Deep Connections on Birch Island July 7, 2017
Deep Connections on Birch Island
For nearly two decades, families from Wheaton Bible Church have traveled to Ontario, Canada, to work with a community of First Nations people living on Birch Island. Over these eighteen years, deep connections have been forged as many WBC families and individuals returned to the community summer after summer.
"We always knew when you guys were coming," said a 20-year-old who has attended the yearly summer camp the GO Team hosts.
"It has always been the greatest part of our summer. And now that we are older, this is still the greatest part of our summer! We have a lot of fun, and pretty cool people always come to visit and hang out with us."
In a truly unique opportunity to hear from local leaders, the chief of the community addressed our entire team—fifty-six people, representing twenty WBC families. As we gathered in a beautiful setting overlooking Dreamers Rock, a sacred site for his people, Chief Shining Turtle shared with us his heart and thoughts on spirituality, relationships, worldview—and his dreams for the future of his people.
"Many people here are at a crossroads," the chief said. "They have decisions they need to make. They must move on and forgive."
Among Canada's First Nations people, it has been clear from our ever-deepening relationships that the Gospel is truly countercultural and is, therefore, resisted. Even so, we are observing how God is working in the hearts of those in the community.
We are now many years down the road in this partnership and in our relationships with the First Nations community in Canada—still disagreeing about spiritual matters and the power of God to transform lives. Yet we also find ourselves with a deep love for one another.
"We want you to know that for us, you are family and we love you," Chief Shining Turtle told us at the gathering. "Our children are uplifted and encouraged by you."
Hearing those words from the primary leader of the community (and a personal champion for Native spirituality) is just one indication of how God is working and moving in the hearts of the community. Even stronger evidence is seen in the lives of three young men in the community with whom we've built long-term relationships and who have agreed to a regular Bible study and prayer time throughout the fall. To our knowledge, this may be the first such decision from teenage men in the community in this decade or much longer.
The years of working and dreaming together about the future of the community have formed a special bond between the chief and longtime Canada GO Team leader Greg Froese. While Chief Shining Turtle may not yet embrace Greg's Christian faith, the chief was often heart to say that he and Greg share "the bond of brothers."
After eighteen years, Chief Shining Turtle sees value in our long-term relationships. He sees value in working toward watching his people become all that he hopes for them to be.
Please continue to pray that people in every corner of the world will realize the power of God and the beauty of His transforming work in all our lives. Pray with us, too, that some Christians will respond to the call to serve long-term in Canada among our friends on Birch Island.