Bruce Plummer, born on the Fort Belknap reservation, was 21, stumbling drunk and suicidal in a drenching rainstorm in Portland, Ore., when, with Native American awareness, he crawled under a pine tree to avoid some of the wet. That tree was on church property, he realized the next day, as he watched vehicles coming and later going from the parking lot.
“For the first time in my life, I heard God. That surprised me,” Plummer said. “He said, ‘Bruce, I want you to go down there and talk to a man.’”
Smelly, dirty, still under the influence of alcohol, he went inside the building and was warmly welcomed by the Lutheran pastor, who took Plummer home for Sunday dinner, where he was welcomed just as warmly by the pastor’s wife.
Dinner wasn’t quite ready, she said. She offered to wash his clothes and lay out fresh garments while he took a shower if he’d like. The pastor later offered to let him spend the night.
“I argued with him for ten days to two weeks,” Plummer said. “He’d tell me, ‘All I can tell you is this: John 3:16.’ He said, ‘Jesus is God. If you ask Him, God will come into you.’
“What attracted me to Christianity was that he said, ‘Bruce, God can give you a brand new start. He can take all the sins and wipe them all away.’ ‘Holy cow,’ I thought. ‘I wonder if I could get a brand new start? If I could get a chance, I would do it.’”
Plummer was again in the shower when God next spoke to him.
“When you’re homeless, the absolute best thing is a shower,” Plummer said. “It’s better than food, to be clean. God spoke to me: ‘Bruce, how would you like to be clean on the inside?’ God used that word ‘clean.’ I told Him, ‘I believe in you, God, but this Jesus thing, man, I don’t know; that doesn’t make sense to me. I thought Jesus was the white man’s god. I don’t know how He could come into me.’”
Plummer recounted his internal discussion.
“I had to ask God for forgiveness for my sins, that Lutheran pastor told me, to repent. If I did so, He would take them as far as the East is from the West. ‘But I don’t have faith that if I asked Jesus to come into me, that He would,’ I told myself. ‘I tell you what, God. I’ll make you a deal. If I ask Jesus to come into my heart, you have to give me the faith to believe that. I want to stop sinning; I don’t want to be a drunk anymore.’ I bowed my head in the shower and asked Jesus to come into my heart.
“When I reached for the towel, I didn’t have my hand shake. I looked at my skin and I was still brown. I thought if I became a Christian my skin would turn white. And I still know my language! (Anpetu Washte`; it is a good day.) I think Jesus came into my heart and gave me the faith to believe it!”
When Plummer told the pastor what had happened, the pastor said, “From this point on in your life, every answer to every question in your life will be in this book,” and handed Plummer his first Bible.
That was February 1973. Plummer returned to the reservation to forgive people he had wronged, and was counseled by his girlfriend’s father to go to Oklahoma Baptist University that fall. In the telephone directory he saw a listing for First Indian Baptist Church of Shawnee. There Plummer found the pastor was the acclaimed American Indian Christian leader Jimmy Anderson.
When Anderson asked Plummer if he wanted to be baptized, “I said yes, because I’d told God I would do whatever He asked, and I wanted to be obedient,” Plummer said.
“First Indian was a Southern Baptist church, and that’s how I became a Southern Baptist,” Plummer said. To this day, he added, “Every morning, when I open my eyes, I begin with the same prayer, ‘Good morning Father, help me walk with you today in my life. Thank you for your love, your grace, and your mercy, and the hope that I have in Creator Sets Free, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, Aho.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)