#38- Exploring our Relationship with the Indigenous Communities ft. Tim McCarthy & John Johnstone

 In

Acting with Love in Our Hearts

 

John Johnstone and Tim McCarthy share their different experiences with the church and Indigenous people. Throughout the podcast, both John and Tim share useful tips on how we as Christians can come alongside and support First Nations people through education and love.

 

“And so John would get down on one knee and then they’d get down on one knee and then he’d get down to both knees and they’d get down on both knees and he just couldn’t get down to level with them until he’s like sitting on the floor. And that’s when he could kind of connect face to face. And that’s a picture of how important it is to kind of get near to people if you want to talk to them, if you want to build relationship, you have to acknowledge what you represent as sort of this big history, and come not as like, oh, it’s no big deal, I can just come here and do what I want. It’s like I have to come here in real deep humility and say, what does relationship look like?”

– Tim McCarthy

 

Topics Covered Include

  • Racism
  • Relationship with Indigenous People
  • Praying with love in our hearts
  • Education on Indigenous People

Show Notes

 

 

BCMB Pastor to Pastor
BCMB Pastor to Pastor
#38- Exploring our Relationship with the Indigenous Communities ft. Tim McCarthy & John Johnstone
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Transcription

BCMB 038 - Indigenous Communities.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

BCMB 038 - Indigenous Communities.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

John Johnstone:
That was it. We're done. Yay, it was a successful evening! One of my friends goes up and grabs both elders by the arm and says, here I heard you talk about the Bible and I heard you mention prayer. We just want to put you in the center and pray for you. And again, in our church, that's a great thing. Like, yeah, sit down on the chair and be prayed for. But in this community and this place that has experienced doctrine of discovery and and colonization and residential school and foster care, or Sixties Scoop and foster care system, which the church has been part of every single one of those things. And that community, that's not such a great thing.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 38, Exploring Our Relationship With the Indigenous Communities, with Tim McCarthy and John Johnstone.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, everyone, welcome to the BCMB Pastor to Pastor podcast. My name is Rob Thiessen. I'm the Conference Minister for the BC Mennonite Brethren Churches, and it's my pleasure today to welcome a couple of friends and guests to the to the program. And of course, for all of you that are listening with us today, thanks for joining us. But a special guest here today is John Johnstone. And John and I have known each other for, oh, I don't know, 20 years or more. Lots of good memories together at North Langley Community Church. And joining us today, John, as well is John's pastor and friend, Tim McCarthy. Tim is the discipleship pastor at North Langley. And Tim and I know each other pretty well, too, over the years. But it's a real delight to have both you brothers here with us today. And it would have been great to have Jenn, John's wife, who's clearly a partner, strong partner in his work, but she was working at something else today. So glad to have John here with us and and his family, which are amazing. And I was thinking, I've sat behind you guys in church on Sunday and saw young Aiden there, who's just become a big, huge, strapping giant of a man to so really, really awesome family. But today I want to just begin, as we always do, with a little time of sharing both of your stories and today's theme, you know, we're just having for those of you listening, we were praying before before the show starts.

Rob Thiessen:
And here we just are asking that God would really use this conversation to encourage and guide us and and help us as as leaders in our churches, in our communities, to think rightly and to think humbly and lovingly about a very challenging circumstance. So we're recording this program here in the summer. And what's been in the media is the discovery of, you know, over a thousand currently unmarked graves at residential schools. And just, you know, a deep sense of grief and bewilderment among people as to how could this have happened and what does it mean for us going forward? So we're not going to answer all those questions for everyone, but we are together to just explore what what God might teach us about relationship with the indigenous community, what we can learn. And, you know, how can how can the Lord lead us forward? How can we follow his leading well. And you brothers have been exploring this together. So super grateful that you're with us. And as always, want to start by just inviting you to share a little bit of your faith journey and the faith community or the community, whichever they are, whoever those individuals or groups of people are, who who formed you in a key way. So, John, why don't you get us started off that with that question?

John Johnstone:
Sure. First of all, I want to start off with (inaudible) Hello, my friends. How are you? I also like to acknowledge that down here in the bunker, we are on the traditional territory of Sumas Sema:th, Matsqui and Kwantlen shared territories.

