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Waiting for the Drums

She:kon, Hello. My name is Grace Vanberkel.  This is my story, and my vision for the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Growing up, I had very little contact with my Mohawk heritage. As a third-generation, church-going, Indigenous person who grew up off-reserve, I feel this scenario is reflective of the separation that has occurred between the Indigenous nations and the rest of Canada – and also of the rift that currently exists between the church and Indigenous peoples. Over the past school term, I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to explore the Mohawk side of my heritage through my studies and other activities.  What an enlightening experience this has been.

My eyes have been opened through the testimonies of residential school survivors and the present bitterness I’ve witnessed towards the Church. The rift that gapes between Jesus’ Church and Indigenous people is a religious spirit, one that made terrible wrongs that continue to have generational effects. Church, take note! Let’s listen to Jesus’ warnings against a religious spirit, and actively begin to reverse its devastating effects through grace.

I believe the Indigenous peoples and the church can only look to God’s grace as the answer for reconciliation. If true healing is going to take place, it needs to address peoples’ hearts. Throwing money and policies at the hurt is only a surface solution that actually needs to begin at the individual and community level. This redeemed Indigenous identity would be an extraordinary force. Its influence would be nation-wide.

The Church needs to open their eyes; become more like Jesus, cut off the religious spirit, and get rid of negative narratives about Indigenous people. Firstly, the Creator is a God of the marginalized. His Father’s heart is for the oppressed, and he challenges us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). Let’s move the focus away from negative narratives (alcoholism, violence) to encouraging the positives of Indigenous culture: such as traditions of peaceful and respectful relations, and women empowered and honored as leaders and life-givers.

If Christians were to humbly listen to the prophetic voices of this nation’s original People, this will help empower Indigenous people into their identity and destiny as peoples of the Creator God. The power of the original Peoples restored into their God-given identity would be groundbreaking, because their calling is connected to the land. Their relationship with the land is undeniably spiritual for it is a desire to steward and care for what the Creator has given them. I believe the health and wholeness of Canada is dependent on the health and leadership of its Indigenous population.

I have a vision for revival among Indigenous peoples. I see First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples as a transforming force of grace on behalf of the nation of Canada. I can’t wait to hear thousands of drums raising a song of thanksgiving to the Creator, and I anticipate the day a nation of Indigenous voices cry out over the Land in an invitation to restoration. 

Editor's note: Grace's eyes were opened through listening to the stories of residential school survivors. Do you have an hour this week to listen to the stories of survivors from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? You don't have to make the trip to Edmonton! Find the livestream and more resources here.  

[Image: Flickr user Tamara Herman]

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