware people and the Chippewas of the Thames.) Chris emphasizes that God is a spirit and not bound by traditions or religious customs. So, the differences that distinguish one tribe from another really has no place is dividing followers of Christ.

Interested in learning more about other tribes? Chris suggests a few ways to engage:

The 5th Annual Traditional Pow Wow and Harvest Festival
      September 14 and 15, 2013 (10 am - 4:30 pm)
      Museum of Ontario Archaeology.
      Everyone is invited to experience a traditional aboriginal Pow Wow! Admission is by donation.

Oneida Fair
      September 20-22
      Open Air Church Service September 22
      Oneida Reserve

Chris would also welcome you to connect with him for further information: