As winter sets in on the Blackfeet Reservation in northwest Montana I am reminded of the struggle and adversity it can often bring: the damaging winds, deep snow and absolute bitter cold. The reality is that just to live here requires a lot of steadfastness and resiliency. When you combine thirty-five inches of snowfall with negative 20 degrees followed by 50 mph winds to create zero visibility you are forced to look beyond yourself for help. In the midst of these harsh conditions I keep thinking of the passage in Matthew 24 where Jesus is talking to his disciples about the latter times and His emphasis on the need to “stand firm till the end.”
I think of the harsh challenges and struggles there are in walking with my Blackfeet brothers in Christ here. At times the obstacles so many men face can be quite overwhelming, leaving me feeling very small and inadequate. For the last couple weeks, I’ve been in conversation with a gentleman possibly suffering from mental illness due to drug abuse. I have found it so difficult to communicate with him that I’ve felt totally helpless and discouraged at times. Facing the blizzard of men’s hardships, I began to feel frustrated and tired of everything being so hard. But then the Lord reminds me of whom He is and that I am nothing without Him. Probably one of the most affective things I can do now is to simply remain, to “stand firm till the end,” to continue to make myself available so that who He is can be made known through whom I am. So I choose to remain in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the struggle, knowing that He is faithful and His love for all of us does not waiver with the adversities. “This Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24.14)
- Wes Graham
This past year has been full of many great opportunities for Linda and for me in counseling and in encouraging our First Nations sisters and brothers. The work has taken us to places like Beaver Lake Camp just outside Dryden Ontario, to Fairbanks Alaska, Browning Montana, Vancouver, BC and many other places.
But an experience that stands out to us at this time is about a young First Nations man from Manitoba who came to a conference where we were ministering. This young man Fred (not his real name) had been struggling with many addictions in his life. He just could not seem to gain victory over them, no freedom, just constant struggles. Fred’s long-term addiction had even assigned him some jail time.
Well, Linda happened to be one of the keynote speakers at this conference. In the course of her teaching Fred was moved like he had never been moved before. “Something happened to me when Linda was speaking”, he said. “I saw things and understood things about my past in a way that I have never understood them before.” Fred shared with me later, following the gathering, that while Linda was teaching “a light went on for me in a way like never before.” That’s when he began to reflect on his life in a new way. He was able to relate to Linda’s life story and saw then how he too could heal. His healing journey had taken huge steps forward. I now meet with him and walk with him as often as I’m able. It’s so encouraging to watch as Creator continues to bring healing and growth to this man.
The devastating impact of Residential Schools (Canada) and Boarding Schools (USA), has been front and center in the public view for many years now. The incredible pain and the effects from this era are still being felt throughout Indigenous communities across North America. Just prior to Christmas, Rick and Linda Martin (My People staff) and Jim and Jan Uttley (IP Communications) took part in an event that sought to bring healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation to former survivors of Residential Schools as well as Indigenous people presently experiencing childhood sexual abuse. Rick led worship and Linda was a workshop facilitator. As facilitator, Linda shared about the trauma factors affecting survivors—the effects of betrayal, shame, the sense of powerlessness, and traumatic sexual abuse.
“Survivors need to feel safe and be able to trust,” said Linda. “They need to feel that they are somewhat in control. We need to feel that we have value and then we can value others.” She encouraged those who attended to “tell and retell your story over and over again to a safe person.”
Women and men took part in separate sharing circles following three of the main sessions. “As a survivor of childhood abuse, these circles gave me and other survivors a chance to ‘unburden our souls’—some for the very first time,” stated Jim Uttley. “Raw emotion poured out as some Indigenous elders wept when recounting episodes of brutal abuse by school officials or family members.”
These sessions gave people a chance to deal with unresolved trauma—an experience that severely jars minds and emotions.
The worship band offered opening and closing concerts. “Music has a way of giving hope,” stated one survivor, “soothing hurting spirits, and encouraging us not to give up hope.”