We didn't go to Mish to directly share our faith; we went to serve the community in any way we could. Our First Nations have a history with the Church that is painful, so we wanted to simply be there to help, to build relationships, and to represent our faith in action rather than words.
Paul has been making trips to that community for ten years. He has driven a truck there in winter with others, more than once; when the roads were being closed down around them, because there was winter clothing to deliver, as well as food and Christmas gifts for the children. In addition he has gone with different groups of people year after year in the summers.
What drives him is love for a group of people God gave him a special passion for. His faithfulness and consistency in that community has won acceptance for any people who come with him. Susan told me how different it was when she went for the first time, several years ago. She said that the children were the same, eager to participate in activities, but the adults ignored their presence.
On this, my first experience in Mish, I sensed quiet acceptance and trust. People who were Christians made themselves known to us and I was struck by the clear distinction between following the Lord, or not. In our secularized culture the lines can get blurred; not so in the north, at least not from my observation. A drug and mental health youth worker we spoke to said that there is a lot of spiritual warfare in the community and you can see that in a way that is not so obvious in the south. The small white historical Anglican church was burned to the ground not long ago, but Pastor Mervin said that God is dealing with the man that did it--a sign of hope. Paul has a vision to bring Pastor Mervin south to share his personal story of coming to faith; it is a story of someone who truly came from darkness into light.
Many families are damaged by alcoholism and drugs, and yet there is hope. I sat and listened to a woman who told me that after 28 years of abusive relationships and existing in an alcoholic haze to numb the pain; she made a change with the strength she found in faith in God, and has been living a life free of abuse and alcohol for many years. As she told me her story of guilt over a child whose death she blamed herself for, I saw someone who had suffered more than I can imagine, and was a victor. I was humbled in her gentle presence and thankful beyond words for faith in God who "makes all things new."
Marita, the custodian of the school, told me the names of her grandchildren, including Shekinah and Genesis. What beautiful and evocative names. Kendra, Marita's daughter, said that Genesis's first name is Bitubin, which is an Ojibway word for that first gleam of light along the horizon just as the sun is rising. Before his birth she had several dreams in a row of that gleam of light, and a boy standing there.
I pray that Bitubin will represent that gleam of light for his generation; a Genesis, a new beginning for the children of Mish
That morning, most of our group left to set up the activities for the children, and Joyce and I were to follow with lunch. We had just started preparing it when one of the custodial staff came to us with a request for prayer on behalf of another staff who was worried about her daughter, just hospitalized in much pain with a kidney infection. We found her, clutching a tissue and in tears of anxiety. We prayed with her, for peace and for healing and felt the stress lift a little at least. We were so happy a few days later to hear good news, that she was much better.
All we had to do was be available to God. He was using us.