God at work in the World

In another skin

Brander—Strongraven/Standing Bear—McDonald shares insights into the indige-nous worldview at Native Assembly 2014.(Photo: Moses Falco)

Brander McDonald is soft-spoken. He moves about the room with quiet dignity, avoiding eye contact while he presents a workshop exploring indigenous worldviews at Native Assembly 2014. He admits to being a shy youngster, but there is more to his demeanour than being reserved. “My grandmother taught me that I shouldn’t look someone in the eye when I first meet them,” he says.

Searching for harmony

Vince Solomon’s dorm door was marked with an “X” to indicate his race when he was enrolled in religious studies. (Photo: Moses Falco)

There’s an imbalance here. Of the 250-ish gathered for Native Assembly 2014, indigenous participants are overwhelmingly outnumbered by non-native folks.

A few months ago, planners were concerned that not enough white church folks would attend. But this turnabout troubles me. Dominant people can often become dominant voices. So I’m trying to listen more and say less.

Finding ways to share this land of plenty

The judges’ bench in the main courtroom of the Supreme Court of Canada.(Photo by Philippe Landreville / © the Supreme Court of Canada)

Indigenous issues are charged, complex and unappealing to many Canadians. Understandably so.

Competing histories and intricate legalities combine with strong sentiments to create a sort of national quagmire. No one feels comfortable about the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, but meaningful change often seems impossible.

MCC Summerfest Relief Sale

Hannah Martens (left), Cindy Klassen, and Rebecca Janzen enjoy each other’s company at the “GO” booth where Martens and Janzen earned money for MCC by running and biking on the stationary equipment.

“Mustache friends” Natalie Rosenberg (left), and Bronwyn Bergen had their faces painted by professional face painter, Val Martens.

Alberta Mennonites have few opportunities for large fellowship gatherings. While the annual Mennonite Central Committee relief sale is a huge amount of work, when the weekend arrives, the atmosphere is decidedly celebratory.

A bridge to community

Josephine and Garcie Cogar of Webster Springs, W.V., test out their new walking bridge that connects their home to the community. It was built by Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers as part of the organization’s efforts after Hurricane Sandy devastated the eastern seaboard of the U.S. in 2012. MDS and community volunteers can be seen in the background. (MDS photo by Paul Hunt)

MDS volunteers construct the footers for a new swinging bridge that provides safe passage between the home of Josephine and Garcie Cogar and their community of Webster Springs, W.V. The original bridge was washed out during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. (MDS photo by Paul Hunt)

Thirteen metres isn’t a long walk, but it can be a difficult journey when the creek between your house and the rest of your community is running high and the bridge across it is out.

Stó:lō, sacredness and salmon

Cheryl A. (Francis) Peters, right, holding the MCC blanket given her, in turn gives Forrest Johnstone a sparkling ball she had recently purchased for herself. Peters says she wanted to give one of her possessions to the child.

Josette Jim shows a deer-hide shaker her daughter made for her, personalized with the letter ‘J’. Jim is of the Wilmelmex People and comes from Xwewenaqw of the Whonnock Tribe.

The former St. Mary’s Indian Residential School in Mission drew 50 Fraser Valley Mennonites on May 10 to hear stories of history and culture by the Stó:lō Nation leadership.

‘The truth was hard’

I was standing beside Neill Von Gunten, former co-director of Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministries, and trying to peer over heads to see into the “Churches Listening Area” at the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) national event in Edmonton last month. An aboriginal leader had just prayed, and a church leader suggested a song; “We are Marching in the Light of God.”

Anabaptist church leaders offer statement to residential school survivors

Anabaptist leaders present a blanket and a statement for inclusion in the Bentwood Box, a repository for offerings and commemorations at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) event in Edmonton last month. Standing with the TRC commissioners and survivor representatives are Tim Dyck of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, centre, and Hilda Hildebrand of Mennonite Church Canada, fifth from left.

The following statement was presented at the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Edmonton in March.

Truth and reconciliation

Irene Crosland adds some prairie sage to the sacred fire burning outside one of the main entrances to the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, the site of the seventh and final national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) event. She wrote this poem as a result of her experiences at the TRC event.

Gathering crowd surges
Finding space
Residential School survivors
And listeners
This is my time
You listen
Throbbing drum beats
Pulsing loudly
Tonal language singing
Prayers lifting
Bowed shoulders quake
Remembering robbed childhood
Secrets buried deeply
Opening carefully
Angry man turns

War doesn’t work

According to Ernie Regehr, for statistical purposes a war is defined as political fighting—not criminal violence—that engages the security forces of the state; as well, it is a situation in which “at least 1,000 people [combatants and civilians] have been killed directly by the fighting during the course of the conflict, and 25 or more are killed annually.”

Taking the first of 10,000 healing steps

Micah Mission coordinator David Feick, left, chats with Father Joseph Jacek at the ‘10,000 Healing Steps’ conference held recently in Saskatoon in an effort to get people out of gangs.

What do Mennonites and former gang members have in common? “Not much,” one might be tempted to reply. But at a recent Saskatoon conference they sat side-by-side learning about gang intervention and prevention, and the way back to a healthy life.

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