PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. - Jim Chosa traveled more than 2,000 miles to bring his message to churches in the east. Standing at the front of a room at Mercy Christian Fellowship in Pennsylvania, his voice carried over a hushed crowd.
"Freedom does not just mean to be free from the negative," he said. "It means free to be, to become who we're meant to be."
Chosa, an Annishanbe (original or spontaneous people), also called the Ojibwe or Chippewa, is from the Keweenaw Bay Reservation in northern Michigan. He is one of the 12 member non-denominational Apostolic Council of the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). Based in Colorado Springs, ICA was established in 1991 and today is a global association of 326 members.
Having just come from a meeting where he addressed racism in New Jersey, Chosa's message this night was titled "Out of Religion and into Relationship."
"Religion has taught us to trespass on boundaries God has set for every individual," Chosa said. "Relationship empowers us."
After hundreds of years under unbearable religious structures, Chosa's message hopes to lift hearts from the harshness of history across the land by restoring American Indians to their spiritual identity, to their destiny as hosts and stewards of the land and to bring understanding between immigrant and indigenous peoples.
Common to all people, he said is the structure of the soul. Understanding this is among the first steps along a river that flows to deliverance.
"All the psychology can't help when we don't even understand the structure of our own souls," he said.
According to Chosa, there are five layers of impediments around a soul that need to be peeled away before we are centered in our spirit with God.
The first layer is the behaviors of self-centeredness. The second layer is the false identity of a self-centered "me, myself and I." The third layer is the false belief we have of being powerful by ourselves without the Spirit. The fourth stronghold is false teachers. These teachers include disinformation through society's messages or a childhood memory that tells us we are "not good enough." It also includes DNA memories and sorrow from grief or rejection and the fear of death.
The name of the fifth layer is "death." It is a false owner, Chosa said.
It has illegal authority because death is not an end. Our spirits are eternal in God, he said.
"When death and sorrow are removed, God can do incredible things," he said. "But in order to heal breaches, relationship, memories, DNA memory and tragic memory need to be ripped out or all you're left with is how to manage it."
We're not meant to just "manage it," he said, because of the freedom and sovereignty of free choice the Creator has given us.
"In this warfare, life is the most potent weapon," he said. "You've got to see life as a weapon or you won't be able to execute it."
Chosa met the pastor of Mercy Christian Fellowship, Vince Gallagher, in 1998 during a reconciliation prayer at the site of the Walking Purchase in Pennsylvania. The Walking Purchase added about 750,000 acres of prime Indian hunting territory along the upper Delaware River to the Penn Proprietors' holdings when William Penn's sons falsified claims in 1737.
Chosa participates in the growing number of reconciliation ceremonies taking place between American Indians and churches around the country. The ceremonies involve gathering at a site which experienced idolatry, bloodshed, immortality or broken covenants.
The healing, Chosa said, is needed between tribes. Healing must begin with the root people of the land, with the American Indians whose stewardship includes the spiritual landscape of the continent.
Places of habitation are intimately connected in the bloodline of people, he said. In the melting pot of America, many "root" people of indigenous nations and "shoot" people of immigrant nations have blended into what some call a "Heinz 57." This often obscures the importance of nation identity and may enhance a mindset that cuts people off from the land. Reconciliation reconnects individuals with a sense of belonging and place on earth as well as bringing awareness of the nations seen in other people, he said.
Home for Chosa is with his wife, Faith, an Apsaalooke (children of the large beaked bird), also called the Crow Nation. The couple lives on the Crow Indian Reservation in Yellowtail, Mont. where they established Day Chief Ministries Inc. to "break the yoke of bondage to hopelessness and despair in the hearts of Native Americans throughout this land by reviving in them this gifting of a warrior's heart."
Chosa said God gifted the Indian heart with courage to fight the good fight.
"It was this very gifting which caused the American Indian to be oppressed, humiliated, and incarcerated on the present day reservations," he said. "Since the day the dust settled from the last of the Indian wars, this gifting has been a source of frustration and hopelessness for countless thousands of young Indian men."
The hopelessness has driven many Native people into alcoholism, drugs and premature death, Chosa said.
"This time, God intends to use this gifting for His redemptive purposes," he said.
Married 20 years and ministering together 18 years, Jim and Faith travel the states to bring a message of reconciliation and build networks between Native and non-Native cultures.
In 1998 they founded the School of the Risen Warrior and the Church in the Wilderness in the heart of the Crow Nation. In 1999 they established the Risen Warrior Prayer Network to unite people who want to pray for reconciliation and restoration of Native believers to their "full destiny in the Body of Jesus Christ."
Chosa said the way of the Risen Warrior is God's purpose for man.
"Ancient Indian warriors, who once roamed free across this great country, would encourage one another with these words, 'It is a good day to die,' as they rode into battle," he said. "The Indian warrior knew in his heart that he was the only line of defense and protection for his tribe."
The survival of his people depended on the warrior's willingness to lay down his life for those he loved, he said. The path to becoming a skilled warrior was one of hardship and discipline.
"Our ancestors understood the need for purity of the heart," said Chosa.
Symbolized by the many purifications rites needed for success in battle, the warrior was aware that there was a spiritual dimension to life beyond the experience of his five senses.
"You need to know how valuable you are to God's plan and purpose in the earth," he said. "As every part comes forward in its place, in its specific assignment, harmony increases."
The warfare is in the spirit, in the things that encumber the soul, he said.
"The Spirit of God will be happy to tell you what's dysfunctional in your soul," he said. "You don't need to ask a man of God that question."
We are all men of God, he said. We each have the authority to do the work.
This month, the Chosa's havecarried their message to the White Earth Chippewas in Minnesota, the Potawatomi in Wisconsin, the Keweenaw Bay Band of Chippewas and the Lakota and Assiniboine tribes of Fort Peck in northeastern Montana. Chosa is expected to return to the east in the fall.