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215 children.

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

I kept thinking, “How many families have been affected by this one school and these beloved little lives lost?”. My thinking became prayers, I lit and candle, and asked now what?

What do I do, in my place right now, in response to the 215 children’s remains found in the grounds of a former residential school[1] in Kamloops, BC.

What does it look like for me to work with the Spirit for reconciliation?

The following shows where those prayers took me. In no way is the right or only way, but I think it is helpful to gain a glimpse into someone else's prayer journey. What do we do when we are moved beyond Facebook and Instagram posts? How do I take my theology and my belief that all humans matter, that all are dearly loved by God, that all bear the image of the Divine, from belief to action? How do I walk this humbly, knowing that these stories are not those of my own?

As I was sitting and praying about these families lost I felt prompted to see where Jesus was in this situation. I used my imagination in prayer[2] to see where Jesus was with these images that I had seen on TV reports.

I closed my eyes, in prayer, and had the image of the school and school yard in my mind and asked Jesus to show me where He was. The first image I saw was Him weeping. He was kneeling on the green grass weeping. This caused me to respond similarly. To weep of those that were so dearly loved and wanted. We see Jesus weep when He went to His dear friend Lazarus' house. Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet had the very human response to loss and death, “He broke down and wept.”[3] I believe that if we do not allow ourselves to feel, we can not fully lament. I am by nature more of a thinker. I sometimes find emotions inconvenient. In this situation, I am being called to look beyond numbers and data, and to see the very image of God on these lost lives. Join in the weeping and lamenting.

I then saw Jesus wrapping each child up in blankets. In this my sense was of Him bringing dignity and honor to these little ones. As He wrapped them, I felt the words, “you are loved, and you are held.” My response was of thanks that the God I love holds each child individually. He knew the stories they had, the families they came from, and the futures that were cut short by injustice. His face was tender and gentle. This image stayed for a good while with me, while Jesus wrapped each child.

Then, I saw Jesus standing up and looking out. Facing me. His face was serious, and His body made me respond in action. I sensed Him a call for repentance. Repentance for times when I have not allowed myself to be moved by the stories of pain and suffering of those First Nations in my area. Repentance for the lack of understanding to generational trauma that these loved ones lived with as a result of the action of my government and those that profess to a Christian faith. Repentance for thinking I do not need to do anything more.

See, the Jesus I saw in my prayer is asking more of me. Maybe He is asking more of you too. As a person who wants to contribute to the work of reconciliation, as a person who desires to follow the footsteps of Jesus, my faith must be lived out - embodied. For me this looked like a few action items that came out of this time in prayer.

I committed to pray. Pray for these families that have been damaged that God would be close as they walk out the next steps into the unknown. In praying I am allowing my soul to be soften and formed as I remember the ongoing work of reconciliation. It is more the on orange shirt day – it is a daily joining with God in “on earth as it is in Heaven.”[4]

I wrote to my local government. I asked for accountability for what they have not done with the items they agreed to in the outcomes of the “Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action.”[5] I told them that reconciliation requires a greater degree of action and I as a Jesus follower is asking for them to do more to bring dignity and justice for these lives lost, and the generations that continue to suffer with this ongoing trauma.

The last thing that I am doing is committing to read. To read the stories of those who have lived this experience. A few years back I had the valuable experience of doing the blanket exercise[6] with Mennonite Central Committee at my local church. This had our church become one who is on the journey that many First Nations people in Canada have or had experienced. It allowed us a tiny glimpse into the emotions and heartbreak that it was during the time of the residential schools. I highly encourage anyone who can have an experience like this, but for me it brought the stories more personal.

By reading I hope to have a similar experience, by allowing stories to change me. It also allows me to help fund and give honor to those Indigenous authors doing the hard work of writing the stories of their families and elders. Theirs is sacred work.

This work is all on-going, and not meant in any way for me to be prescriptive. It hopefully shows I humbly walk this road alongside many of you, in fact I think I am trailing behind, but desiring to pick up the pace. God’s family requires this.

I am grateful to kind Jesus who continues to be about justice and shows us the ways to walk.

[1] [2] Imaginative prayer is a prayer practice first started by Ignatius of Loyola. [3] Mark 14:72 [4] Matthew 6:10 [5] [6]

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