Rob Thiessen:
And the bunker being the Northview church basement, people might think the podcast- what what kind of a bunker are you exactly in?

John Johnstone:
Down in the depths. Yeah, so I think my story or my faith journey kind of starts far before I knew it did for me, I think God has been gathering me right up since I was born. When I was born, I was part of the Sixties Scoop. My half sister tells me that the nuns came three times to my mom's bed at the hospital and asked to have her sign the papers to give me up. And all three times she said no. So they took me anyways and fostered me out. And after two years of being fostered, I was adopted. So I was birthed into the into the Sixties Scoop. So from there in through my teenage years, there was plenty of shenanigans, foolishness that had happened. I met a beautiful white woman, a young girl then, my wife now, and she got up one morning and said that she was going to go to church and that I could come or I could stay home. We didn't have any church background or I didn't on my side. And I had come through a lot of foolishness and foolishness and silliness, and part of that gave me quite an attitude, a bit of a reputation. And with that attitude in that reputation, when she asked me that morning or said she was going to church, I was like, whatever, I'll go to church. I'm not afraid of God.

John Johnstone:
And kind of a tough attitude. It's amazing what God can work with. But, so we went to church, we went to church, to North Langley Community Church, because they had a previously had a swap meet that me and Jenn went to, kids swap meet. We thought we'd go in and see if we could change our kids for better ones, but they didn't have better ones. So we just ended up with some toys and clothes. But when Jenn walked through the door there, she it was like the angels were singing and the Holy Spirit was present and everything. And ever since that moment, she started to call that her church, not just her church, but our church, and which was a little bit funny to me. But when we started to go to the church, walk through the door, and it's all the happy, shiny, smiling people there, which is kind of weird when you're not used to that. And so we went again another Sunday and another Sunday and one Sunday we come through the door and we had our little baby Tegan with us. And Aiden was little then. And the lady comes up, she says, you know, there's a nursery down the hallway there, you can bring your baby down there and they'll watch your baby while you sit in the service. And for me, I wasn't there yet. I wasn't a Christian.

John Johnstone:
To me, it was just these are all weird people and I was just, "Back away lady, you're not getting my child." And so that was kind of where I was at. Then Jenn seen an alpha program that the church is putting on. But it was advertised as just a movie and a meal. And she said, well, we should go to that. And I was just like a free movie, a free meal. That sounds pretty good. And so we went and the whole way through, the first time through, I didn't pay much attention to it. The the the movie was kind of like so so it was Nicky Gumbel. I didn't always listen to what he said, but he had some funny moments. So that was kind of good. And then then after that it finished. There was this beautiful, wonderful couple that noticed that I hadn't gotten to where I needed to be, I guess. And they were like, hey, John and Jenn, you should come and sit with us at our table at the next session. And you can be Alpha table helper leaders. And I was like a what? They're like, you could you could be Alpha table helper leaders. And I'm just like, is that even a real thing? It sounds kind of funny. And they're like, oh, no, it's real. And I was just I don't know, because I'm not even there yet.

John Johnstone:
I'm not I didn't pray the prayer. I'm not with you guys. And they're just like, that's OK. So it was through sitting there on on the second on the second round being a bit of a slower learner. I finally did start to grasp some of the stuff that Nicky Gumbel was saying. And there was a moment probably halfway through the course, there was a moment that I was driving home from work, driving past the church. And I started to really think and wonder about what Nicky Gumbel had been saying. And if what he is saying is true, then. Then I probably need to make a decision. And as I was driving past the church and I was making my decision and I thought, like, I I need to ask for forgiveness, I need to ask Jesus into my heart, there was this moment where in the community of Fort Langley and everywhere where I grew up, there was, yeah, I had plenty of foolishness in my life. So there was people that I know when I was driving my car and being an idiot in Fort Langley, there were waggling their finger at me and they were like cursing me. And words have power. But I also know that there was people that would see me and pray for me and be like, Oh, dear Lord, that boy needs your help. He needs your love.

