Greetings, friends and family! We hope you’ve been doing well, and we thank you for your prayers for our group! It truly is an incredible thing to live in such a close-knit community and it’s hard to believe that we met each other only a few weeks ago. Together we have experienced adventures that I will remember all my life, and have shared many laughs around meals and campfires.
This past week we began our first academic classes, and we were excited to welcome our guest teacher Jodie Smith. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of these lessons when my site leaders first mentioned that we would begin them this week; a lot of our previous time had been spent doing team-building activities and hanging out with one another, and all of us knew that this was going to be a change from our usual routine. However, as class was in session I found myself fascinated by what Jodie had to say. Not only did we talk about the Old Testament stories, but one afternoon she led us into a discussion about lies we may believe about ourselves and the world around us. Deep conversations were had, tears were shed, and hugs were shared. We were vulnerable with each other and we definitely bonded through our openness and by comforting one another. It was incredible.
Another highlight this week was that, along with the South Africa site, we were able to participate in the Blanket Exercise! After a hearty breakfast and a swift drive from Camp Assiniboia, we arrived at a small church in Winnipeg’s North End. Before we began, many of us who hadn’t participated in the Blanket Exercise before weren’t sure what to expect. However, I’m confident that every single one of us left with new perspectives and passions. We began the activity by listening to Katherine, an Anishinabe woman, introduce to us a few of her people’s traditions. As we sat in a circle, we took part in a smudging ritual and it was really beautiful. Passing around a small bowl of dried sage, we used it to ‘smudge’ ourselves by asking God to bless every part of ourselves. We then began the main activity.
Many beautiful, vibrant blankets were spread on the floor, and we were told that they represented our country. We were all instructed to walk among each other on these blankets, to represent the Aboriginal peoples on their homeland. Filled with excitement, we weaved around one another, full of laughter and greetings as we shook hands and reunited with the students from the South Africa site. However, as the activity proceeded, we were instructed to fold our blankets smaller and smaller, and many of us were instructed to leave the ‘land’ as our numbers dwindled. Very quickly the atmosphere in the room turned from one of excitement to somber as we reflected on the injustices the Indigenous peoples of our country have faced over the course of history and are still facing today. It was very powerful to be a part of this visual experience that represents how unjustly the Indigenous peoples have been treated, and it definitely stirred every one of our hearts. As I looked around the circle at the faces that have become so familiar to me over these past few weeks I began to realize that we can’t change what has happened in the past, but we do have the power to shape the course of the future. It is up to all of us to inspire the change we wish to see in the world.
We will be spending the upcoming days at Roseau River Bible Camp and visiting Roseau River First Nation! Thanks again for your prayers and support as we continue adventuring together!