Multi-cultural teams reach First Nations
by Jack Taylor
From April through December, Love First Nation’s Ministry (LFNM) director, Peter Park makes a three-hour monthly drive from Vancouver to the Village of Lytton (Nlaka’pamux) to build on the respectful exchange of culture and belief, developing since 2007. He was part of an original group of ten Korean churches who loosely bonded together to start an outreach program where 50 people went to Lillooet and 50 went to Vernon.
Park co-hosts a cultural exchange program during the summers where Koreans present their culture, food and martial arts in partnership with the Lytton First Nations youth who share their songs and dance. “We have a deep mutual respect which we share in our times together,” Park says. “We are sensitive to the history of the residential schools but we don’t carry the same history as other Canadians might. We come to serve and help clean the streets, pick up garbage, cut lawns, and even host a basketball tournament. We offer our respectful prayers and are appreciated.”
The Lytton, Skuppah, Nicomen, Siska and Kanaka Indian Bands form the First Nations heart of the area where the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways pass through and the Trans-Canada Highway weaves its way by. This is the ‘meeting place’ (camchin) visited by Simon Fraser in 1808 and later by the miners of the Gold Rush. Lytton hosts the Coast, Lillooet and Botanie Mountain ranges, where thick pine forests thrive and vibrant waterways team with life. The English name for this village is taken from the British Colonial secretary, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the famous line “It was a dark and stormy night…” in one of his popular novels.
Jean Kim, a Korean missionary working with International Students through Faith Fellowship Baptist in Vancouver, helped lead the Tae Kwon Do camp in Lytton last summer. She was part of a larger multi-cultural team led by Park which included individuals from the Philippines, Niger, Burma, Indonesia, Congo, Lebanon, Switzerland, England, Iran, Mexico and India.
Lyn, Gina and Ocean are part of First Nations communities and being part of this cross-cultural team opened their eyes to the challenges faced by others outside their own people. Irhya Mahamadou, a native of Niger who translates Scripture for his Berber people, while living in Canada, assists Park. He found it challenging to gain trust at first but he says now he sees the deep appreciation of the people and the group is met with genuine smiles. “I couldn’t understand why this community was so poor when they lived in Canada. They were living like my people in Africa. Something is keeping them down because they can’t seem to let go of the past. It made me realize how important forgiveness was in our relationships. I see that respect and hospitality are very important for them.”
“We’re creating a sense of community to let them know they’re not abandoned and alone,” Park says. “We’re children of the same Creator, so we pursue the common things we share instead of focusing on the differences. I introduce the team as apprentice community builders looking for opportunities to serve our neighbours. We paint, we clean, we go in low key to show we’re all part of the same village sharing mutual respect.”
LFNM pursues partnerships with local churches, missionaries and works with LOVE CORE (a nationwide network of Korean Missions reaching First Nations). They work hard to avoid giving the impression that Christians are competing with each other but are actually working together across barriers. “We are always trying to think how First Nations people might see us as we share our ministry,” Park says.
The group has now been invited to use the classrooms and gymnasium of the Steine Valley School, and a social worker named Monica has been a key networker in linking them up with key leaders in the community.
The group has now been incorporated into the Night Angel Patrol which is on call through the night in case of emergencies. Since the school is still in session in August, the teachers bring their students to the cultural exchange events.
Each month, Park and others bring donated items like shoes, clothes, utensils and whatever items the village leaders request, because there is no thrift store in town. It’s all about relationship. “They may ask for things,” says Park, “but they’re first getting friendship. We take 100 gift bags for the children and families at Christmas.”
“It’s important to go,” Mahamadou says, “because people need God and hope. We want to share the freedom we have in Jesus and to show that not all Christians are like those they might have known.”