International social distancing - We have visited my parents across the US/Canada border a few times. They stand in Washington State...we stand in British Columbia.
“In times of apparent crisis, we need less news, not more.” -Andy Crouch*
I’m almost finished reading Jeremiah…a message to the Jews in exile in Babylon, explaining the disaster of exile as God’s response to Israel’s pagan worship. God was disrupting his people’s plans and upending his people’s dreams. Pretty bleak stuff.
Jeremiah delivered tough prophetic words and the Israelite leaders were not amused…
“Look closely. Has this ever happened before, that a nation has traded in its gods for gods that aren’t even close to gods? But my people have traded my Glory for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.” “Doom to him who builds palaces and bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives.” “I’ll banish every sound of joy– singing, laughter, marriage festivities, genial workmen, candlelit suppers. The whole landscape will be one vast wasteland.” “All the people mobbed Jeremiah right in the Temple itself.”
Like I said…bleak stuff.
In Eugene Peterson’s introduction to Jeremiah, he states, “Jeremiah’s life and Jeremiah’s book are a single piece. He wrote what he lived, he lived what he wrote. Jeremiah is the prophet of choice for many when we find ourselves having to live through difficult times. He experienced it all agonizingly and wrote magnificently. Anyone who lives in disruptive times looks for companions who have been through them earlier…and survived with grace…”
There are glimmers of hope in the book that Christians have been holding onto and quoting (and often misapplying) for as long as I can remember.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”(Jeremiah 29:11 & 33:3 NKJV respectively)
We take comfort in these scriptures, knowing they are not promises to immediately rescue us from hardship or suffering…as with the exiles in Babylon, but that long-term, our future is with Christ.
Jeremiah…prophet of courage and hope.Yes, that too.
Back to Andy Crouch: “Here is a truth that is incredibly hard to put into practice: the more the world is in apparent crisis, the less benefit you get from the news. In fact, the more you live in a time of apparent crisis, the more you need deep reading — mostly books (i.e. context and depth).”
2020 has been a roller coaster of a year and the remaining months may be more uneven.
A few weeks ago, I met an individual interested in supporting some of NAIM's Native staff. He had been reading Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The stories moved him. We are in a time where Christians want to go beyond the headlines...to know the context and depth of subjects they may have glossed over before.
Recently, I’ve been encouraged by Native friends. Elders who lived in personally disruptive times (before our current challenges) for themselves, families and communities. They are Christian companions who have been through a lot…untold stories modelling resilience, forgiveness and grace.
Below are two video interviews (about 44 minutes each) that give understanding for the times and Native ministry. The production values are low but worth the watch. Their thoughts and lives are a road to the Kingdom of God. Email me back with your thoughts if you are so inclined...
(The interviewer, Dan Teeter, grew up as a NAIM missionary kid and is now a high school teacher/football coach in WA state).
Dr. Emerson Falls shares his thoughts on race. Dr. Falls is the first Native American elected to serve as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and current pastor of Circle of Life Native Fellowship. Dr. Falls earned his doctorate from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California. He is part of the Sac and Fox Nation.
Howard Jolly, Pastor of Winnipeg's First Nations Community Church (Alliance), and a member of Rising Above, a group that works with survivors of sexual abuse and residential schools. Howard earned his Master’s of Divinity at Providence Seminar.
Like you, COVID affects us on many levels…new challenges and new opportunities. After being ‘grounded’ for most of 2020, I will resume air travel in Canada this month. Meeting sizes for youth groups, fellowships and churches are limited. Restrictions are being lifted but the fall may change that. Staff are learning new ways to teach and connect online. A friend of mine believes God is “taking the church out of the church.” Many are evaluating the forms we use for leadership, meetings and communications. Initially, the fascination and convenience of technologies like ZOOM was refreshing…then it became too much…now as we get used to its strengths and limitations it feels a groove is being established.
I’m encouraged weekly through an hour online connecting with new Native and non-Native friends with the discipleship bible study. In a few weeks, NAIM staff with gather online for an hour to catch up and pray. Our virtual staff conference in October will have speakers from the Middle East and Los Angeles. Overall, a good friend from Saskatchewan stated it frankly, “We are all feeling the restrictions a bit regardless of our opinion of the pandemic.”
NAIM and other non-profits delivered packages to Native communities in BC containing personal protective equipment. Andrew Victor, above left, chief of Cheam First Nation and ministry partner. Historically, Native communities have been decimated by diseases so are cautious of outsiders coming into their territories. Yes, I'm wearing the same Seahawks shirt...different day...it was washed...pinky swear.
This fall will be unique for Lana at Trinity Western University as protocols limit class sizes, dorm occupancy, etc. She will be working from home half-time. Mom and dad haven’t had their picture taken for a while so we took one a few days ago (below). It's always great to catch up with them.
Thanks for listening!
Tim & Lana Higginbotham
*Andy Crouch served for more than ten years as an editor and producer at Christianity Today. His work and writing have been featured in The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal,Time, and several editions of Best Christian Writing and Best Spiritual Writing.
NAIM staff and the ministries they represent are solely funded through and fully accountable to North America Indigenous Ministries.