John Johnstone:
Could you just get a hold of him and touch him and hold him tight? Let him know how much you love him, and those prayers went up like a sweet smelling incense, and God captured them in this great big bowl. And there is other times and moments, like many times and moments where both those things were happening. But God continued to capture those prayers just like a sweet smelling incense. And when I was driving by the church there in North Langley Community and I was thinking that I got to make this decision. God was up there in heaven and he had this big bowl and he started to tip it all and pour it out on me and all these prayers came rushing down. And creator said, "John, today is your day." And that was the the afternoon that I had prayed and gave my heart to the Lord and. I don't know if it was a big wow, things changed, but, actually, I don't notice, I don't know that I noticed that it was more like I'm not sure that it worked. So me and Jenn, going to fire and freedom at CLA at Friday nights. And I would find myself repenting and up at the stage and being saved again. And next Friday there would be more repenting and up at the stage and being saved again. So it took a lot of saving to actually get me into the kingdom.

John Johnstone:
But once I got there, I kind of lit right up and totally interested in men's ministry and interested in being cleansed and cleaned and steps to freedom and you know just other programs that the church was running. And prayer became an incredible thing that I was interested in. And Pastor Rob, our senior pastor of the church at the time, would have a Wednesday morning watch. You called it. So I'd go I would go to that. And one Wednesday morning we're there in the blue, the big blue comfy chair couches and in the foyer. And he said, "You know, there's a community right down at the end of the street, a community that we have never reached out to in any way, shape or form." And he says it's a First Nation community. And when he said that, I kind of lit up a little bit. I'm like, what really? Like I'm First Nations. And so it started a little spark in me, and then that carried on for a while and every once in a while we would pray for that community. But then when our senior pastor was going on a sabbatical, he took his family to Hawaii, to the YWAM base there. And while he was there, he was assured that he was greatly challenged by a speaker at the base. And he he emailed me and was saying, John, you got to go check this guy out.

John Johnstone:
You have to. And my wife came up and said that, "Hey, dear, Pastor Rob emailed you", and I'm like, no, he didn't email me, I said, he's emailing the whole church like that's what he has to do. He's the senior pastor. He has to let the church know what's going on. And Jenn's like, no, I think it's to you. I'm just like no, and then so the next day goes, the next day comes and she goes, "Pastor Rob emailed to you again." And I'm just like, he's not emailing me, he's emailing the church like he's not going to just email me. And then the next day goes and the phone rings. And I didn't answer. And it's the answer machine answers. And it's like, "Hey, John, is Pastor Rob here. I just wanted to-" and I'm like, he's phoning me from Hawaii. This has got to be something. So I picked the phone up and he shared with me that the the speaker that he was listening to greatly and deeply challenged him. And he felt it was very important that me and Jenn go. So through some prayer and some encouragement from our care group, we we made the arrangements and I went down there, it was in Oregon and when we got there, it was it was in a church. And so everything seemed OK.

John Johnstone:
It was in a church. And they had some tables and stuff set up where they were selling some of their things. And and we had worship and we all sat in rows looking at the head of the person in front of us. And and we went through the first session. And when we came back up for the next session, there was people that were wearing their regalia. And when the worship started, anyone that was in the congregation that had a drum was playing their hand drum. And it was just so cool. And the people that were wearing the regalia there were dancing up and down the aisles and the ones that were playing their hand drum. And I was looking around. I was just like, are they allowed to do that? Like we're in a church? And, so it was just incredible, was beautiful. My heart just kind of exploded, I was just this is so cool. And so when we came home, I was so excited and I shared it with so many people in our church and. I had one elderly fella, not an elder of the church, just an elderly fellow that I respected and and still do, and he looked at me and he said when I was sharing about the drumming and the regalia and everything and how beautiful it was. And he looked at me and he said.

John Johnstone:
Well, John, I've heard that all rhythmic drumming is demonic. What do you have to say about that? And it kind of really set me back, kind of crushed to me, I was really new in this journey. And I kind of heard what he was saying, but more so I think I heard or felt what he was saying. And to me, what I heard was, "Well, John. Your people are demonic. What do you have to say about that?" And it quite hurt. But I did learn from that experience that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and it did make me stronger. And it helped me to know. That I am created in the image of God. And his likeness, and he is OK with that. And First Nation ministry has been, for me has been many journeys where it's been like, oh, this is so awesome, and then just kind of like, great, brutal pushback from people that call themselves God's people, and it hurts. And it's difficult. But I hear myself saying, and I think it's the spirit in me that, John, this is this is a battle that is worth continuing to battle for. So there's been some great people in and along this journey, both on on the (inaudible) side, the the white church side and on the Indigenous side, too, that have helped me to kind of become who I am today.

