This summer, Pastor Randy McCooeye and his thirteen-year-old son, Aiden, from First Baptist Church Cornwall visited the Cree Communities in Mistissini and Wemindji in Northern Quebec.
What memories stand out from your visit?
AIDEN: I noticed the contrast between the vast landscape around Lake Mistissini and James Bay compared to land development at home. There was greater prosperity in the Cree nation than I had expected, since our news reports focus more on difficulties in the North.
How do you see God at work in Northern Quebec?
RANDY: On the surface living out our Christian faith is very similar. We pray, we study the word of God, we break bread together, both for sustenance and for communion. But in the South, we have become so individualistic in our approach to life: it’s me and Jesus. We have kept community on the periphery at best, even in the church. A brief encounter with our Cree brothers and sisters was a reminder of how much our souls need community.
AIDEN: I see God at work in the lives of the young people. We met one young man who had drifted away from Jesus. He now has an opportunity to attend a Christian camp in New York and is open to walking with Jesus again while many of his friends are more interested in drinking, girls and drugs.
Did the visit make you reflect on any parts of Scripture in new ways?
RANDY: At our church in Cornwall, I shared the unusual story of the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21 – how the sins and injustices of the past don’t just slip away with time. We can’t consider our hands clean because evil things were done by our ancestors and not by us directly. We have a responsibility to listen to God and seek to set things right. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus also understood that forgiveness requires restitution if possible.
What would you say to people considering involvement with the North?
AIDEN: The North is an interesting place to visit. The landscape is amazing, the people are very welcoming. We have much to learn from our Northern neighbours about being more connected to the land and using resources respectfully.
RANDY: I believe there is a place for our Baptist churches to be a part of a ministry of reconciliation that still needs to take place here in Canada. There is also a place for us to help with theological training at the local church level, to encourage pastors who are geographically isolated from their peers.
For more information on how you can connect with First Nations communities, contact Walter McIntyre at firstname.lastname@example.org