We started the day off at Alice’s place with some breakfast, and then went to the Eagle Healing Lodge. The Healing Lodge facilitates different workshops, classes, as well as, counselling. So beautiful there!! Nice view of Saddle Lake 🙂
We attended a Parenting Workshop today and got to listen to different Saddle Lake elders share their stories and experiences. The Parenting Workshop is not a typical parenting workshop where they teach you how to parent kids. Instead, it was a passing of cultures and traditions from the elders to the younger generation.
The workshop commenced with everyone sitting in a circle (around 15-20 people) and each person smudging one at a time. We politely declined the smudge. Smudging is an act of ‘purifying’ or ‘cleansing’ the soul. It is paralleled to the blood of Christ. During a smudge, plant leaves (ex. sage) are placed in a container and ignited with a wooden match. The smoke is then inhaled and wafted by a person usually to their head and hands. The Cree people smudge very often usually 3-4 times a day.
After smudging, Eugene, one of the elders, led a song to invite the ‘spirits’. He used a drum, which is believed to invite a certain spirit. The singing of the songs is paralleled to worship for us.
I was very honoured to be able to listen to the kokums (‘grandma’ in Cree) and mosoms (‘grandpa’ in Cree) share their Cree culture. Despite having different beliefs, hearing their stories allowed us to understand better their joys and their hardships. It gave us a better understanding of where they are coming from and why they believe what they believe. From hearing from them, we realized that they don’t separate culture and religion. To most of the Cree people, it was one and the same. This then makes it hard for them to believe in the Gospel while still preserving their culture.
After the elders’ sharing, we went in a circle and shared what we thought or what we learned from the workshop. We thanked everyone for welcoming us into their circle and sharing their culture with us. We were surprised when one of the elders asked us to share our culture the next day for Day 2 of the Parenting Workshop. We really praise the Lord for the opportunity.
For dinner, Alice made wild duck (her son hunted the duck!) soup and bannock for us. Again, we’re really grateful for her hospitality.
We then attended the wake of one of the older natives who passed away from cancer. We listened to one of the elders preach and personally, I was saddened to hear about his beliefs and how he mixes Christianity with Native spirituality. He is called a syncretist. Syncretism is the combination of different forms of beliefs or practice. A lot of the natives are syncretists, which is very disheartening because the truth of the Gospel is so close within their grasps already (so close yet so far 😦 ).
We played basketball with Phil (long-term missionary at Saddle Lake) and the youth at the youth centre after the wake. After basketball, we also got the chance to sit down and have a time of sharing with Phil. We talked about our own cultures and how we can best present our cultures to the Parenting Workshop the next day. Phil talked about the struggles of the Cree people and where they are coming from. Personally, I felt unqualified to be sharing the Filipino-Chinese culture to the Saddle Lake elders. I didn’t really know what I should share but we lifted everything up to the Lord in prayer and trusted His leading for tomorrow.
Please pray that everything we share tomorrow will point back to Christ and that whatever we share will resonate with the elders and the young parents. Also, pray that God continue to work in the hearts of the syncretists. It is our prayer that they see the truth– Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life.