I found the First Nations ‘representation’ concept interesting and in some ways relevant. Aside from their not making eye-contact as a show of respect, I too feel that the contents of a first impression are much more valuable than the presentation of ones self. It’s really cool to learn of their values though, and how I could possibly adapt them into my own life or at least challenge my own values and morals based on theirs.
In reaction to the Firs Nations land, I only ever knew what other people would tell me. That we’ve stolen their land, and they hate us and just want their land back and are stealing our tax money. But learned first hand, what is really going on. It opened up my eyes and not only reminded me how naïve I am, but it gave me a stronger appreciation and sympathy level for them. I learned that since they believe that they belong to the land they had never had a concept of ownership before. But now, because of our force, they must adopt this policy. And I think I’ve created a way that I can best understand this vicious cycle that they are living in and it goes like this:
First Nations people can only maintain their culture as Status Natives if they live on a reserve, if they live on a reserve they cannot own any land because it is seen as government owned land (Federal), if they want to own their own land they must leave the reserve, if they leave the reserve they are sacrificing a big part of their culture.
What a horrible cycle to be stuck in –all just to live out their heritage, their history, their culture. I can’t imagine living in such a way with regards to my faith.
The second night we joined with six First Nations elders for a healing/sharing circle. This is a time for people in the circle to share what’s on their hearts, what they feel the Creator wishes them to share. For us, it was a time to be more of an observing audience, but they seemed to have slightly different plans. It’s almost impossible to find words to explain what went on that night. Beyond all the smoke and waving of eagle feathers, these elders had some great wisdom that they were happy to share with us. Some of it raised a few eyebrows as it clashed with many of our Christian beliefs, but amidst this like I said before, we were able to have an open heart to what they wanted to say and God was able to use them to speak powerful words to each one of us.
To begin, one of the students sat in the Medicine Man’s (Uncle Norbert’s) chair, but he told the student that he could. To the other elders, this was quite prophetically powerful. As they later learned that the student was from the same territory as the Medicine Man, they saw that he would be a great leader when he grows up. There was so much power in this for the First Nations people.
Midway through the night, as an elder share his personal past addictions with alcohol, another student couldn’t hold back their tears as they could relate in some way to this. Farey ‘The Love Lady’ later spoke on how wonderful it is that the student shared those tears with the rest of us. After she continued with a speech to the student, she asked for all the elders to share some two-sentences of wisdom that they felt the student needed to hear. As they did, it was clear that it not only affected the one student, but all of us. As tears were being shed by many, the words of wisdom were heard by others in the room that needed to hear them for themselves (as we later learned during a debrief session). This was very powerful and despite some of the elder’s beliefs, God used them still as the affected student reflected, “Who but God knows our thoughts? No one. They didn’t even know me, but knew just want I needed to hear.”
It was impossible not to feel loved in this place. From the moment we walked in, there was a real sense of God, a complete sensation of true love. And as Farey shared throughout the evening, you could tell she was just so full of love –she even told us, all of us, each one of us, that she loves us. It’s no wonder that with comments from her like “You have arms to hug with, a voice to say ‘I Love You’ with, you have these things, everyone has these things, use them” that another student was led to share in our debrief exactly what they felt.
“I saw real genuine love tonight, something that Christians speak so highly of but rarely actually have. I’ve never felt that kind of love from any Christian group before, and if I ever had to choose, I’d much rather join their type of lifestyle and belief system than Christians because they’ve got it, they’re real, and that’s what everyone needs.”
It was a slap in the face –something that was so necessary to be said. I wish he could slap the face of every hypocritical Christian out there. I thank God for his raw words of honesty.
Our week continued on as we visited the Charlie Longhouse where a man, Kelsey Charlie, who had just hosted a funeral the day before and wasn’t expecting us at all, welcomed us into his home with open arms. As he started up the fire hoping to warm his home for his new guests, he shared with great excitement of his family’s history, the traditions they had, and the stories that are the foundation of their territory as the Chehalis tribe. Kelsey felt so comfortable and respected by our group that he wanted to show us his great grandfathers’ pit homes, where they use to live underground. What an honour it was that he wanted to share this part of his family’s heritage with us –something he would rarely ever do with a group.
As we were told by Brander, Uncle Herman (one of the elders from the healing circle) said that he’s never been so happy at a healing circle before. And our good friend Tim, who helped co-ordinate this week for us, shared that the opportunities that we encountered this week were one of a kind. He told us that we followed through with many missionaries broken promises to participate and learn from their culture. We represented so much more than just a small school group. We helped to bring restoration by paying respect to this beautiful culture that so many are quick to reject.
