I thought I was late for the general meeting, but when I walked inside it was still going on so I sat down. Several hours passed with only a lunch break to separate the time. Each department of the band (tribe) got up and shared about what they were doing. The people who attended got to ask questions. The room at times would get heated, especially around issues like housing and mental health services. One lady shared through tears, “We need to stop spending all of our time doing paper work. People are hurting and then come and talk to me, but I can’t help them because I am hurting. We need people to come into our homes and listen.”
As the meeting came to an end, a friend of mine who is the band health director tapped me on the shoulder and said that she would try and get the microphone to introduce me. The idea made me feel uncomfortable, but she was determined. The last person was giving closing remarks when she grabbed the microphone.
“Ten months ago Jesi and Andy Chinn moved into our community to be missionaries.” she said. My heart sank a bit because that term often has a negative connotation in First Nation communities. “They are here to lift us up spiritually and desire to be someone you can talk to if you are hurting.”
When she finished she handed the microphone to me. “Thank you everyone for the hospitality and love you’ve shown us since moving here. I have served as a pastor and have done youth work for the last seven years and would like to offer myself and my wife to serve however we can.” I finished by saying a few more things to show respect and to honor the community. When I gave the microphone back the M.C. asked if I would close their meeting in prayer. I gladly accepted the offer.
Afterward, the chief approached me and told me that Jesi and I have her full support and that the band would be willing to back our ministry financially. I asked if Jesi and I could meet with her and talk further. She asked, “Are you free tomorrow morning?”
Our meeting with the chief was a rich blessing. She shared her life story and how Jesus has walked her through it. She has tasted both tragedy and transformation. It was amazing to hear her say, “Yes, I am chief but God is the true Chief; I am His helper.” She told us how just a couple years back one couldn’t talk about God at the general meetings and how it would not have been good for me to attend. But that has changed. God is doing something in this community. She asked us to write a budget proposal for youth programs and offered us the band hall for our Bible studies and youth activities.