Rob Thiessen:
Hmm. Good, thanks, John. Appreciate you sharing your story and I think, yeah, just what you're saying about both the blessings of the community of faith and and some of the pain that's there, a lot of people can resonate with that, you know, even from different backgrounds, experiencing the same thing sometimes. Yeah, sometimes the people that we love, sometimes it's even our own family, you know, we experience favor and then all of a sudden deep, deep wounding that's there. And yeah, that's all our foulness. Tim, tell us a little bit of your story is different, different journey. But give give us your story and the community that touched you.

Tim McCarthy:
Mm hmm. Yeah, I grew up in a Christian family. My parents, my mom was a postwar Dutch immigrant and my dad was a second or third generation Canadian. But both of them had kind of grown up in homes where God had kind of worked in the family and called people to himself. And so they were following Jesus with a lot of intentionality, they were involved in the church. They were, you know, getting in God's word every day. They would read us, my brother and I, we read a chapter from the Bible every night after supper and pray for the missionaries on our fridge and all that kind of thing. So that was it was a pretty rich environment. And, you know, I probably I probably missed 10 Sundays in my life of church in that sense. But for me, the kind of the way I describe it, as I was laying alone in my bed around 10 years old and I just sensed this presence with me and something in my spirit knew it was Jesus. And it's sort of I think it was the first time that I realized Jesus was Jesus that has kind of been in the room in this culture and life. You know, this circle that I've been part of for the first time he's crossing the room to me and saying, hey, Tim, I'd love to be in relationship with you. And I, other than the spirit of God, I just everything I don't know how to explain it other than I just knew I want that. I'm in. Sure. And so I just I don't remember anything that I prayed specifically, but I know my heart opened to Jesus.

Tim McCarthy:
And it was real enough that when I told my parents about it the next day, you know, I was kind of crying and (inaudible). And so they they anyway, it was a it was a real experience for me. Um, middle school. I was trying to be cool and compromising lots of different ways. And I just could not get away from the Holy Spirit, kind of just pressing on me, going, why are we doing that? And so when I was about 15, again, I'm not exactly sure what prompted it, but I I stopped fighting and and really surrendered my life to to the leading the spirit and woke up the next morning. I just remember this deep hunger to get in the scriptures, and that's when my I think my gifts in serving in the church just started to kind of emerge. And so God just very graciously put some great mentors in my life and some some healthy church communities. I ended up at Trinity Western and had some great mentors there that shaped me and ended up in campus ministry and then eventually found my way to North Langley. So I just feel really blessed to have the the many different mentors that have sort of I just see the Holy Spirit at work in my life and continue to just sense the spirit of God, kind of saying, OK, you want to go somewhere else, let's learn something new. So I think even the journey we're talking about today has been part of that. Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Isn't that fascinating? I mean, in terms of just, you know, one way of looking at it, you couldn't have two more opposite sort of pathways. You know, you got Tim in the quintessential Evangelical family. You've got John on his journey and then and yet the spirit of God reaching into both of your lives as he is, only he is able to do. And and then now plunking you into a relationship together. And maybe, Tim, you could just carry on a little bit talking about this past year of relationship building with John that you've gotten to know and things that God is teaching you. And maybe some of the things that as you've been learning, you know, as you've- relearning and maybe unlearning some things, what are some of those things that have been standing out to you in this past year?

Tim McCarthy:
Yeah, I, I think I've been aware that, you know, things have not been a positive thing in general for Indigenous People in different ways. Whether it was, you know, I spent an afternoon down at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it came to Vancouver and kind of wandered around, not quite sure what to do. And John's had a couple of meetings at the church and different things along the way where he shared. But I think last year when the when the killing of George Floyd happened and there was all kinds of things happened, I posted something on on Facebook just to sort of show my solidarity. And it it, as always, happens on social media. So a bunch of blowback kind of happened from a couple of voices that were part of my circles. And and I just realized I'm not sure I know very much about how racism manifests itself, not only in the United States, but in Canada. And I feel like I need to go on a bit more of a journey before I sort of just get on the bandwagon and say things. And so God led me to a couple of different books that were really helpful. Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah have a great book on the Doctrine of Discovery that I started reading. And I thought, well, the one, I know, if racism really is a face in Canada, it has to do with Indigenous things.

