This is a true story of a Cherokee elder, named Henry Smallwood and known to the Cherokee people as ‘Bear Thunder – Man Who Talks To The Other Side’. On Saturday, May 3, 2003 at the Heal The Land Common Ground Gathering in Glenpool, Oklahoma, Henry Bear Thunder died and was resurrected by Christ among a crowd of witnesses, including myself. Henry has commissioned me to share his story for all to hear and know that Christ is Lord.
DAY ONE: Thursday, May 1, 2003.
Excitement was in the air as people were preparing for the opening night events of the Heal The Land Common Ground Gathering at the Liberty Faith Center in Glenpool, Oklahoma. I was sitting in the arbor, collecting my thoughts and preparing my heart for what I was to share in the coming hours and days. A treasured friend, Bonita Sanders (Cherokee) of Good Medicine Ministries in Houston Texas, came up to me with warm greetings. She introduced me to her long time friend and teacher, Henry Smallwood. She said that through the years Henry had taught her and her family everything they know about our Cherokee culture.
I greeted Henry with a warm smile. As I looked at him, I saw a gentle older man who appeared full of love and wisdom, yet his body was very frail and weak. He was having trouble hearing, seeing and speaking. After greeting Henry, I turned to Bonita and casually mentioned that I was worried that the wind blowing through the arbor would blow away all my notes I needed for later that evening. Henry heard my comment and motioned for me to draw near so he could speak to me. He said that I needed to seek the Creator in prayer with great faith and assurance and ask that He calm the wind. He said that if I had the faith to speak to God about the wind, it would stop. He said that this was something he was taught by his grandparents. Something happened in my heart and I knew that the Holy Spirit was directing me to gift this man and acknowledge him with respect and honor as my elder.
As I walked back into the church to prepare this gift, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind that before I came to Oklahoma the Lord told me I would be gifting a Cherokee elder. I was excited, because I knew in my spirit that Henry was the one that I was to gift.
I returned and knelt by Henry. I told him that I had gifts for him. The first was a turkey feather. The turkey is a bird that is highly regarded by the Cherokee people. The call of the turkey resembles a war cry. The second gift was one of our ministry T-shirts. This was a black shirt with the words “Father and Son and Holy Spirit” written in Cherokee. It also has three profiles of an Indian man for the Trinity. Yellow for the Father, Red for the Son and White for the Holy Spirit. As I gave these gifts to Henry, tears filled his eyes. He said to me that we have to press in and continue to reach our people. We have to strive to tell the Nations about the Cherokee, as well as to teach our Cherokee people about our culture and history. He spoke out a commission to me to stay steadfast in this work of the Lord for Native people. I knew in my spirit that this was the Lord speaking through Henry and that I needed to hear and take His words seriously.
DAY TWO: Friday, May 2, 2003.
The morning began with sunshine and a warm breeze through the arbor. As we sang and danced in praise and worship to the Lord Jesus Christ, a supernatural peace and joy spread across the church grounds. Throughout the day, I would look over to Henry. He was sitting in the arbor bundled in layers and layers of blankets. The portrait of his slumped frame and frailty seemed to be in stark contrast to the rest of the painting unfolding through the day. Henry’s weak countenance and poor physical condition was written on the hearts of all of us in the arbor. Yet, there was a peace beyond understanding.
Bonita came to me that afternoon and said that Henry had had a dream and that he wanted to share it with me and Jonathan Maracle. I knew in my spirit that this dream, whatever it was, had come from the Lord and that I needed to be available to meet with Henry. After, a busy ministry schedule throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, Jonathan and I met with Henry in the church sanctuary sometime before midnight.
Henry, being nearly blind and hard of hearing, reached out to touch each of us to confirm that we were there with him. At the sounds of our voices, he was reassured and began to share the dream. He said that the Lord came to him in a dream saying that a man and a woman would come to him and he would be healed. Henry then began to share about the long list of afflictions and illnesses that plague his body. Diabetes. Congestive Heart Failure. Blindness. I think he said that there were at least eleven different infirmities. Then Henry continued with telling of two more dreams. The second dream was of his dead son, who had been executed some time earlier. The third dream was the same as the first. The Lord told Henry that he would meet a man and a woman and that they would pray for him, and that he would be healed.
After the series of dreams, Henry said he had been with Wayne and Bonita Sanders listening to some music. It was Jonathan Maracle. Something stirred in Henry’s heart. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that he needed to be in Oklahoma for the gathering and pressed the Sanders family to bring him. A second time he heard Jonathan Maracle’s music and he knew in his heart that Jonathan was the man in the dream. (I think that Henry mentioned that the realization came in hearing the song ‘River of Life’.) Then Henry turned toward me and said that when I gifted him the day before, he knew in his heart that I was the woman in the dream. He told Jonathan and I that he was confident that once we prayed for him, he would be healed.
