Wednesday, 18 January 2017 23:56

TCCC Saddle Lake Short-term Mission Trip Reflection

Written by  Rev. Edmund Wu
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From May 7-17, 2016, a 13-member team from TCCC visited the Saddle Lake Cree Reserve through SIM with the goal of participating in a ‘ministry of presence’ among the residents there. Saddle Lake Reserve is located about 180km NE of Edmonton. With an on-reserve population of approximately 6500 Saddle Lakers, this community has faced its fair share of heartache and death over the recent years. It was indeed God’s orchestration that our team was able to be there as a Christian presence on the reserve. Unlike other more structured, more task-oriented STM trips, this ministry of presence trip consisted of (1) living among the people, (2) learning about the Cree culture, (3) listening to their stories and (4) praying together with them for their needs.

(1) Living among the People
Our team was the first group that our missionary host arranged to stay in various homes of Cree Saddle Lake residents on the reserve. Other previous options included staying in a motel about 20km outside the reserve, and the youth centre or the healing centre on the reserve. By far, staying in people’s home was the best option considering the purpose of the trip. Our team was divided among 4 different homes. We were well received by the locals as they appreciated our willingness to be among them. By no means were the living conditions up to hotel style accommodations. My family stayed in the cold basement in a house. But at least there weren’t any pets and animals crawling over us at night – as was experienced by one of the other groups. As guests in their home, we needed to weary of not wasting water and electricity as we so often take for granted in our own homes.

(2) Learning about the Cree Culture
As someone who knew next to nothing about the Cree culture, the time spent at the Saddle Lake reserve was an excellent opportunity to learn first-hand about their culture, beliefs and customs. By attending a pow-wow, a pipe-ceremony, sitting in on a high school Cree language class, and participating in many other Cree activities, I learned a lot about the Cree.

(3) Listening to their Stories
The highlight of the trip was sitting down and listening to their personal stories. The local people that we encountered were very willing to share their stories with us. Story-telling happened at people’s homes over a meal, on the street, at the youth centre, ….everywhere. Their personal and collective experiences in the Residential Schools – the psychological, physical and sexual abuse experienced at the hands of the Church for many decades were fresh on their minds and a common theme of their sharings. Another common theme was death and suicide. It seemed like that each person had experienced multiple episodes of death in their family or amongst their peer group. Even during our trip, we were notified that a youth who we had met two days earlier had tried to commit suicide by drug overdose. Saddle Lake reserve was a place that could be described as a place of hopelessness, boredom, and struggle. There was unemployment, drugs, gangs, and broken families. This was the story of Saddle Lake.

(4) Praying for their Needs
Even though their historical experience with the Church was negative due to the Residential Schools and the people of Saddle Lake stilled harbored much resentment against the Church, there were still many occasions where the local people appreciated our prayers for them and with them. It was a privilege to spend time in prayer with them.

I thank God for the opportunity to be a part of the TCCC Saddle Lake Short term mission team. I believe that there was great worth in our visit as we partnered with the local missionary who lives in Saddle Lake. Our ministry of presence provided the salt and light of Jesus at Saddle Lake for a short period of time. Lord willing, another TCCC team will be going back to Saddle Lake next year.

(Rev. Edmund Wu is an English pastor of TCCC)

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:30
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