Tuesday, November 6, 2007

First Nations Cultural Learning Week

This post is written about what we did from October 14th - 20th

This week was our first real plunge into the First Nations culture. Our first day was a huge history lesson about the First Nations people and it was all very interesting. First of all, the class was in a residential school. It was pretty eerie, knowing that we were in a place where such horrible things were done to people. It was actually the last residential school built in Canada and the last to be shut down in ’86.

It was cool learning about the First Nations culture. Not knowing what to expect, I had mixed feelings about it. However, as I heard more about their culture and beliefs I found that I could relate to a lot of what was said; some of it sounded like good morals, very similar to Christian values, while some of it baffled me. That being said, I feel that it is important for us to show respect and listen, whether we agree or not, and accept and appreciate their way of life without conforming to it. I particularly appreciated what Brander Standing Bear McDonald (a speaker of ours) had to say about his own struggle with this. He explained that as a First Nations Christian, he often feels as though one foot is in his Christian faith but the other foot is in his Native culture, and he often finds himself questioning and bouncing feet back and forth.

We found the First Nations’ ideas of communication interesting for many reasons. Whereas our culture thrives on good eye contact, clear speech, firm hand shakes, etc., their culture shows respect by not making eye contact, speaking little and softly, silence is a good thing. They hold much value on the content of a first impression rather than in the presentation of oneself. It’s really cool to learn of their values, and how we could possibly adapt them into our own lives or at least challenge the values we hold.

When it comes to the First Nations land issues, I have only ever known what other people told me. That we’ve stolen their land, and they hate us and just want their land back and are stealing our tax money. But hearing people share their own personal struggle with land issues opened my eyes and reminded me of how na├»ve I am. It also gave me a stronger level of appreciation and sympathy for the struggles of the First Nations people. I learned that they believe that they belong to the land – not that the land belonged to them – but now because of our force they must adopt this policy. I am beginning to understand this as a vicious cycle that they are caught in

On the second night we joined six First Nations elders for a healing/sharing circle. A healing/sharing circle is a time for people to share what’s on their hearts, what they feel the Creator wishes them to share. It’s almost impossible to find words to explain what went on that night. These elders had some great wisdom that they were happy to share with us. Some of it raised a few eyebrows as it clashed with some of our Christian beliefs, but amidst this we were able to have open hearts, examine their words and almost surprisingly we found that God was able to use them to speak powerful words to each one of us.

Our week continued on as we visited the Charlie Longhouse where a man, Kelsey Charlie, who had just hosted a funeral the day before and wasn’t expecting us at all, welcomed us into his home with open arms. As he started up the fire, hoping to warm his home for his guests, he shared with great excitement of his family’s history, the traditions they had, and the stories that are the foundation of their territory as the Chehalis tribe.

To end the week we had the opportunity to join the Chehalis community in celebrating the Stahlo New Year. It was an incredible time to see all that we had learned about their culture and beliefs in action. The celebration started with lunch where we had the opportunity to taste some salmon, which is one of the most traditional things we could have eaten. After the meal we watched and heard many dances and songs that celebrated a culture that has for so long been oppressed. It was beautiful to see small children of this new generation proudly living the culture that had been robbed from their parents. No textbook can give a student the education that these experiences gave us. Near the end of the celebration the children ran to our group and gave us gifts of fruit, artwork and peach jam that they had prepared for us and I think I can safely say that we all felt such a sense of honour to be shown such love, generosity and hospitality.

Throughout this week, stereotypes were constantly being challenged. It’s really sad to say this and I actually feel quite ashamed of this, but prior to this week when thinking of the First Nations people the pictures that came to mind were pictures of drunks on the street and run down reserves. This week, I was able to get to know people, hear stories of struggle and triumph over addictions, to encounter one of the healthiest communities I’ve seen, to see a beautiful people group display their culture proudly.

Our good friend Tim, who helped co-ordinate this week for us, shared with us that the opportunities that we encountered this week were one of a kind. He told us that we followed through with many missionaries’ broken promises to participate and learn from this culture. It is my hope that our experience helped to bring restoration by paying respect to this beautiful culture that many are quick to reject.

By: Ben Pavey

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I am on a houseboat!!!

This post is written about what we did from October 9th-12th

“I am on a houseboat. I am on a houseboat. No really, I am on a houseboat here people! Like really, who does this?! This is amazing!!!”

It would be utterly useless to try and count how many times this thought ran through my head during the week! As our group launched from the beautiful harbor in Sicamous, our excitement rose when we began to realize just how awesome our time on Suite Dreams (the girls boat) and Summer Reflection (the guys boat) was going to be. Sure there were definitely some tight quarters and interesting sleeping arrangements to be discovered but I mean, really…it’s not like we have much of a personal space bubble anymore.

