Unifying the Spirit of Lost Souls
Francis Sundown Chualna
Reviewed by Justin Dueck
What is the subject?
Unifying the Spirit of Lost Souls is a compilation of poems and real life short stories about the struggles and redemption of a former gang member. This book reveals the violent nature of life within gangs and the justice system. The author forgoes details of his redemption and instead shares the events that led him down a path of destruction and the issues that continue to feed the fire of gang life and violence.
Who is the author?
Francis Sundown Chualna is from the Okanagan (Syilx) First Nation, born and raised in East Vancouver, B.C. A former gang member and convicted criminal, his life was transformed by meeting God who saved him from a life of violence. Chualna is proud of his Indigenous heritage, and has a heart to end the “Native vs. Native” gang rivalry and longs to see a unified identity of all Indigenous people.
This book reveals the author’s longing for Indigenous people to abandon gangs and unify as a people with a proud history of honour, love, and respect.
Why this book?
I am currently working in Indigenous ministry in Winnipeg. While I do not have a direct relationship with gang members, gangs are part of the Indigenous communities in which I serve.
It saddens me to see kids (in my ministry area) live in a culture of violence and disrespect. Frequently, I hear of kids getting beaten up or chased by a group of other kids. Kids aren’t born evil, but a kid can only be attacked so many times before they start to grow hateful and begin to seek revenge. If we can show people there is hope in Jesus, they will have the opportunity to avoid a life of violence.
Comment of the book’s theological perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith
Spirit of Lost Souls is not an in-depth theological discussion, but a testimony to fellow gang members that there is hope to end a culture of violence, and that hope is Jesus. The author’s understanding of God as eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in line with the MB Confession of Faith.
Jesus completely transformed the author’s life. The book frequently tells readers to get to know Jesus, and the author’s love for Jesus is very evident. However, the author assumes most people who read the book have heard of Jesus and have some understanding of what church is about.
As violent as gang life is, prison life is even worse. Those of us who have never been to jail can’t comprehend how brutal it is. The author goes into detail about his violent and hopeless experience in maximum security prison, and how the system seems to lead prisoners into violence on a scale beyond that of gang life. The author uses his own testimony to warn others to avoid gang life, because gang life leads to prison.
This is not an easy book to read. The true-life stories interspersed through the book are written clearly and are easy to understand. However, the poems that form much of the book portray raw emotion: the author wrote the poems as a way to “vent” the author’s feeling. The poems play a large part in understanding the author’s experiences, but due to the intensity of emotions within, the poems are hard to follow.
With that said, the poems are a good portrayal of the emotions running through the mind of the author and reflect the chaos of the violent life he used to live. The book ends with Psalm 31, which is the perfect ending for the book. I was struck by the emotions evoked and could really see how much that Psalm meant to Francis. I would not have had the same response to this Psalm without reading the poems.
Who should read it?
The intended audience of this book is Indigenous gang members who are beginning to realize there must be more to life than violence. I would also recommend this book to anyone who is working with Indigenous youth or young people, or anyone ministering in correctional facilities.
In the code of a gangster, “death before dishonor,” but where is the honor in forcing someone into sex, corruption, violence, forcing someone to kill or be killed? Before joining you should ask yourself these questions.
And some youth get a chance, and some don’t, some will never be able to see ever again, because a couple of soldiers decided to ice pick your eyeballs out, now that doesn’t sound fun, does it. Reality check, this stuff actually happens, and it goes down just like that.
[Justin Dueck is a pastor with Living Word Temple in Winnipeg.
*The book can be purchased from Indian Life
Updated Feb 2, 2018: book information added