The truth is, I haven't really known what to write about in the past few months. The part of my life that I have wanted most to share with all of you I have not felt free to put up for public perusal yet.
But I do so now.
This is something I began writing some time ago, but found my words failing every time I tried to write about it. Even now it seems weak to truly describe my thoughts, but I offer it up anyhow as the best I can do:
It always shines brighter in the dark places.
White Swan, The Yakama Nation, Washington. Sixty-five degrees in early April. Overcast.
The landscape seems to reflect the lives of the people of this place in its starkness, its desolation. I look to the bare hills that horseshoe around this valley of scrub brush and stolen farmland and wonder at the sense of bringing the gospel here. History would say these people ought to slam doors on faces of anyone who brings the name of Jesus. Christianity has not been kind to Native America.
Sarah and I came here as an experiment. Somehow God led us here, we firmly believe, and He wants us to see the work being done, to see if perhaps we can become a part of it. Can we be ambassadors of reconciliation to a people who were betrayed by our forerunners? Can we begin to heal deep wounds as old as Columbus?
The wounds of Christendom against Native America are indeed great, and as a nation and a church we have largely forgotten they exist. They're often spoken about in the past tense, as if we assume the genocide unleashed against them succeeded, or perhaps we wish it had. They rest at the bottom in our country in school dropouts, in mortality rates, in alocholism and addiction rates, in poverty. They are a defeated people, whose lives and culture were stolen from them, and they still stagger from the suddenness of it.
All this information, these unhinged ideas, seem to take form here in the landscape surrounding me. I see in each dilapidated house with roof falling in the force of history; I see in the faces of defiant little boys the impact of what befell these people. I see sin; I see need for restoration, for justice -- for Jesus.
Rain falls on the hills to the west, but does not move into the valley, seeming to disdain it, choosing instead to stay just out of reach. Even in April the ground is dry, and dust swirls in a breeze. Everything I see seems thirsty, crying out for drink. If only the rain would come down out of the hills, I think. This land would accept it gladly, soak it up, beg for more.
The people here are beautiful, shining brighter, I think, because of the darkness. I see Jesus everywhere I look: in each child who runs the field in Totus Park, in the lady we picked up on Fort Road and gave a ride into White Swan, in those who take home food from the Tuesday night Bible study and dinner at the longhouse. I feel Jesus among them, His great love for them, His overwhelming tenderness towards them, and I can't help but be moved to serve them.
That was April. It's February now, and looking back at all the times since that first week that we've spent among the Yakamas, the love has done nothing but deepen. Sarah and I have pursued that calling we believe God's place on our heart, and it seems that God would have us go. He would have us continue the mending – to become Jesus to the Yakama people. May He work in us mightily to this end.