Tim McCarthy:
And anyway, so I end up inviting John for coffee and just beginning the conversation with him. Um, of course, with Covid, there's a lot, you know, getting together is a of complicated thing. And I was had lots of things that I was balancing in life. But, um, really this past sort of winter and spring, I started just through some studies that I'm doing, interacting with some more material around just the multi-ethnic vision of the church, some things about Indigenous worldview and the way that that, in Indigenous terms, it's kind of this idea of the harmony way, and there's an Indigenous theologian who sort of brings that together with the concept of shalom in scripture. This idea that everything is knit together in such a way that people can flourish if it's taken care of well, and and that that's inherent to the Indigenous worldview. And and another book on race and the complicity of the church and so much of racism that's happened in the west and things like that. And just maybe go I got to restart that conversation with John. And for me, being in conversation with John has been an accountability in the sense that I don't just sort of have this flare up of sympathy for two weeks and then it's like, OK, what was I doing? And I'm off back to my normal life, which I can do because I have privilege and I'm I don't have to think about these things and nothing will change in my life.

Tim McCarthy:
So it was really important to me to kind of say, John, let's try every second Friday, let's talk and I'm going to process some of the things I want to hear from you. And and we're just going to go on this journey. So, yeah, that that was a really big part of of kind of where I went. I think a couple of the things that have been maybe a new stretch for me is, like I said, that sense that within the Indigenous world of well, I'll say it this way, when I hear someone like John say there's this sacred connection to the land or the that that kind of thing, I just always had this like, well, where's that from? How is that biblical? I don't I don't get that like. Yeah, I didn't really understand where that came from. And so to understand actually that there are millennia old traditions within First Nations communities on Turtle Island, which is what they would refer to, what we call North America, millennia old traditions of sort of boundaries given to certain people, groups by the creator to take care of, and that the health of that whole sort of area is is, that is dependent on how well people get together within it.

Tim McCarthy:
And that which sounds a lot like what God told Israel as well. You know, that there's a sense that wherever you live, if you have been given that to live in, you must steward it for the good of of the of everything. And that was just that was really profound to me to go, OK, I I'm at least a lot more open to that sense that that when we say host peoples, that that potentially is something with some level of, you know, divine mandate and not just, you know, one one assertion against a different assertion about land. So that was a I think, a stretch for me. I didn't know a lot about the Doctrine of Discovery and people don't know what that's about. That's a there are a series of Papal Bulls which are sort of declarations that came out in the 16th century or so that basically said because we're superior and we're a better reflection of the image of God as Western European people, we have the right to take whatever land we want from, the right from God, to take whatever land we want, from people who don't acknowledge Jesus so they can choose to acknowledge Jesus. But if we don't, we get to take it and bring violence to that.

Tim McCarthy:
And that that sort of doctrine has not only influenced, you know, sort of those early days of colonialization, but it's involved in legal decisions about land. One hundred years ago, it's even legal decisions 15 years ago in the United States were citing things like the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny and all these things. So and it's it's essentially a heresy. You know, it's it's an absolutely ungrounded theological statement to say that European people are more a reflection of the image of God than pagan people from other lands. And and yet it's influenced so much. And it has it's part of what's behind the concept of residential schools that we would just gather up all these people who are less civilized than us and civilize them like us. That's the Doctrine of Discovery talking that we could use land in whatever we want without considering the people that live on it, that kind of thing, that's the Doctrine of Discovery talking. So that was a stretch, a big learning for me. I think, another thing was just that I think when when you think, well, of residential schools closed in 1996, the last one we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like we're well on the way to reconciliation. Everything's good. And that's history. That's that's a long time ago. It doesn't influence us now.