No sooner had we set sail, when we come face to face with the incredible beauty of the Shushwaps. While we floated along the water it was easy to feel small since our surroundings consisted of nothing but sky and the mountains towering over us. Like most days that week, the air was crisp and the clouds hovered extremely low.

Our week entailed one memorable moment after another. Dance parties on the top deck, hot tubbing on the mid deck, movies, chess and card games on the main deck. A few of us were even crazy enough to jump into the lake off of the back of the houseboats. And I do mean crazy because a) it’s freezing cold water in October, and b) these were some of the words of encouragement “Don’t worry Mei-Lin, you’re totally safe. Just be sure to jump far enough so you clear the boat. Oh and don’t hit that rope down there either cause that would hurt. You’re good Mei-Lin. Do it.” And while some perfected the art of skipping rocks, others simply perfected the art of making more room in their suitcase to bring home the beautiful rocks that they had found. Yes, I was most definitely one of those – my bag is bursting because of this new found addiction. But what can I say – rocks are pretty. Each shore we beached on had a very different feeling; smooth, jagged, round, rectangular, sparkly. One couldn’t help but fall in love. Ok. I couldn’t help but fall in love.

This week wasn’t without some really thought-provoking moments as we spent time working through a “Knowing Yourself” module led by our site leaders. Each session focused on something different. Jodie kicked it off by taking us through a really awesome activity called Zoom where we were each given a different picture & told to make up a story about what we thought was going on in it. The person with the first picture started – and from there we went to the next – and soon enough we began to see how every picture was linked & as we saw more pictures we got a grander view of what was actually going on. Jodie challenged us to think about perspectives and how it shapes us and our community. It was an awesome reminder that everyone can see things differently and often times we need to stand back and zoom out on a situation; while other times we need to recognize the possibility to zoom in for more detail.

Another really encouraging time was when Anita talked with us about gifts and abilities. She gave us three questions to think about before discussing them among the circle. They consisted of: what am I good at? what gives me energy? and what have other people affirmed me in? For some people it was rather easy to come up with something, others had difficulty really pin pointing anything. This got me thinking about how we so often dwell on the bad things about ourselves or the things that we don’t think we can do. It was awesome to learn more about the people around us and with a simple smile or nod – be able to kind of affirm them in it. Along with this discussion, Anita also had us think of ways in which we can bring our gifts and abilities together and use them within our Outtatown community for the coming months. Born were a vast array of useful teams for people to be a part of, but of course, Team-Ridiculously Good-Looking was all of South Africa Site 2.

For one of our other sessions, Sabrina introduced us to an activity that I don’t think any of us really saw coming - an afternoon of silence. She opened with a scripture reading (John 15:1-17). And we talked for awhile about why is it important to remain in God, what are some ways to do so, and how can taking some time to be still and silent before God affect us. I’ve come to think that silence is not always an easy thing for our generation to find. There’s cell phones and t.v. and iPods. Things to do and people to see. Sabrina said something that really stuck out to me about how we have so much in a day and how it feels as though we always have to fill it with something. Perhaps it’s not that silence is hard to find, maybe it’s simply that some of us are not quite comfortable with it yet. There were a lot of stretching moments that afternoon as some hiked to the waterfalls, walked along the shore, and/or found different places to sit and be still. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that the quiet time to be on our own was more than welcomed. As everyone gathered back together at the boat I could sense people feeling refreshed and excited to share their stories about what they had just experienced! It felt good to be wrapped up in this positive vibe and finish the day with an awesome night of worship led by Simon & the crew!

And so with that and much more, this week was once again full of incredible places and experiences! How blessed are we to be able to go through such things and be with such wonderful people. This week it was on a houseboat. Next week it will be in Mission. Until then…

By: Mei-Lin Ing

The houseboat cruising through the waters

Simon steering the boat

Mei-Lin enjoying the view

Corey adding to the beauty of the moment

James setting the stakes

Sarah, Sabrina and Carrie setting the stakes

Stretching our legs and exploring the beach

Marla looking at the rocks

A great game of beach bocce

Jumping into the water

James going off the water slide

Meal time on the boat...it was tight

Playing cards

Amanda, Carrie and Sarah taking in the beauty

It's been too long

Hello family, friends and anyone else reading this blog. Sorry that it's been so long since anything has been posted on here, both time and internet access have been scarce. Luckily we're going to be a bit more settled for the next three weeks, so the posts should be coming now. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement.

Sabrina Wiens