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Looking Back on 2019

As reformed believers the staff at the Office of Social Justice and Centre for Public Dialogue understand that we live and work to the glory of God.  This past year has continued to demand much of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls as we seek to live in light of that. So as we place the labour of 2019 in God’s hands and turn the page towards 2020 we’ve taken a moment to reflect on our lives, learning and work in 2019 and appreciate how we’ve learned and grown over the past year.  Enjoy!  

Andrew Oppong - What experience would you love to do all over again?

Our "Rise for Refuge" event a couple of months ago is one I would love to do all over again. To me, it underscored the importance of coming together all united under one cause but more importantly, it reinforced for me Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 

Getting a front row seat to the awesome collaborative work between our office and other organizations living out our call to 'welcome the stranger' was truly a life-changing experience and one I would love to replicate in the years to come.


Shannon Perez - What author, book, or movie affected your life in a profound way?

The book Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizens by Pamela Palmater gave me political insight that helped me to understand that I need to be more critical of what our Canadian government is doing and work to understand what they are saying.  I have learned that their actions have not always been in line with their public words. For example, Trudeau's 2015 platform was to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that still has not happened.  I have learned the importance of knowing what is going on in the political world.

Kris Van Engen - If you had to describe your 2019 in 3 words, what would they be?

If I had to describe 2019 in three words I would say 'kids growing up'. All of the sudden, it's like my house has a couple more adults in it. I mean, they're teenagers so not every day is the most grown up, but it's amazing to see them start to take on their own ideas and passions for their lives and the world around them.

Cindy Stover - What author, book, or movie affected your life in a profound way?

The book that has most affected me this year has been Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. (Even though I'm still not done reading it!)  This compilation of the reflections of a woman who is both Indigenous and a scientist has been helpful in countless ways. It frames the created world through an Indigenous lens that sees every part of creation as good and sacred. 

The book calls for sincere gratitude for what we have been given to steward. Even though this is not a Christian faith-based book, it clearly demonstrates how common grace shows up in the world! 


Melissa Stek - What cool things did you create this year?

The Immigration Is Our Story interviews project. I'd always had a dream about collecting people's ancestors' immigration stories to help them make the connection to and build compassion for today's immigrants. It was a meaningful opportunity to hear various CRC and RCA members' immigration stories - in StoryCorps-style interviews - and use them to help churches talk about their immigration stories and how immigration does - and doesn't - work today. Who doesn't love a good story?

Kate Kooyman - If you had to describe your 2019 in 3 words, what would they be?

"See what's next." My family and I took a big, weird, unexpected turn this year, and decided to put our normal lives on hold and travel around in a tiny trailer. (As I write this, I'm in the desert of Arizona!) The hardest, and maybe the coolest, part has been not really knowing what's next. I think it's true in lots of other parts of my life in 2019 -- there have been lots of staff changes in the OSJ, lots of uncertainty in our politics in the U.S., lots of uncertainty about what's happening in the Church, too. In 2019, I've been learning to keep trusting that whatever is next -- the thing I can't yet see -- is full of grace, peace, and good news.

Hope Zigterman - What author, book, or movie affected your life in a profound way?

In the spring I read Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. This teen and young adult novel is based on the tale of A Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) in which Shahrazad tells a story to the Sultan every night to keep from being executed. While both entertaining and well-written, this book also shares powerful truths about the ability of stories. 

For awhile now, I’ve been fascinated by storytelling and its ability to change minds and hearts. Jesus continually used parables to present truths about the Kingdom of God to his disciples and the gathered crowds. By using stories, Jesus was able to weave layers of truth into simple narratives. Not everyone would understand, but this way, Jesus could challenge the wisdom of the day without directly challenging those invested in that wisdom. In Shadow Spinner, Shahrazad is similarly able to challenge the biases of the most powerful person in the kingdom, the Sultan, by telling him stories.



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