Jonathan began to play a beautiful song of prayer on the flute. The chapel was completely quiet except for the sound of the flute. It was both beautiful and powerful. Jonathan began to speak words of proclamation into Henry’s life. I then shared a brief testimony with Henry. I shared that I was from Oklahoma. I was born in Norman and lived in Tulsa. I shared that while I lived in Tulsa, I was abused and my blood and tears were spilled on this land. I said that earlier in the day the Lord gave me a picture and a word. I saw in my mind’s eye a cross. It was the cross where Christ was crucified. Blood was running down the cross and like a river it was flowing to me where I was sitting in the arbor in prayer. The Lord said that He had heard the cries of my blood and my tears. He said that His blood has covered my blood and His tears have covered my tears, and that I am healed. I then told Henry, just as Christ bore the 39 stripes on his body for the healing of His people, and just as Christ died on the cross that we would have eternal life, and just as the blood He shed has healed me ….. Henry is also healed. I began to speak healing to Henry’s mind, soul and body. Then Jonathan began to pray and intercede for Henry’s healing.
Suddenly, Henry looked up at me and said “I can see you!”. For the first time, Henry actually saw my face. His blindness was removed and he was healed instantly before Jonathan and I. He turned to Jonathan and said “I can see you!” We cried and hugged in pure joy. Henry said that due to one of the illnesses, a blood vessel had broken in his eyes and they were blinded by the blood. He said that as we prayed, the blood had lifted and he could see. Then Henry told Jonathan and I that we would see him dance in the arbor the next day. He spoke it with authority and confidence. Before our eyes, we saw color return to Henry’s face, we saw clarity in his eyes and he sat up tall in the pew. It was a miracle!!
DAY THREE: Saturday, May 3, 2003.
Saturday was another full day of ministry. My friends and I had gone to a prayer and fasting meeting at the Victory Christian Center camp out in Manford, Oklahoma. I was invited to the meeting to share about the ministries of First Nations Monday and the need for prayer and support for Native people throughout Oklahoma and across the nation. Words can not describe the awesome time of ministry that took place. One of the ladies at the meeting began to pray and speak prophetically about the healing coming to Native people through Jesus Christ. By the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, she gave a word that confirmed very specifically that the restoration of sight to Henry Smallwood was a picture of what God will do and is doing for the Indigenous people of North America.
It was evening by the time we returned to Glenpool and the Heal the Land Common Ground Gathering. As we drove into the parking lot of the Liberty Faith Center, we noticed that the numbers of people present had tripled since the day before. We rejoiced and praised the Lord! All the seats in the arbor were full and many people were standing around with anticipation. This night was the Grand Entry. Veterans and elders of the local tribes came with respect and honor, as they lead the dancers into the arena. Many people of various tribes and tongues followed in a beautiful procession unto the Lord. We danced and danced with joy and thanksgiving as the bond of peace and fellowship began to grow stronger and stronger, knitting our hearts together.
At some point, the Lord put on my heart to dance one or two times around the circle and pray for a release of His healing. I prayed and danced calling forth the healing of Christ to minister among all who were there. I also prayed for Henry each time I passed by his place in the arbor. Then Jonathan Maracle lead the singers at the drum in a song. As Jonathan began to sing, I saw Henry rise out of his chair. With the help of Wayne and Bonita, he came into the circle and began to dance. I stepped in behind him, rejoicing and praying for him. He completed one time around the circle and then he stood next to the singers at the drum for the duration of the song. I was filled with joy. He proclaimed the night before that Jonathan and I would see him dance, and there he was dancing with his face aglow.
I left the dancing for a moment to visit with a friend. I looked over my shoulder and saw Henry making his way back to his chair. Then suddenly he had fallen to the ground. I ran to him and began praying. He was picked up and put in a chair for a moment. Then people started shouting … “Call 911” …. “Call an ambulance!” Then Henry was taken back out of the chair and was placed on the ground. I sat at his feet and I could see that his body was lifeless. I began to pray and cry. The tears flowed uncontrollably as I sobbed and prayed. Then someone said, “He’s back!”. I saw him lift his arms to his chest and I saw his stomach begin to move up and down with each breath. I rose from the ground and walked over to his left, and I began to sing and dance. I was singing the Good Morning Song in Cherokee as a proclamation and prayer for Henry. The words “Awen de Ya ” mean “I belong to God”. As I was singing and praying, I was joined by Arlene Belindo (Kiowa). She told me that she saw me dancing and that she also believed that dancing and prayer was a good thing at this moment. We danced and sang until the paramedics came to put Henry into the Ambulance. I knew that everything would be well.
