This is the second post in a series of personal profiles of the "risen warriors" of Whiteclay. After Marsha Bonfleur wrote this story she read it with Arley who suggested a few revisions and approved the article to be published.
Out of Whiteclay
Bruce and I had been invited to share our heart for the Lakota Nation with the members of Heartland Worship Center in Camdenton, Missouri. Bruce was getting ready to speak when David Williams, a Heartland member, asked if he could deliver this Word the Lord had given him at 5:30 on the morning of April 19, 2016: “Out of White Clay will come holy sacred vessels that will take healing waters to other indigenous peoples.” As he spoke these words out, I clearly saw the face of Arley Dreamer.
Ihanbla Wakinya – Thunder Dreamer (Arley) grew up in a typical Lakota family. He and his six brothers were raised for several years by their father when their mother left the reservation, fleeing the dysfunction of alcoholism and abuse and searching for things she felt were missing in her life in Pine Ridge. Ten years later she returned, bringing with her a newly-found faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The emotional damage done to her family during her absence, however, was not easily erased nor quickly healed. Like so many children – regardless of their skin color or economic status – Arley was easy prey for the enemy of his spirit and soul during those formative years.
Better known to many Whiteclay visitors as “Harley”, Arley has been a Risen Warrior on the street for all years we’ve been here. His crazy hats, wigs, masks and wildly unconventional clothing make him easy to spot on the street as he sings songs in his language while his kola (friend) Alvin Janis dances. He is a tall man with a deep resonance in his voice that commands the attention of everyone around him. But it’s not his booming voice or the yellow yarn braids perched crookedly on top of his head that puts Arley at the center of groups of white teenagers every summer. Instead, it’s the Bible stories he shares with anyone who will sit and listen that make him a celebrity to the thousands of teens and adults alike who visit the Lakota Nation.
To say that Arley takes literary license when he recounts the stories of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist or Jonah and the whale is an understatement. In the RAV (Revised Arley Version), Jesus’ disciples are His “gang” and the whale that swallows Jonah is named “Free Willy.” And depending on how many cans of beer he’s been able to score on the street that day, seasoned students of the Word can be offended when Arley’s embellishments sneak over the line of humor into crude language and borderline blasphemy.
Unless they’re here week after week, year after year, however, Whiteclay visitors don’t see the real man behind the masks. Most people don’t know that Arley always waits until after the group of sometimes 350 people at our N.O.A.H. evenings eat before he will fix a plate for himself. When Bruce asked him why he does that, he responded, “The chief always makes sure his people eat before he does.” They also wouldn’t know that Arley gives a staff, war club or other traditional work of art that he makes to the team leaders with whom he makes a connection during their mission trip.
One evening this summer, Arley came early for a special event held in the arbor when the Holy Spirit prompted me to tell him about the Word from the Lord. When I read it and told him I’d seen his face when it was delivered, Arley’s response was, “Read it again.” He had me read it four times and then said, “Do you know why I tell the stories from the Bible the way I do? I do it so my People will listen. If I read it to the people on the street out of the Bible, they will just walk away. When I tell it my way, they listen and laugh, but at least they hear the message.”
Like many other men and women on the street in Whiteclay, Arley knows the Lord. His body is addicted to alcohol, but his spirit is alive with the knowledge of Jesus’ unconditional love for him and for his People. Today Arley told Abram he wants to go to treatment. I don’t know where he will be by the time you read this. It is my heart’s cry that he will be well along on the path to becoming “a holy, sacred vessel who will take healing waters to his People – the Lakota Nation – and then to other indigenous peoples.” Please stand in faith and in agreement with me that Ihanbla Wakinya – Thunder Dreamer (Arley) will become the powerful Lakota warrior God created him to be. Let it be so, Lord. Let it be so.
Written by Marsha BonFleur