by Alyssa Sampson,
Agincourt Baptist Church
In Mistissini QC, north of the 50th parallel, where pristine forests clean the air and lakes yield walleye, pike and trout, God’s Spirit is stirring up healing and reconciliation.
From June 25-28, I was part of a team invited to preach and to pray in a series of special meetings hosted by Mistissini Faith Bible Chapel. The theme of the meetings was Psalm 86:11 – “Teach me your way O Lord that I may walk in your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.” And God’s Spirit was thick as we worshipped together, heard testimonies of His goodness, received challenging messages and prayed for revival.
I could tell you about the spiritual battle that is happening for a generation of Cree souls, about the gleaming potential of a young man we met who’d rollerbladed 4000 kms to raise money for families with sick relatives in hospitals far from home, and about another young man who interrupted one of our services, barged in drunk and wouldn’t enter the sanctuary though it seemed he’d fought through hell just to cross the threshold. “Alone! I’m always alone,” he cried out, “I don’t even know why I came here.”
I could tell you of a healing, a woman who came to worship although muted by laryngitis, who croaked and whispered her hellos before the service and who silently asked God to let her sing for him. I’d wondered who behind me had such a lovely voice, then when the time came to give testimonies, she walked up to the microphone and told us teary-eyed that warmth had spread through her throat and her chest and that her voice had been set free, and she led us in a song.
I could tell you of visions and prophecy and an angel choir, but you might think I am trying to impress you, when what I really need to show is that God loves his people.
God loves his people.
Time after time, the people we happened across were the ones who needed special encouragement, and time after time when we sat down to listen, when we prayed with them we knew that God had sent us not because we are so great but because he loves his people and he made us to be a body. In Christ, “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph 4:16)
For too long our North American church has been operating as an amputee, cut off from our First Nations family in Christ because we don’t know what to do with them, or we don’t know they are there. Certainly there are exceptions, but as a whole it’s fair to say we simply don’t know how to be good neighbours without coming off as colonists. We may want to help, and we may even give charitably, but do we get close enough to shake the hands and look in the eyes of our brothers and sisters who are pouring out their lives to see healing in their communities?
I was blessed to have the opportunity to see first hand that God answers prayer and shows up for his people, very often by sending other people to encourage, pray and help. I was honoured to be “fresh hands” that God used through no merit of my own but simply by his grace of calling me. What I saw and experienced taught me more than anything that God loves his people with an unrelenting love, and no tragedy, no addiction, no abuse, no sin is powerful enough to separate them (us!) from that love.
This is a message of hope that we all need to hear, that we as a church must wrestle with if we are to pursue reconciled relationships with First Nations people. There is no room for cheap grace, but by the very costly grace that Jesus offers we may unite our hearts in repentance for past wrongs, worship God, and walk in his truth as living witnesses of his goodness and power.
How can we do this?
Prepare to adopt a listening posture by taking the time to learn some of the background and history of First Nations – “The Inconvenient Indian” by Thomas King or “One Church Many Tribes” by Richard Twiss are recommended books. The final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is available online as a PDF file at www.trc.ca.
ATTEND A CONFERENCE:
The next major North American conference led by First Nations people will be the 2016 NAIITS Conference, hosted at Tyndale in June 2016 and organized by Karen Ward firstname.lastname@example.org. Attending a conference such as this is a great way to meet and make Christian First Nations friends, and it is a wonderful opportunity to learn from our indigenous people.
CONSIDER A “LEARNING TRIP”:
Some Baptist First Nations churches have already established friendships within CBOQ and CBWOQ, and many more would be open to building a friendship if we simply asked. We should certainly use caution around the concept of “mission trips” to First Nations churches and reserves because it leads so easily to a mindset of superiority and even colonialism. Certainly there are ways we can serve our First Nations neighbours, but perhaps more importantly there are things we could learn from them as we walk and minister together. A learning trip (versus a mission trip) could be as simple as joining in a Sunday worship service, or inviting a First Nations speaker to encourage your congregation or small groups.
For more information about First Nations speakers, or for First Nations churches in your area, you may contact Walter McIntyre, Initiatives Associate with CBOQ or Diane McBeth, Executive Director of CBWOQ.
To hear more from Alyssa Sampson, you can check out her blog www.movingwithgod.com.