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Crying at My Desk on a Tuesday

I am a co-op student studying Urban and Intercultural Ministry at Redeemer University (Ancaster, ON). In January 2021, I began my position as the Hearts Exchanged Program Assistant. Hearts Exchanged is a learning and action journey designed to equip Reformed Christians in Canada to engage with Indigneous people as neighbours. We hope to model ways of undoing past harms and building relationships of respect and mutuality by equipping participants with broadened insights and shared experiences. Our hope is for participants to engage their local churches in further dialogue and action, resulting in Canadian CRC churches that identify as communities of reconciliation and belonging.

I was recently asked what I have learnt in these two months. That is a hard question. It is hard to articulate all that I have learnt and know now that I did not before. But I shared this story from my experience to paint a picture.

I was not ready to hear what I did.

As part of getting started my work with Hearts Exchanged, I submerged myself into Indigenous resources. A few weeks ago I was watching this video of Justice Murray Sinclair talking about the TRC (Truth & Reconciliation Commission) and the effects of systemic racism that occurred through the Doctrine of Discovery. Half way through his talk, he showed a video testimony of a survivor of residential school. He prefaced the video to say that it was not graphic, and that even children could stay in the room to watch. I have read and heard survivor stories before; but I was not ready to hear what I did. Seeing the deep pain in the face of a man sharing the abuse he experienced in residential school. He was sobbing, and so was I.

I spent the first 19 years of my life  in Southern Ontario (Sarnia) between three reserves: Aamjiwnaang, Kettle Point and Stony Point First Nation. I moved around for school and now find myself living on Haldimand Tract (Cambridge, ON); land that was promised to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River. Watching this video brought me to the point of beginning to understand the heartbreak and lament. This has been so close to me my whole life and I never realized.

Heart learning; a kind of learning we can only do through experience. 

To me, this story encapsulates the “hearts breaking” experience of the Hearts Exchanged program. By that, I don’t mean the program is to make you cry at your desk on a Tuesday morning; although, I have found it often does. It is an exchange of hearts to gain understanding. Indigenous psychologist and author, Dr. Martin Brokenleg, would call this experience heart learning; a kind of learning we can only do through experience. 

Through my experience and time spent reading and listening, I have begun to hear heartbreaking truths and the pressing call to reconciliation. Through heart learning, there is a point where greater empathy can be felt.  I am often more comfortable with people who think the same way I do or experiences similar to my own. In order for our churches to proclaim and embody the Good News and Kingdom of God, we need to learn what it means to be true communities of belonging. Through Hearts Exchanged, I’ve learnt more about the history, present colonization, reconciliation, and the shared path forward.

So, with this, I repent and confess from drinking downstream; benefitting from the system and not realizing what has been right under my feet this whole time. I repent and confess for not always working to create a place of belonging. My decolonizing journey has only begun. I pray and hope that with guidance from the wise and guidance from our Creator, I could continue to and always be reminded to walk humbly on the land.

The Hearts Exchanged team is currently planning for cohorts to begin in fall 2021. These cohorts will be in each region or classes in Canada. If you have any questions, or want to get involved you can contact the team at or read more on the website.  

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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