I remember the first time my eyes were opened to the untold history of Residential Schools in Canada. I was a young pastor living in North Vancouver, and my friend Steve invited me to an event he was running across town in the basement of a Mennonite Church. The session was aimed at restoring relationships between the church and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. The evening had a simple structure. Steve shared some introductory comments, read from Scripture, and then handed the microphone to a residential school survivor.
So much of the evening was familiar to me. A dingy church basement, stale coffee and cookies, the liturgy of scripture and sharing; these are all common scenes for anyone who has grown up in the church like I have. But there in the familiar, I was confronted by something completely foreign to me: the deep wounds of a man caused by school and church leaders.
He told the story of life before school, how his relatives enjoyed the best of the land and the closeness of community. Then he shared about being taken from his family and the degrading abuses he experienced in the residential school system because he was an “uncivilized Indian." I don’t recall all the details of what the man shared that night, but there’s one thing I will never forget. After sharing about his time in school he spoke about what it was like “going back” to the life he once knew. He said something like this: “Before being taken to school my people were “wealthy" people—we had fish and game to eat and family to share it with. When I returned, we were the poorest of people; it was all lost and we were all broken.” I wept in my chair.
His words that night opened both my eyes and my heart. That’s precisely what we need in these days: open eyes and open hearts. Eyes open to see people who have suffered unjustly, and hearts open to walking the road of reconciliation. Church, let me call you to these two things today.
First, let us have open eyes to the experience of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. One way we can do that by listening to the stories of residential school survivors. I have posted one below, but there are many others you can find online.
Second, let us open our heart’s to the journey of reconciliation. As a step in that direction I am posting a link to a prayer guide for Truth and Reconciliation that the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada has put together. https://www.cmacan.org/trc-prayer-guide/
May Jesus lead us into the unfamiliar so his glory and his story will fill the earth.