Manage episode 374060982 series 3083900
The writer of Revelation talks about the new heaven and new earth. He compares it to the old order.
The old order consists of death, mourning, crying and pain. In the new order, tears are wiped away, and the things of the old are no longer. Sadly enough, we experienced so much of the old order during our mission trip this past week to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. Sioux Valley is a beautiful place in southwestern Manitoba. They are a beautiful people with beautiful hearts. But the legacy of colonialism, residential schools, and everything else is visible in the lives of the people of Sioux Valley today.
In Sioux Valley, every day seems to be like the old order of things. Everyday is a catastrophe waiting to happen. You never know what tragedy the next day will bring. There is a lot of pain. These days, there is a drug issue on the reserve. One evening we held a worship service at the local church building that's owned by the community. Some kids from the neighbourhood saw cars in the parking lot and were curious so they peeked in. Sarah went to talk to them and asked where their parents were. One girl said that her mom died so she was staying with her auntie, but she wasn't sure where she would be tomorrow. Another said her dad had died and she was staying with a grandma. And another girl with a similar story. They spoke matter of factly, as if it was a everyday occurrence. Prayer at Martha's house?
Any one of these things would shake us to the core, and we would need a lot of time to process just one of these. But for so many people there, these are everyday occurrences. How can you function in such a world?
We held a memorial service at the community cemetery. I looked around the cemetery. So many young deaths. Our norm these days is for people to live into their 80's at least. If they die during their 70's, there is a feeling that their lives were unfortunately cut short. But there, so many people die at a young age: adults in their thirties, twenties, teens, and even babies. There are so many health issues too. So many people there have diabetes
The legacy of residential schools and other colonial policies destroyed families, their cultures, their way of life and even their bodies in the form of poor health. But the most lasting legacy is the legacy of damaged hearts
A heart that is damaged cannot receive or give love properly. A damaged heart instead inflicts its damage onto others. It sees no hope or purpose
What is needed is healing of damaged hearts. So they can love again. The ingredient that the heart needs to heal is love.
Love Is All We Need
As we began the trip, we weren't sure how it was going to go. Would people be open to us? Would they welcome us? But then an interesting thing happened: some of the first kids to come were children of those who used to attend the camp at Sarah and Joon's old church. A lot of people who attended these camps as kids came to see them and say hi, and they brought their own kids. After all these years, they still remember the love they received at these camps. It seems like a small thing for us, but the love they received has remained in them. As the days went on, word spread about our presence there and more and more people came. Door to door: you guys are the Koreans from Toronto? Our meals were obviously the most popular thing – at one point we had one hundred people come to eat. Our kitchen crew had their hands full the entire trip, and I'm so thankful for them.
Jesus said the kingdom is heaven is like a mustard seed: it is the tiniest of seeds, but it grows into the greatest of shrubs where birds can build nests. Love is like a tiny seed. It is not visible when planted. But if it is nurtured and grown, it has the possibility of becoming a tree that bears fruit
Love is what we all need. The kids came like magnets. Over 50, 60, 70 kids and youth. They cleaved to our young leaders, for whom I'm also so grateful. They developed the same bonds with the kids that were formed with their parents and others many years ago. A lot of Sioux Valley people move to the nearby city of Brandon to find jobs and opportunities. It's about half hour away. But they drove to Sioux Valley and back each day bc they treasured this camp. It was hard saying goodbye on the last night – there were many tears shed. Everyone kept asking: will you guys come back again? I had to keep responding: I really hope so There are a group of women who are faithful believers. But there is no congregation in the community. Speaking with these women, their desire is for a pastor who can shepherd a congregation. A place for children and youth to learn the Word of God. To hear the message of Jesus' love. Safe place for love and the Word to flourish – counter to what they see on a daily basis. They lament that there is no such place for them
It made me realize the second thing that people need: the Word of God has the power to change hearts. Love heals the heart; the Word changes it. There needs to be a place where hearts can be changed by the Word. That's is what the church is.
What's on my heart is that they need a church and a pastor that can be with them day after day, week after week, whom we can support. It's not enough to just go there once a year. They need a space where love and the Word of God is present on a regular basis.
This will not be easy. Young people are not interested in hearing anything religious or spiritual.
There is also sense a resistance to Christianity among leaders of the community. I totally understand. Christians did so much damage, damage that remains to this day.
But I came to see one thing very clearly: the central importance of love. Only love will heal. Not the religion or form it takes. If love is not at the centre of a religion or practice, it will not heal, it will not bring about positive change. Jesus came to restore love at the center of life. We have lots of work to undo the legacy of what people did in Jesus' name that was opposite of who he was.
We held a special prayer service for the believers in the community. We sang hymns they knew growing up while Bob played piano. I shared Jesus' last commandment to his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. For some reason, they all knew each other but were not meeting up together. Followers of Jesus are called to love one another, to pray together, bear each other's burdens. I went around asking what they would like prayed for. We would pray for that person, and then I would pray out loud for them. It was a wonderful time of God's presence among us. It was the first time they had prayed together with others like that in a long time
Love remains. There was a couple named Jodi and Dawn. They were kids when Sarah and Joon's old church went. They ended up coming out every day even though there's no program for them. I could tell that they've been through a lot of difficulties. And yet I see seeds of hope because of love. She went around with a notebook asking everyone from our mission team to write in it and sign it. So we did. I wrote that God loves her no matter what and to always remember that. She wrote a letter to Jack.
Love is the seed of hope for a new world. There's a family that Sarah and Joon got especially close to during their years there. One of the girls was Hannah. She was extremely shy and reserved when she first met them. But over time, she grew close to them and looked forward to each summer. She went through many challenges, including addictions and thoughts of suicide. She died after a complication during a surgery a few years ago. We held a memorial service for her. Yesterday would have been her 30th birthday. She was taken too young. Their family was at the prayer service, and their prayer request was that they be able to get through yesterday. So many tears run through the people of this community
But love carries the seed of hope for a new future. Their sister Hillary gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter. She's 6 months old now. So precious. So beautiful. They named her Hannah, after her deceased sister. The old Hannah passed away, but there is hope for something different with the new Hannah. She was at the prayer service in her stroller with her family. We had everyone pray for her. I prayed that she may grow up embraced and surrounded by love. That the life of new Hannah would wipe away the tears left by the old Hannah. It was a powerful moment where we all lifted her up in prayer. The community carries much pain, but they are tight-knit and resilient
Love is the hope for a new future. It is the only thing that can wipe away the tears. The central ingredient in the new heaven and earth will be love
St. Paul said this about love:
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
My friends, life is difficult. But when there is love, there is always hope. Love overcomes all things. Love overcame death on the cross. When there is love, anything is possible. Let us pray for the people of Sioux Valley. Let us pray for love to heal our own hearts. Let us pray that God's will be done on earth in love