“If you make a decision, make it good for the seventh generation from now.”
That was the message Adrian Jacobs, a Six Nations Cayuga member, shared with his Ancaster, Ontario audience on November 10.
Understanding that we are individually part of a larger story can meaningfully shape our worldview. As Christians, we belong to a story that is authored by God, issued by his unwavering grace and mercy and featuring particular mandates for his created beings.
This message resounded at Act Five’s first storytelling event, “Place, Home, and Land: An Evening of Storytelling,” hosted by Redeemer University at Meadowlands Christian Reformed Church (CRC).
The evening featured Adrian Jacobs as well as the tragic story of Jaqueline Hayworth, followed by passionate writers John Terpstra, Daniel Coleman and Dr. Ricardo Marroquin. Each of these speakers uniquely contributed to the profound idea that we are part of something greater.
Adrian Jacobs primarily reflected on his heritage as a Six Nations Cayuga member, which impacted his culture and family life. He spoke about living in harmony with others, most notably the Dutch, who have a history of both friendship and tension with Indigenous people. According to Jacobs, restoring this relationship to its original harmony requires respect and continual dialogue: “If you are fully respected, you can relax. Peace comes from respect. If we have a relationship like this, we can have a strong relationship.”
The event then transitioned into a reading of Jacqueline Hayworth’s personal memoir. Hayworth is one of more than 1,000 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls over the past 30 years, according to the RCMP’s 2014 report. Excerpts from her memoir were read by Hearts Exchanged graduate Susan McCarthy. Hearts Exchanged is a learning program developed by the CRC to build relationships between Reformed Christians and Indigenous people as fellow image bearers of God.
When considering Jacqueline’s sorrow-filled story, one must truly believe her life was part of a larger purpose that we can not understand but is ultimately part of God’s divine plan. At the same time, it’s important to raise awareness about violence against Indigenous women and find ways to prevent such tragedies.
Dr. Ricardo Marroquin, a Peruvian refugee, told of his family’s journey to Canada and how God intervened in their lives. “[My family] had plans to go to the United States, but God had a different plan.”
Marroquin relates to many immigrant students he teaches. He feels called to share God’s work and plans with them. “I like to inspire people to see the opportunity to share God’s story in their lives. I want to show them the love that our Father has given us and the mercy and grace that comes along with that.”
A creek and a pine tree
John Terpstra and Daniel Coleman focused on the land in which we find ourselves. Having lived in Hamilton for much of their lives, they know it well and feel connected to it.
Terpstra shared that understanding where you are connected to God’s larger story. “The one thing about living in the city is that you feel like you are separated from nature. You are not.”
Nature reveals God’s grace and mercy. This is evident in Chedoke Creek, which has been driven underground and mixed with Hamilton’s sewage lines, and in the rare white pine near Coleman’s house, which has been partially cut down to accommodate power lines.
“The [Chedoke Creek] is brave,” Terpstra said. “All these years it’s kept running. Through all this abuse that’s been piled on it and all this degeneration that it’s gone through. There’s something about that that gives me hope.”
Coleman compared the story of the pine to God’s sacrificial love. “The broken pine has been abused and disrespected, yet it is giving the oxygen it can and sequestering the carbon that we need to be absorbed. That’s a huge generosity, kindness, grace and mercy.”
The speaker’s stories helped make place, home and land more significant. We may rarely think about what these three words mean to us. They involve how we treat others and what we understand home to be. They help us remember that God’s redeeming grace is everywhere in nature. We must not forget that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves.
And just as the story did not begin with us, it does not end with us. We have a responsibility to recognize this and share it with the world. So do not just listen. Go and tell your stories.
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