Kwe’ Pjilasi! Ni’n teluisi Crystal. Tleyawi Ktaqmkuk pasna wiki Winnipeg. (Hi, welcome! My name is Crystal. I am from Newfoundland but I am currently living in Winnipeg.)
For a while now, I have been on a journey to learn parts of my culture that were lost. My paternal ancestors travelled from Europe and settled in Newfoundland. My maternal family have mixed European and Mi’kmaq ancestors. As a young girl I learned much more about my European/ Newfoundland identity and recall only brief moments when my mom or grandmother would speak about being Mi’kmaq. I hold those moments close, for they are memories that encourage me to listen and learn.
My story of reconnecting and learning is a long journey. There are times I have tried to run and been slowed to a walk. There are moments of frustration, tears, confusion, thankfulness and joy. Each step has taken me to places I have never really anticipated and yet in the place I needed to be. I continue to try and walk gently so I can hear Creator speak into my identity and allow Creator’s Son to restore balance and harmony back into my life. And I am realizing that my growth is connected to community. Who am I learning from? Where am I finding space to process and heal?
I remember hearing an auntie say that community is healing. And my story is proof. I have found connection to other Indigenous followers of Jesus in both my denomination and within NAIITS, an Indigenous learning community. I am learning Mi’kmaw language and ceremony with others from my community. Whether we are meeting in a virtual room or as we gather in person, I realize that this is healing work. It is difficult work—but that does not negate the fact that we have made space for each other to laugh, cry, learn, grow and heal. We hold our stories with great care and respect. I am grateful for my community—how they have held my story with grace and patience.
Reconciliation is a beautiful journey… and it is messy. It is complicated and sometimes we unintentionally misstep, but these missteps should not keep us from seeking truth and working towards right relations because that fear will keep us from meaningful moments.
As followers of Jesus, we are called into the ministry of reconciliation. In the Gospels we consistently see Jesus restoring balance to a broken world. Whether he is speaking against oppressive societal norms, addressing the critical questions of equality or dignity or engaged in actions of justice and prayer—Jesus was a radical reconciler.
He created real relationships with people. He ate meals with them, laughed with them, and he lifted their voices. He created communities of healing in the middle of an oppressive society. Because he knew their story, he knew the ways they were dehumanized in society and how their identity had been demeaned by the oppressor. And in his resistance, he gave it all—his body, his energy—and his life.
As followers of a crucified and resurrected Jesus what does a ministry of reconciliation look like?
I currently work with The Salvation Army as the Associate Territorial Indigenous Ministries Consultant. In this role, I help create spaces where we can be in community and learn. Learn about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Learn about the systemic injustices happening to Indigenous Nations in this land now known as Canada. Learn about the way Jesus was misrepresented and the Gospel was manipulated by power and political gain. My hope is that it’s an opportunity to create real relationships with each other—where we can hear stories and hold them with care and respect, places where we can ask questions and sit in the tension. It’s not perfect—it’s often messy—it’s community, trying our best to be as Jesus intended.
Reconciliation is not a race-
it is not a checklist
it is not a competition.
It is sitting together and talking over tea.
It is hearing the stories of Residential School Survivors and their families.
It is engaging with the TRC Calls to Action.
It is attending Indigenous events.
It is learning about Jordan’s Principle.
It is supporting Indigenous Artists.
It is going to Powwow.
It is participating in a round dance.
Reconciliation is community.
Associate Territorial Indigenous Ministries Consultant
THQ Corps Mission Department
Divisional Indigenous Ministries Consultant