Tim McCarthy:
And to learn about what is now being called the millennium scoop, which is the, just the the huge number of First Nations and Metis and Inuit folks that are, you know, children that are in the foster system and the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the just ongoing treaty issues, clean water issues and how we use land like all of that kind of stuff, that there's ongoing things that are continuing to really influence Indigenous communities and really complicated ways. And obviously, you know, there's issues on all sides, but just that sense that reconciliation is more than just saying, you know, yeah, there was some bad stuff in the history. Sorry about that. But there's actually ongoing issues that if reconciliation is going to happen, it has to involve correcting those and building better relationships. And then I would say just the last thing is that John really helped me understand is, you know, I want to come to this just as myself. And I'm just a guy and I'm learning about this. So, like, tell me who you to have coffee with. And the fact that I'm a white man, the fact that maybe that I'm a pastor as well, so I represent the whole Christian institution means that when I enter into a space with Indigenous people, I represent something even not even intentionally.

Tim McCarthy:
I represent something that's that's very large and imposing. And and John told me the story of when he was coaching peewee hockey and how and John's a pretty big guy. Right. And so when he coach peewee kids that are two feet tall or whatever, you stand over them, there's just this like a scary feeling. And and so John would get down on one knee and then they'd get down on one knee and then he'd get down to both knees and they'd get down on both knees and he just couldn't get down to level with them until he's like sitting on the floor. And that's when he could kind of connect face to face. And that that that's a picture of, og how important it is to it to kind of get near two people if you want to talk to them, if you want to build relationship, you have to acknowledge what you represent as sort of this big history and, and come not as like, oh, it's no big deal. I can just come here and do what I want. It's like I have to come here in real deep humility and say, how does what does relationship look like? So those are some of the things that I think have been a big learning for me.

Rob Thiessen:
Totally. You know, when we were just thinking about this conversation, we were talking about the, you know, framing the conversation as a physiological conversation. And there's a caution about that because that, you know, makes us look like we're analyzing something that's just pretty simple relationship. But what you're describing does remind me that there is an aspect that you have to think missiologically, because if you just make assumptions like that, you're on the same playing field. You're not thinking about the reality that that you carry a lot of there's a lot of cultural baggage. There's all kinds of complexities that are at work. And if you you have to be aware of that. So if a missionary goes into another culture without some kind of self-awareness of what they're bringing, the consequences can be very disastrous. Right. It takes it takes discernment.

Tim McCarthy:
I would say to in like part of the missiological question is how much of the mission of God has has been ignored by us? You know, that part of the gospel, part of it, part of sharing the gospel is recognizing the repentance that we need as a culture before we go in. You know, and and perhaps there are things that we actually need to learn from the people that we-

Rob Thiessen:
Exactly.

Tim McCarthy:
And there probably are many. And so there's a there's a way that the mission of God (inaudible) penetrate our lives in deeper ways than it has because of all of the syncretism and the Christendom and the use of power and everything that has been bad on our side.

Rob Thiessen:
And the first explorers or people, there was there was a, between the Catholic Church and the countries that were exploring, there was a synergy that that we're not familiar with now. Right. So and that that was what you see in the Doctrine of Discovery and an attitude that there was a lot of complexity in a lot of history that we're discovering. Yeah, that's helpful. Hey, so, John, you already introduced a little bit about your journey and a few of the things that you've recognized as to how God has been at work among people of your heritage and Indigenous people. And like one of the things you were saying, we've touched on a lot of things Tim was actually highlighting one of the things is just the recognition that, you know, an awareness of creation and the creator that that flows through Indigenous spirituality is is like very scriptural. It's clearly evidence of the hand of God in that community that they understand those things and to some degree, much better. Well, to a wide margin, much better than than our more scientific communities who just pull apart creation and see how we can manipulate it, exploit it and leave it. And so that's a huge learning.

Rob Thiessen:
But let's let's jump into the sort of the current topic that maybe people have questions about as listeners, about the painful history that has been exposed just recently through, you know, the discovery of unmarked graves. And I have a feeling that's going to be going on for quite a while. And and so people are just wondering, well, how how do I how do I respond to that? And, you know, you both work together on on a gathering that happened at North Langley about two months ago now and an in-person kind of prayer gathering. That's, I don't know, John, talk a little bit about how how, you know how that gathering happened and what do you see in this moment, like what do you sense God, really- What's the word for the church that the Lord is speaking, you know, during this time? What what do our listeners pastors pastor to pastor podcast, what do you want them to hear about this moment in time and the opportunity to hear God's voice and respond well? I know that's your whole work summarized, you know, I'm asking you to summarize everything that you do and have been working on over these last number of years, but, yeah, take a shot at it. It's a definite moment.

