VANCOUVER, Wash. — Tributes have come from both far and near remembering Vancouver resident Richard Twiss, internationally known Native American minister. Twiss died Feb. 9 at age 58 as a result of a massive heart attack three days earlier while in Washington, D.C. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast.
“This is a profound loss for the Kingdom,” lamented Alec Hill, president of Wisconsin-based InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. “Richard was one of those rare souls; he touched a deep chord in so many of us. His joy, wisdom, and kindness made a deep impact.”
“I am very grateful for his life and love for his Lord and others,” wrote Paul Louis Metzger, faculty member at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland. “He will be dearly missed. May we learn from his vibrant example: he walked in the footsteps of Jesus and stood with his people.”
“He was a straight-up, straight-shooting guy,” said Bill MacLeod, executive director of Mission ConneXion Northwest, at a promotional dinner in Beaverton last month for that annual event. “Anybody who knew Richard knew that what you saw was what you got.”
Twiss’s wife, Katherine, and sons Andrew, Phillip, Ian, and Daniel, were at his bedside in a Washington, D.C. hospital at the time of his death.
A public Celebration of Life service will be held on Sunday, March 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Living Hope Church, 2711 N.E. Andresen Road in Vancouver. The service will be available for live online viewing at www.livinghopechurch.com.
A Lakota/Sioux, Twiss was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. When he was 7, he and his family moved to Silverton, where he attended the third through 12th grades. After graduating from high school in 1972, he moved back to South Dakota and beccame involved in the American Indian Movement. During this tumultuous time Twiss deepened his appreciation for Lakota culture.
According to Twiss’s testimony, he wandered for a time, ending up on the island of Maui in Hawaii, where late one night, alone on a deserted beach, he experienced “Creator” God in a powerful way. From that night in 1974 until his passing, Twiss was on a spiritual journey to live a meaningful life as a Lakota follower of “the Jesus Way.” In 1997 he and his wife founded Vancouver-based Wiconi International, a non-profit ministry through which many thousands of people worldwide have been touched.
Twiss also co-founded the North American Institute for Indigenous Theo-logical Studies (NAIITS); he was chairman of the board for My People International, a member of the Christian Community Development Association, and co-founder of Evangelicals4Justice.
In 2011, Twiss earned a doctorate in intercultural studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. Until his passing, he continued his teaching career through the NAIITS program, Portland State University, and other institutions of higher education. He was a widely traveled and popular speaker for numerous government, educational and religious organizations as well as lecturer in dozens of colleges, universities, and seminaries.
Twiss authored a number of books, pamphlets and articles over the years. His first book, One Church, Many Tribes, reached many people with the message of an inculturated faith in Jesus.
As a Native American, Twiss sought to bring a fresh and unique worldview perspective about what it means to “be human and follow Jesus,” and to help his listeners learn to value and appreciate those who are different from oneself. He consulted with denominational leaders, government organization and educational institutions and local churches to raise awareness for Native American people and diversity awareness. As a minister and theologian he was well known for his use of ironic humor in his writings and presentations.
In lieu of flowers, the Twiss family suggests donations to Wiconi International (www.wiconi.com) that will allow continuation of the work to which he and his wife, Katherine, had committed their lives.
An obituary for Twiss on the Wiconi website states:
“In the Lakota tradition, there is no word for goodbye. Instead, we say, ‘Toksa ake (We’ll see you again), son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend!’ ’’