I saw Jonathan was there next to Henry, who was now on the stretcher. He was calling me to join them. I grabbed Henry’s hand and told him I was there. I told him that I saw him dance. As I spoke out that I saw Henry dance, just as he had promised the night before, a peace beyond all understanding fell on Henry. Bonita told me that that was the word that Henry needed to hear. Then he was carried into the ambulance. I knew, as did Wayne, Bonita and Jonathan, that everything was going to be okay.
Then either Barry Belindo or Kyle Taylor called for a victory dance. The singers began to drum and we all began to dance. It was awesome. We danced and danced unto the Lord, with joy and thanksgiving for Jesus Christ, His death on the cross and His resurrection. We celebrated the miracle we all witnessed of the saving power and faithfulness of Christ. At least a dozen people, all with medical knowledge and experience, confirmed that Henry Smallwood had completely crossed over into eternity and then was brought back to life.
In fact, Henry was doing so well that he talked the paramedics into letting him back out of the ambulance. He was brought back to his chair in the arbor and he watched as we danced. At one point, after a calm began to fall across the arbor, I went and sat with Henry. He told me that the song that was playing when he danced was the one by Jonathan Maracle that goes “Jesus died that I might live”. (“Sianer” from the “Beautiful Great One” CD)
Henry told me that he was determined to dance a complete time around the circle. He stood as long as he could with the singers. Then he felt his knees go weak. So, he asked to be escorted back to his chair. He said that as he felt his legs collapse underneath him, God began to speak to him. The whole time he was on the ground, God was speaking to him. Then he died and was brought back. Henry said that He knows that Jesus is his Lord and that he had to die and be brought back to life to let that truth penetrate his heart.
Throughout the night there was much dancing and praising Jesus. Many of the songs at the drum were lead by the local Native people. Jonathan, Kris and Jeremy were given a tremendous honor as they were welcomed at the drum. Occasionally, they were given the opportunity to lead the songs. One of those times was when Henry first came out to dance before he died.
Another time, much later in the evening after Henry was brought back to life, Jonathan was leading a song and Henry stood up and while holding onto the poles of the arbor, he danced in place. Then some time later Wayne and Bonita helped Henry into the circle, where he gifted the drum and shook the hands of all the singers at the drum.
On Thursday, when Henry arrived to the meeting, he was feeble, his eyes were cloudy and the color was gone from his face. He had trouble hearing and speaking. In the summer sun, he found no warmth or comfort. Under layers of blankets, he sat motionless in his chair for hours on end. Friday night he received his sight and was filled with an inner glow. On Saturday you could see that color was returning to his face. By Saturday night he was able to dance.
Yet, the greatest restoration of his soul, his mind and his flesh came AFTER he had died and was brought back to life by Christ. Saturday night, after the last dance many of us went into the sanctuary. Henry found a seat in the pew and children began to gather around him. Henry, full of abundant life and assurance of faith, began to evangelize to the children. He shared his testimony to all who gathered in the sanctuary. He began to stand and lay hands on people and pray for them.
At the close of the night, I sat down next to Henry. We had a good visit. He told me that since he was young he was set apart to be a healer. He also told me that on this day, this day of his new life, he is a healer for Christ. He has put away all the old ways, and he is committed to standing firm in his knowledge that the only true healing comes from Christ. He proclaimed that God has commissioned him to go out like a warrior, among the nations, to minister truth. He said that in the days to come we will hear how God is using Henry’s testimony to change lives and bring people to the saving knowledge of Christ. He told Jonathan and I that we have to tell his story. Not only that, but we have to tell the whole story as we know it.
On May 3, 2003 in Glenpool Oklahoma at the Heal the Land Common Ground Gathering, I saw Henry Smallwood, known to our Cherokee people as “Bear Thunder – Man Who Talks To The Other Side”, die and be raised from the dead by the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Henry Smallwood was given his Cherokee name, Bear Thunder – Man Who Talks To The Other Side” by his maternal grandfather while he was still in his mother’s womb.
This is a true story and I am a witness to all that I have shared in this blog post. Please share this testimony, in its entirety with everyone you know. Those of us mentioned in this story are only vessels of Christ’s good will and purpose. All glory and honor to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. In the name of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Rev. Jeny Running Brook Covill
PO BOX 2870
Columbia Falls, MT 59912
NOTE: This story was first written May 6, 2003 for wide distribution online, as well as on radio broadcasts in Northwest Montana. We continue to tell Bear Thunder’s story when ever we have the chance.