John Johnstone:
Yeah, absolutely, and what is? What is going on right now, and I think kind of what is important or needed, is pretty much what is being shared here right now is just relationship. Relationship and journey and understanding. And uh, some of the the the critical stuff is when we first met for coffee with when I first met for coffee with Tim, it was all about Black Lives Matter and something that he had said. And then as the journey carried on, like he had mentioned, there was some courses, study or course that he was taken that asked him to read some books and do some researching. And it was in the researching where I could begin to see and hear Tim's heart starting to be changed a little bit because of what he was reading. And then from our conversations, the questions that he was asking and and the things that we were were talking about was all speaking to how his heart was kind of being changed. And that is a huge and important part for the relationship to happen. If we're not going to have a heart posture shift. Then we're going to end up with another 450 years of not having a relationship and not having the fruit that we're looking for. And that heart posture shift is something where it, in my thinking, is something that starts with education and our Western European way of being, we have very accademia kind of people, so that's a good thing.

John Johnstone:
And learned the history learn the, but learn true history. And understand what really happened and understand how it is that we're so comfortable to this day. Why are we so very, very comfortable and how did that how did we get to that place? So once we start to understand that and know that in our mind, it has to find a way to get from our mind down towards our heart. And we can read the Bible, study the Bible, know the Bible inside, out and backwards. And just have this head full of knowledge of who Jesus is and who the God, the Father and the Holy Spirit are and everything that they've done. But that doesn't mean we have a relationship with them. It's when all that knowledge and wisdom comes down into our heart and starts to change our heart is where we start to engage in a relationship. So if we always only just have this wisdom and knowledge in our head that we're learning and we're understanding, but it doesn't get down into our heart. Then we don't have a relationship, and if we don't have a relationship, we're not going to get to where we're trying to get to. We have to have a heart posture shift, and the only way we can have a heart posture shift is for that knowledge and wisdom to come down and then to have attached to it and with it some of that powerful love that the father had for the son when the sacrifice was big enough to atone for over seven billion sins a piece of that love in our heart.

John Johnstone:
A piece of that love. A piece of that love that the that the Holy Spirit had when Jesus was raised up after three days through the through the power of the father and the love of the spirit that raised them up, a piece of that love in our heart. So when we have that love in our heart now, when we begin to pray, because the Bible does say fairly clearly, if you pray without love in your heart, you're nothing but a clanging cymbal. And it also says if you do good deeds, but you do good deeds without love in your heart, you're just a gong. And so my, my fear is, is if we don't get to the place where we have that love in our heart and have a heart posture shift as we pray and do these good deeds, we are just the church that is continuing to make a lot of noise. But we're not. We're not getting anywhere because we're not using the power of the father. So once we have the love in our heart, I want to see this love in her heart kind of thing.

John Johnstone:
I want to see this education that changes our heart posture shift in this love, in our heart. I want to believe in it as an as if it was a law. Whereas if I picked those keys up on the table and I held them up in the air, the law of gravity says if I open my fingers, these keys are going to drop. Well, I want to believe that there's a law that God has spoken if you pray, because I used to always challenge the church and speak at the church and say, if you pray with love in your heart, you're just a gong. If you do good deeds without love in your heart, you're just a clanging cymbal. You're making a lot of noise. And then I said to myself once, like, John, you're kind of negative when you say it that way all the time. And I'm just like, I don't know. That's what the scripture says. And you're not allowed to change scripture around. And I said and I was like, well, and I feel, what's the creator kind of said, but what if you do change it around? What if you say if you pray with love in your heart, then God can do great and mighty thing. So once we get this education in our mind and it finds its way down into our heart and we have attached to it a piece of that love of the father, then when we pray as when I drop these keys, the law of gravity says that they will fall to the table.

