I'm still attempting to piece together all the information and feelings I have on the conference. It was such an unbelievable experience.
On Friday, I headed over to TKPC at 3pm. I was a volunteer/usher, we were supposed to get there earlier to start helping out and setting up. The thing didn't start til 7pm though.
Sometime while we were in the foyer waiting for registrants, Jessie from Longlac came out -- one of the older youth that we befriended while in Longlac. She and her brother would come over to the church to eat with us. It was sad news when we asked about Eddie and she said that he didn't come because he was in jail.
Anyway, about the actual conference. Friday night's large group session featured the church's praise team, Richard Twiss (keynote speaker), and then worship time with Broken Walls. Richard Twiss is this huge tall guy, a native Sioux. He spoke about .......
During the worship time with Broken Walls, with the beat of the drums -- something, or someone came over me. I became intoxicated. It was the strangest feeling I've probably ever experienced, it was as if all of a sudden while singing along with Broken Walls, someone had injected 5 beers into me and I was drunk. I started to fidget and eventually dance along to the music. No really -- I danced. My face and my hands felt numb. It was very, very strange. I don't think I've ever felt that way, a total peace and tranquility -- which is strange because the music was pretty intense. The tribal beats they used on the big drum, it was like nothing I've ever heard before, it kind of put me into a trance.
I used to joke around about being "drunk with God's love". Never thought it'd actually happen to me! Anyway, that was the most memorable part of the night for me.
We got 3 seminar/workshop courses on Saturday. The first one I took was led by Judy Desmoulin, one of the people we worked with in Longlac. She came to speak about the sociology aspect of the First Nations people. She talked about their history and how everything happened, some of it was review from what we had heard last summer when Gilbert talked about his testimony.
I was devastated when I heard about what had happened at Longlac recently. The police had raided the reserve based on a case they had built on some kind of drug ring. They raided the reserve quite violent and forcefully, and arrested several people. They're currently being held and won't get out until the end of the month. The others on the reserve are terrified now, in fear that someone could break into their homes at any given time. And the children -- that's the saddest part -- witnessed their parents get taken away, and they're at home now with no one to take care of them. The thought of those kids all alone..sigh
Judy talked about other things, like the neglect of children. She said one time she was driving through town and saw a 2 year old girl standing outside her house in the rain. Her parents had thrown a party and were inside drinking and smoking. Judy said she took her into her car -- and kept her -- for the next 18 years. The child's parents never came looking for her.
It's all these kinds of sad and hopeless stories that really put a perspective on the conditions in Longlac.
Judy also talked about some other injustices that the natives have had to face. The Indian Act was set and limited indians from gaining the rights of adults. It forced them to go to school until 16, residental schools abused children and put them through hard labor. Children were literally taken from their homes to go to these schools. Indians were afraid to teach their kids their native languages in fear that their kids would face the same atrocities they had faced. Their long hair was cut. The schools took away their culture. Families were split up.
The second seminar I went to was on the legal context of the native plight. I slept for most of this particular seminar, not because it was boring but rather because it came immediately after lunch. The speaker was Jennifer Dalton, a student at York University to specialised in the study of the consitutional legal protections of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. She talked a lot about the Indian Act and about self-determination and self-governization (the lack thereof).
The third seminar was based on the theme "Where do we go from here?" The gist of this seminar was the partnering with other churches, to unify for further missions -- and most importantly mobilizing natives to join us to travel to other countries to serve God together. This is Pastor Joe's (TKPC) vision. I think it's a great radical way of thinking. We've been working so hard to serve them, but the idea of serving alongside them, that would be so incredible.
The key messages, I think, were about unity -- Radical community to diverse unity. He asked us to try to see the bible through an indian's eyes. That we need to perceive the message differently and to understand how to better communicate the gospel so that it could be more effective. He talked about the importance of affirmation and blessings, of connectiveness, community and belonging.
He talked about how Christianity is considered a "white man's" religion, which is why it is rejected by Indians. He talked about how we need to transform the gospel into a native context, and then he retold important stages of the bible in a native point of view.
Funny line -- he called white people "pigmentally challenged", that they were all "bleached out". I thought that was pretty funny.
The second wave of Broken Walls music was less satisfactory for me because I had a terrible stomach ache. Dinner did not agree with me -- we had chinese food. Which is just weird, to have chinese food at a Korean church. I bet I wouldn't have been sick if we had bulgogi! However, we did still dance, we joined hands for various songs and everyone was dancing together, it was truly a unifying experience.
I really enjoyed this conference and got a whole lot out of it. It was a harsh reminder of what we had already seen last summer. The harsh reality of it. But it was also an amazing feeling of worshipping together. And I got a chance to talk to some of the youth -- a demographic we never connected with last summer -- so that was cool. And I met so many amazing people, other missionaries, people who have been helping the Natives for years and years. So many passionate, loving people, who were totally excited about what God has/had been doing in their lives and in their ministries.