Winnipeg-the-Warrior

Motorhome Meandering #7:

Battle scars linger.  Mabel got the go-ahead from professionals after our propane scare.  So we know that she is, once again, the safe haven she has come to be for our family-on-the-road.  We know this technically speaking.  The reasoning centres of our brains have this assurance.

However.

Each time something smells "off," Jer and I look at each other with varying degrees of alarm.  Uncertainty simmers.  Doubt slithers in.  And questions surface:  What is that smell?  Does it seem normal to you?  Could that be...?  Do we need to...?

The deeper, emotional and elemental parts of our brain are triggered by each unfamiliar smell.  And it requires us to breathe deeply, to pause and to rationally assess the situation together.  

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Winnipeg is a Warrior. 

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There is a grittiness, a weariness, a deep pain and an unwavering resilience to this city.  Jer and I had the privilege of visiting the Indigenous Family Centre, the local mission that Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Winnipeg chose to support for their part of the I Am Not My Own Tour.  The IFC was started by a Christian Reformed Dutchman 47 years ago as a safe haven for Indigenous and Non-indigenous peoples to come together in solidarity, to share faiths and deepen understanding between these two cultures.  Nathalie Vander Zaag, the Children and Families Program Coordinator at the Indigenous Family Centre, gave us and Ben Verkerk, the brand-new pastor at Covenant CRC, a tour of the Centre.  She talked about some of the programming and the work being done today to heal some of the scars that linger due to the pain inflicted by white Westerners on Canada's Indigenous peoples.  "We actively work towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples by creating opportunities for people to come together in understanding" (www.ifcentre.com).  There is so much genuine grassroots work being done to rebuild and reconnect, to heighten awareness and deepen conversation.  And more needs to be done.

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Jer and I left our visit to the Centre with simultaneous feelings of deep rage and immense gratitude.  Rage at the incredible havoc wreaked by white Westerners whose inexplicable arrogance and unending entitlement shredded a beautiful coherent culture so deeply that the wounds continue to fester and the painful memories of the untruths introduced then continue to be triggered by the whiff of yet another assumption made, another judgement passed, another instance of ignorance reigning unquestioned and unchecked.

We were wrong.  We wronged.  Our guilt is real.  And we don't need to run away from this reality.  We don't need to hide from it.  We need to face it, to name it, to repent of it and to make restitution for it.  I confess I am somewhat anxious as I pen this blog.  I so desperately do not want to offend.  Anyone.  I am far too aware of my limited viewpoint and narrow experiences as a white, middle-aged, middle-class Protestant female.  And so I fear that I will say something that is ignorant at best, offensive at midling and damaging at worst.  Far too often fear wins out.  It shuts us up.  It closes doors.  It leaves unclean wounds to fester and to remain unhealed.  It allows memories and scents to trigger--and traumatize--again and again and again.

But perfect Love casts out fear.  And grace covers over a multitude of sins.  Even mine as I sit here in Mabel, seeking to honour so much and so many in such a limited way. 

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And, thus, gratitude.  Gratitude that over four decades ago a man--sinful and limited in his perspective himself--saw the need for such a place and what is now known as the Indigenous Family Centre was started.  Gratitude that it still exists today and is doing its part to build God's Kingdom here at this time and in this way.  Gratitude for Nathalie and the others serving and leading there, for their vision and efforts and wisdom and frailties and strengths.  Gratitude that where two or three are gathered in His name, the Lord is moved, and so moves.  

For while sheer ignorance lies on one extreme on the continuum of awareness-of-pain-and-not-as-it-should-be-ness in this world, on the other extreme is an uber-awareness that paralyzes.   When we look at all that is wrong in the world, at all the realities that require intervention--and the resources of time and money and people power that makes such intervention possible--it is easy to be overwhelmed.  Often to the point that we feel as though nothing can truly ever be done and so we therefore do nothing. We feel deeply, then we shut off and go on our way without doing anything to affect change. And that is another kind of ignorance.  Ignorance not of thought but of behaviour.  And it is also damaging and we must fight against this.

And, so, Jer and I left the IFC full of gratitude for an example of the change that can happen when we allow ourselves to face painful truths about what is not right and then take steps to allow God to help us be channels of His Peace.

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We were similarly affected after our visit to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  45% of the funds raised through this I Am Not My Own tour are earmarked for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank's work via World Renew in Nigeria (https://foodgrainsbank.ca).  And so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the National Headquarters of this organization, housed right here in Winnipeg.  It was an eye-opening and inspiring visit!  We left there at the close of our time, again with a heightened awareness of all that is not right in this world combined with a deep gratitude for yet another example of an organization that is doing its part to do justice in a fallen, damaged world that yet belongs to God.

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We want to take this time to thank Nathalie and Jim and Shaylyne and James and all the other Staff Members at both IFC and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for hosting us and for taking the time to talk about your organizations and to learn about our mission through the I Am Not My Own Tour as well.  We thank God for you all and wish you His guidance and provision and peace as you continue to fulfill your mandates.

We would also like to thank the congregations of Covenant CRC and Transcona CRC for their warm welcome and support.  Special thanks to Amanda Matthews at Covenant CRC for being the point-person for both Saturday night's concert and Sunday morning's worship service. Over 300 more voices were recorded and over $4500 was raised here in Winnipeg. Thank you so very much!

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And on a very personal level, I want to thank my very dear friend, Tammy Lee Dibbits, who hails from Brampton, ON , where she is a teacher and coach at Toronto District Christian High School.  We have been friends for nearly three decades, after meeting as Freshmen at Redeemer University College at the tender age of 17 when we found ourselves porch-mates.  She is a teacher and thus has summers free...and she freely decided to spend part of this summer visiting and supporting us!  She flew out to Winnipeg and stayed in the basement of the place we were renting for the week...and she shared life with us.  And blessed us all HUGELY.  Which leads me to this week's...

Quote-to-Note:  

Me:          Isn't Aunt Tammy just...(I fumble for a word to encompass all that Tammy is and means)

Isaiah:     AWESOME!

Kiara:       Yeah, isn't she your real sister?

Me:            Yup, that about says it all.  

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These Are a Few of Our Favourite Things...About Winnipeg

Jer:             Being able to see ministry happen at Indigenous Family Centre.  Excited at the peaceful place created and inspired by the art.  I saw Jesus here and felt the presence of our Creator. 

Isaiah:        The Children's Museum.

Kiara:         When we went to the pool with Aunt Tammy.

Lara:          Being housemates with Tammy again and being fed and blessed by her presence for a few days.  And meeting up with my sweet-soul-stepsister, Beth Prysnuk, in Kenora and again in Winnipeg.  And watching my kids just flourish under the loving attention of both of  these "aunts."  God is good and I am so grateful, ladies. Thank you and may God bless and keep you both.

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"Thankfulness is built on a substance of trust.  When thankful words stick in your throat, you need to check up on your foundation of trust.  When thankfulness flows freely from your heart and lips, let your gratitude draw you closer to Me.  I want you to learn the art of giving thanks in all circumstances.  See how many times you can thank Me daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings. It will also cushion the impact of trials when they come against you.  Practise My Presence by practicing the discipline of thankfulness."  

From Jesus Calling, Sara Young.

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Signing the I Care

cards that will be sent to Parliament at CFGB.  We'll be bringing these along to concerts now...

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Saying good-bye to Aunt Tammy who came to be with us in Winnipeg!

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Knights-in-training at The Children's Museum.