We had the incredible opportunity to be invited to join the Chehalis in celebrating the new year. We indulged in some Salmon, and sat and watched many dances and songs –ever being welcomed to join in at one point. No textbook can give a student the education that these experiences gave us. We were never supposed to be there, but at the last minute we were invited –they wanted to share their culture with us. Near the end of the celebration, as children ran to our group and gave us gifts of fruit, artwork and peach jam, the man on the microphone expressed the entire groups appreciation that we joined them, and how pleased they were to share their culture with us. Surely, we were the blessed ones. What an honour it was –to be shown such love, generosity and hospitality. Despite some of the elders and First Nations belief systems, I ask myself which one of us would be more easily recognized as living the life that God calls everyone to live. It hurts to say, that probably more First Nations people are living this life than most Christians who believe in the God they claim to be following.
How do we obtain this lifestyle, this love that we talk of but rarely act out? What does it truly look like? And how do we break from our selfish moulds to selflessly love the way we’re called to. Even those who don’t believe in God can do it, so what’s stopping us?
This isn’t the first time for me, I have seen and been a part of many broken communities all over the country and I just want to help, I want to be a part of the solution. One friend found it difficult not to ask the question of where God was in all of this, and I know direct that question toward ourselves and how we are being Jesus to these places. But what I struggle with is that I want to help places like Oppenheimer Park, but I honestly would really not want to live there. I thought of my comfortable home in Ontario, my family, my security and the blessings God has given to me so graciously. Then I thought of how we don’t have communities like this one anywhere near my home. In fact, I would have to travel quite a distance to find a place like Oppenheimer Park, which is very challenging for me because I’ve lived in the city and cottage country and I much prefer the countryside. I want to live there, I like it , it’s beautiful, I don’t want to sacrifice that…
Is this yet another test of dropping all I have to follow Christ? Oh man
…So I’m left to ask, do I have to live in the places that I want to change? Or can I just commute from my home of comfort to the places that I want to meet the needs of? Are we called to give our all or nothing and live with those we want to help?
I’m reminded of a friend who decided with his new bride that they wanted to work with inner city teens and adults, but they felt they couldn’t separate their job from their social life. The two needed to be one. So they moved right into the heart of where they wanted to work, living on a rundown street with gangs, drugs and prostitutes. If they wanted to serve God by reaching out to these people, they wanted to immerse their whole lives into it.
I’ve got many passions. I have a heart for the homeless, I have a heart for leadership, and my heart breaks for many people. I am passionate about music, I love being creative, and I love to write my thoughts. God has given me many passions, but am I to chase after all of them? Must I make them all my focus? Is that even possible? Perhaps there is a median between what I’ve been blessed with and what passions I focus on. Maybe I can have a real heart for poverty, but decide that I’m not cut out for being involved with it full-time. Just because I may choose to focus on a different passion, doesn’t mean I have to dismiss my heart’s desire to care about those living in poverty, does it? I can’t do everything, but I can still care about everything, can’t I?
Must I sacrifice what’s comfortable to me? Must I sacrifice a safe home for my wife and children? Must I sacrifice what I’ve always known? Or can I compromise between the passions…and blessings…that God has given me.
I feel such conviction because I see this in my life so much farther that just super sizing my fries or my constant desire for new music. For the last three years I’ve been asking for financial support from the same people as I have been doing work at camp, but what is this money for? Why do I need it? Do I need it? As I look ahead at this upcoming summer, I am considering not working at camp simply because I won’t make enough money there. Enough money for what though? What is enough?
It’s for school, right? It’s about time I continue on in my education, move on, look toward my future career. But as soon as I enter that cycle, everything will revolve around my finances. Work to make money, pay for school with that money, use that schooling to get work.
This is my conviction. How many thousands of dollars will I be pouring into my education in order to assure a successful life? When that money could be used to save lives. Is education necessary in order to love? As I read in Irresistible Revolution, I learned that living can be simple. Not lazy, but a life can be of community, sharing, providing for each other, and living on very little cash; a life that is still fulfilling and glorifying.
We talk about taking what we’ve learned this year back home with us –but how will that effect the thousands of dollars spent or gone into debt just to assure a healthy prosperous lifestyle? I guess I question whether education is better acquired sitting in a classroom as it is through experiential learning. How am I to live?