“Call me Indian,” he said to me with a wry smile on his face. His grey locks twisting into braids crowned his head with honor and respect. “Indian?” I asked, puzzled, knowing the derogatory nature of that word. “Yes, my name is Indian.” he answered. With a flushed face and a shaky voice I mumbled, “Uh, OK. Hi, Indian.” I stood there awkwardly, knowing everyone else was in on the joke, watching to see what I would do next. So I put my hand out and shook his, waiting for the moment this uncomfortable interaction would be over.
The table was scattered with games, Bananagrams® and Russian snacks. People sat on the couch reading Russian children’s books, exchanging phrases across linguistic borders. The carpeted floor was pleasantly crowded with children’s games. And with growing laughter and expansion in understanding, the barriers began to crumble.
It is easy to be paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy or by the fear of having one’s pride shattered. It reminds me of when God called Moses to be His messenger and the ensuing objections Moses raised because of his own lack of eloquence. Moses’ fear was conquered by God’s reassurance and reminder that He would go before him. In the same way, we need to let go of our inhibitions so that God can continue His work through us as His instruments.
A head popped in the door, “Hey, we made you guys some food, can we come in?” People and plates began to fill our kitchen as we were blessed with a homemade traditional First Nations dinner. Not only did our new friends let us into their lives, they also brought a piece of their culture.
Not every occasion was that upbeat. Many times on the reserve I would be left confused and frustrated. Someone would say, “I’ll be over at 7-ish,” and at 10 would be pulling up our driveway. Or another would say, “Come over anytime, I’ll be there all day,” and upon arrival we would find the house empty. Were we not wanted? Did we miss some cultural hint, gesture or remark? These were questions we had to think through as we attempted to build relationships.
Entering into another culture isn’t easy. There were many times on the reserve when I knew I didn’t belong. No matter how many people we got to know, how many houses we were invited into, or how many meals we shared together, I was aware I was an outsider. Who am I to come onto this reserve? Why should they befriend me when I will be gone in a matter of weeks? If it weren’t for the gospel and the hope that it brings, I wouldn’t even try. But God loves his children and we lived on this particular reserve to encourage our First Nations brothers and sisters who were following Jesus and to share His hope and love with those who don’t yet know Him.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” - Revelation 7:9-10, ESV