Tribal Matters

Tribal Matters

Tribal culture is the opposite of isolationIt was October 1986. Hitchhiking across the country, Sebastian Junger stood outside of Gillette Wyoming, carrying a week’s worth of food in his backpack. A man in a soiled union suit walked up the on-ramp toward him. The man’s hair looked wild and matted, but he didn’t seem hostile. Still, Sebastian was young and alone and watched him like a hawk.

The man studied him and asked where he was headed.


He nodded. “How much food do you got?”

Sebastian was happy to share his food, but he didn’t want to be robbed.

“Oh, I just got a little cheese.”

He shook his head. “You need more than that.”

Turns out the man lived in a broken-down car. Every day he walked three miles to a coal mine to see if they needed extra hands. Some days they didn’t and that day was one of them.

tribal life makes us part of something“I won’t be needing this,” he said opening his lunchbox, which contained a bologna sandwich, an apple, and a bag of chips—probably provided by a church. “I saw you from town and just wanted to make sure you were okay.” The guy turned and headed toward Gillette.

Sebastian thought about that man for the rest of his trip. In fact, he thought about him for the rest of his life.Continue reading



From innumerable scenes in childhood and youth, why do certain ones get crystalized in memory? Trauma? Certainly. A shift of understanding? Maybe. A moment of genuine connection with a parent? A spiritual experience? Likely.

memories can be goodFor me, particular scenes are intensely clear. Some are beautiful…like watching my dad peel an orange. His skilled hands worked the knife, while orange mist plumed in the sunlight. His kind presence surrounded me as we ate it together. I was only three. It is my earliest memory.

Some memories are hardOther memories left a pit in my stomach. There was the time our family picked up a kid named Buddy (not his real name) from a poor neighborhood in Cleveland. The program, called “Friendly Town,” involved volunteer families hosting underprivileged kids to give them new experiences for a week.

I was probably nine at the time, but I remember everything…Continue reading



Terry had serious throat cancer. He pastored a small church in rural Montana. The community of people who loved him prayed hard and fasted long. We encouraged him in every way we knew how. One by one, medical answers came up empty. Still, we sought God’s healing power.

But Terry died anyway. He was only 39.

I cried a flood tears. My heart ached for his family. But some tears also revealed my disappointment with God. Why would He take such a wonderful man? We needed Terry here. God is able to heal—but in this case, He didn’t. I asked God for understanding. Over the course of Terry’s decline I saw four dramatic symbolic pictures.

In the wake of Terry’s death, God made sense of them.Continue reading