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A Kingdom of Belonging

Amidst the wildfire of a movement that Black Lives Matter brought, Canadians were pushed to confront their colonial history and their treatment of marginalized communities, myself included. This past year and a half has been heavy. Heavy with grief and uncertainty. Heavy with shame. Heavy with responsibility. In the heaviness of it all, I am learning to hold it in sacred space. To lament. To sit with it. To experience it and to relate to others who experience it as well. 

In the fall of 2020, I was invited to participate in Hearts Exchanged. I didn’t know what to expect, not because I didn’t do my due diligence of reading up on the group beforehand, but because I had never heard a church take the lead on the conversation around reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. 

I know that I can’t turn a blind eye to the immense hurt that was inflicted on Indigenous communities across Canada

I come from an immigrant family. This country provided hope for my family, a new beginning. I have been afforded so many privileges that I wouldn’t have otherwise in my parent’s home country. And so I sit here conflicted. The benefits I receive as a second generation Canadian are inextricably tied to the colonization of this country. And I know that I can’t turn a blind eye to the immense hurt that was inflicted on Indigenous communities across Canada to afford the life I have now. 

I remember the first time I heard about residential schools was in grade 8. A group of us visited Vancouver Island for a marine biology course and a residential school survivor decided to join us one evening since we were camping close to her house, to tell us about her experience. And then I never heard of it again until very recently. I moved away to California to pursue my graduate studies in 2013 and didn’t move back onto Canadian soil until late 2018. While away, I didn’t keep up with what was happening back home. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission took place during that time, Orange Shirt Day was established, Churches were beginning to reflect on the significance of their role in cultural genocide.Meanwhile my pride in being Canadian was strengthened as I resided in the United States, wholly unaware of the shift of perspectives happening. 

I’ve always believed that God’s kingdom cannot be bound by our human-made constructs.

So diving headfirst into Hearts Exchanged has been an undeniably humbling experience that has challenged my faith and my identity as a Canadian. The ugliness of spiritual violence had enormous consequences that bring about incredible grief, anger and shame in me. Grief for the lives lost and the trauma inflicted, anger at the Church and its constant agenda to bring about its monochromatic way of belief and worship, and shame in the years I have stood unaware, silent and ignorant. I’ve always wrestled with my identity as a Chinese Canadian, always wanting to fit in, but never fitting in quite fully. Similarly, I’ve always wrestled with my place in Christianity, never quite fitting the mold, never quite subscribing to what my peers indiscriminately accepted as true.  I’ve always believed that God’s kingdom cannot be bound by our human-made constructs. It’s so limited of us to see that God only works in a Eurocentric way. It’s so limited of us to see that violence resulting in obedience is the way of God. It’s so limited of us to see that only a select few are made in the image of God. Jesus taught us to be expansive in our love and collectively, the Church seems to miss the mark. 

Hearts Exchanged has been a beacon of hope for me. I’ve spent many evenings weeping as I moved through the self-guided activities, learning about the injustices Indigenous communities have experienced. But in those moments, God affirms that His Kingdom is expansive. The beauty of culture, of heritage, of belonging and of relation were important themes that were emphasized over and over again. God wants us to commune, to love, to be with one another, not in one prescribed way, but in our authentic ways of being. That is a glimpse of the kingdom for me.

Hearts Exchanged helped me learn to unpack a lot of things about Canadian history and about my faith. I’ve met others who share the mindset that to be a Christ follower is to be expansive in our way of loving and caring for our neighbours. I’ve met others who are willing to take a bold step in challenging the systems that don’t serve us. I’ve met others who aren’t afraid of getting called out in the pursuit of getting it right. I’m encouraged to know that as I move beyond Hearts Exchanged, that the conversations continue as we look at ways to repent, to repair and to reconcile.

You can sign up to be part of Hearts Exchanged cohorts starting in the fall!  More information here.  

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

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