Tim Cofield, my musician friend from Tennessee, called me this summer with an amazing question. I could hardly believe my ears. Something like this had never happened to me before. He told me that someone from Nashville had fifty new Fender guitars to give away and asked if I could help him find a home for them. Fifty new guitars! Unbelievable! I love guitars and I know the beauty they can bring into a life and so did Tim. He wanted to start gifting these guitars in Muskrat Dam, Ontario, which is Linda’s home Cree community.
The idea behind the guitars was to encourage young people to get involved with something inspiring and to bring hope to youth of isolated First Nations communities. There is a lot of pain, turmoil, depression and of course, suicide in so many of these places. Muskrat Dam is no exception. Music is a tool that can help change things. It is a healing tool for the mind and soul. In fact, that is Tim’s story and, in many ways, mine too. Through music and worship we can “push back the darkness and bring in the light and hope of God.”
Of course the organization Linda and I work with, “My People,” under “Indigenous Pathways,” is all about encouraging First Nations young people to embrace who they are, to learn about their own culture and even learn about their own cultural music. Yet, all across the north and in almost all the First Nations communities I have lived in or visited, young people also love the guitar. So many of them have such natural talent, And they learn quickly. But in these isolated places there are no guitar shops and many have little money to buy a guitar even if there was a shop close by.
This guitar story really started about seven years ago. Tim was with me in Muskrat Dam. He was there to do a concert. He inspired everyone with his music and guitar playing. Before he left, though, we came up with the idea to do a music and guitar workshop. We invited anyone who was interested in learning to play guitar to come down to the community hall. We focused on the youth and sure enough about seven or eight came. The problem was we didn’t have guitars. Somehow we ended up getting a few old beat-up guitars together, (plus our own). We then hosted a guitar clinic. We both remembered that one boy, in particular, took great interest that day and later went on to become a gifted guitar player and singer. We are in touch with that young man to this day.
Most of the kids at that time, however, were young boys around ten or eleven. Tim remembered this. So now, with new resources, we thought we should do it again. This time we could actually use brand new Fender guitars. On top of all that we could actually gift as many kids as possible with these beautiful guitars! What an inspiring opportunity! It was not easy getting this all arranged.
Then another wonderful thing happened. That very same week I Emergence, our partner ministry, was doing a Culture Camp in Mish (Mishkeegogamang), a more southern First Nations community. We were able to do a clinic there as well. Mish is just out side of Pickle Lake, Ontario and this is where my friend in ministry, Dan, happened to have his plane and was willing to fly some of us up from there. Another ministry plane flew me up, along with several guitars, from Beaver Lake, Ont. They, too, just happened to be going in Muskrat Dam’s direction. Wasaya airlines also flew up the rest of the guitars at no cost.
Muskrat Dam is very isolated, about 500 miles north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and so it was no easy task to make this happen. We did not, however, give all the guitars away on this trip. We are now going again this November the 14th, 2017. The chief from Muskrat Dam, Stan Beardy, would like for the donated guitars to go to the school in order to help set up a music program. This is really another story in itself. I’ll do my best to help make this happen.
What a joy to see the faces of those who received guitars! It was not easy to decide how we would gift them. Those who came to our guitar clinics were either given one or had their names put into a draw to get a chance at receiving one of the Fender guitars.
Finally, our heartfelt thanks goes out to the TN Center for Civic Learning and Engagement This is the organization from Tennessee, along with the Fender Guitar Company, that was behind sponsoring these fifty guitars. This is all about inspiring music and to help bring more hope and aspirations to First Nations youth.
- Rick Martin
…because I know One woman who is transforming her family with love. She had the courage to come to Inenimowin Circle and share her story of being sexually abused by her father and spending much of her life addicted to drugs. But her story has changed and now she is walking with Her Creator through His Son, Jesus, and rebuilding trust with her relationships in her family. She is breaking old patterns and not taking “too late” for an answer.
I believe in the Power of Two…
…because two nights a week we sit in safe talking circles with men and women who are processing what it looks like to walk with Jesus in the trials of their everyday lives. They are trying to flesh-it-out so the Creator’s Written Word is reflected in them. They are being supported and learning to understanding the abundant life Jesus offers.
I believe in the Power of Three…
…because I know a young family who has been through much adversity including infertility, child neglect within extended family, custody battles and injustice. They’ve come through all this to be a truly beautiful family, refusing to give up and pouring life into one another and into others in the community.
I believe in the Power of Four…
…because my friend has four children and she is now relating to them in new and different ways. She has confessed her destructive methods of the past, has taken responsibility for her actions, is changing her ways.. She said to them, “I’m not perfect, but I’m changing and perhaps one day I’ll be your hero.” I have seen her respond in life-giving ways to her family. She is breaking the cycle of perpetual hurt, replacing it with unbreakable love.
I believe in the Power of Seven, Eight, Nine…
…because that’s the age of most of the girls in the GEMS group meeting monthly to help them understand their own identity, relationships with others, relationship with their Creator in Jesus, and relationship with creation. This is the perfect age for crazy laughter and fun as well as for building them up right before they’re making life-defining decisions.
I believe in the Power of Ten and more…
….because eight addictions counselors and their two directors came to the Telling the Real Story Workshop and heard the good news that Jesus loves them. The director later took significant staff time to have them share parts of their own stories with other staff in order to help them heal personally and be able to help their clients more effectively.
I believe in the Power of Multiplication…
…because each person invests in one or two others and so on. The impact is exponential.
But it all starts with the Power of One…
… one supporter reading one newsletter in just one moment with one prayer and one loving heart. Thank you!!
- Summer Graham, Browning, Montana
For European Settlers and Indigenous Hosts, finding a smooth path towards reconciliation through the tangled web of our mutual history can be a difficult process. Given our Settler legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery (see 2015 Sacred Circle: Bishop Mark MacDonald on the Doctrine of Discovery), the ongoing journey to deep understandings, re-thinking our assumed narratives, seeking justice and mercy and following the Jesus way is a challenge.
The latest Nestooaak in Eastern Ontario was a time of heavy reflection and tough questions. We began with the detailed recounting of Host-Settler relations from the early days to the present: The blanket exercise is a strong visual tool that literally walked us through the history of relationships between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people here in Canada.
That pesky Doctrine of Discovery, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action as well as the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples were teaching and discussion points, led by Samantha Bird, of Cree and European heritage. Issues like cultural appropriation, stereotypical views of the Natives and connecting in culturally sensitive ways made for interesting discussion sessions. One participant commented that “…conflict is good. It shows we have a long ways to go.”
Other highlights of the workshop involved the spirited Hoop Dance performed by Kenny Wallace of Afro-American and Native American heritage. Kenny is in process of doing his PhD in ethno-doxology, studying how different cultures praise and worship Creator. Mohawk Elder Mavis Etienne, of Oka/Kanehsatake conflict-resolution fame, blessed us with God’s Amazing Grace as she sang in Mohawk and reflected on healing and reconciliation. Rick Martin reflected on his and Linda’s lives together in ministry in the North and Linda’s remembrance of God’s promise to not abandon her as she faced a life-threatening situation as a young girl. We were all challenged to believe that people can overcome great hurt and change their perspective thanks to meeting Francine Lemay and hearing her story of reconciliation with the Mohawk people.* Francine’s husband Daniel Lacasse had led us in the Blanket Exercise the first evening. (*See Francine’s story: http://francinelemayenglish.weebly.com/my-story.html)
Finally, our thanks go to Wilma Tibben and the entire hosting team (and chief food provider Lis VandenBerg) at Community Christian Reformed Church, Brinston, Ontario. Much appreciated!
- Tim Stime