John Johnstone:
Then the law of God says, when we pray with love in our heart, he can do great and mighty things. And it's in him doing great and mighty things because we are never going to get there on our own. We've we've tried it on our own for 450 years and it's not happened. Hmm. So when we pray with love in our heart, like real love, not pretend like I often say the word love has so many degrees to it. Like there's the love of the father that raised the son. Man, that is powerful love, but then there's also I love my wife and I do. Or I often say, you know, I love a good cheeseburger when you got that patty on the grill and it's almost ready and you put the cheese on top of it and you got the bacon laying beside, you put it all together with some mustard and relish. Man, I love a good cheeseburger. Right. But cheeseburger love, I'm going to get a T-shirt that says this too, cheeseburger love won't get us there. Like it's the it's the love of the the father for the son. And that kind of-

Rob Thiessen:
When you're describing that love like it's assuming a relationship. Right. Love- when you talk about the heart and getting to the heart, am I right? It's John, I think you're assuming a relationship then. For that to happen for for it to drop into your heart, then a part of that is being in relationship with someone. And that's why I said you you're, why I think you were saying, well, what's happening right here. And for for a lot of our listeners then, so there's knowledge, and in that verse of scripture we read, you know God, our savior, who desires all all mankind to be saved through a knowledge of the truth. You know that, if that's God's heart and here we are in this present crisis and you're saying an essential part is to say, OK, it's got to go beyond knowledge of theology and what's right into relationship with people. So, you know, talk to our listeners a little bit about, you know, like how would you advise them to to explore the relationship then with people. And, you know, we're people all over B.C. and I was just talking to somebody, I'm planning a trip up north again, and I was one of the things I noticed when I'm in a place like Prince Rupert or Fort St. John, like, wow, OK, the presence of Indigenous community is evident everywhere. And I think you could totally be in the Lower Mainland and not know. Or maybe it's just ignorance, maybe there's a lot more people around anyway. How how would you encourage people to do it? Is it just open up your eyes or, you know, what's your thinking about how our leaders could encourage their churches to begin putting themselves in a place of relationship? So their heart could grow.

John Johnstone:
Well, maybe a little bit of it is, as you said, just open up your eyes. Some of it can be a geographical awareness, like when you mention up north. Yes, there are plenty of communities that surround towns, but even here in the valley, there's Vancouver. We have Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Halkomelem. So that that's quite a bit of community in, and they have smaller communities in the area of Vancouver, like even down by the planetarium there. Squamish has some land in there that. So some of it is a geographical awareness.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

John Johnstone:
Of understanding where the community's lands are.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Like when you cross Golden Ears Bridge the Katzie people are right there and I'm sure-

John Johnstone:
Both sides of the river.

Rob Thiessen:
Both sides of the river, and I'm sure lots of people blow over that bridge day in, day out, week in, week out and are totally unaware.

John Johnstone:
No geographical awareness.

Rob Thiessen:
That there's a there's a people right next door. So they're not the only ones. Right.

John Johnstone:
A little bit is a geographical awareness of knowing where the where the communities are, who the people are. The next is kind of instead of just having it be a community that is like their postage stamp piece of land that has been allotted to them by the government. But knowing whose territory are are we on like at the beginning there when I mentioned we're on Matsqui, Kwantlen and probably Sumas Sema:th. On their territory, geographical awareness of knowing whose land it is that that we are on. And then. I lost where I was gonna go with that.

Tim McCarthy:
One thing, I think we we discovered because we had an interest meeting kind of emerging from, you know, we've been having these meetings, it just felt like it's time to sort of widen the conversation to the church at North Langley. And we had like 55 people show up on this Zoom meeting that we had. And in the conversations, you know, you start to discover, oh, this person, their job is working with First Nations people. And in this system and this person is actually first, you know, 100 percent First Nations and this person is, and you start to see the connections. And that was really helpful to me that it was because I sit here and I just go, like, John's the one guy I know. But to to sort of just begin the conversation. And I mean, it's just a reminder of Ephesians four. And it's like it's not just up to you as a pastor, as a leader. It's just to open up. The conversation is going to begin to allow people to emerge who are like, you know, I work with this all day in different things and I see these issues and I'm actually aware of this in the local manifestations of it. And you get the whole voice of the whole congregation part of it. And so, you know, we have we've got a barbecue coming up in a couple of weeks with eight or 10 people that are like we'd love to sort of press into leading something forward and which was super encouraging, I think, that it's like whatever God was doing, whatever God's spirit was doing between the two of us, he's already been doing it a bunch of different ways. And now it's time to sort bring it together.

Rob Thiessen:
That unawareness came up the other day when we were chatting with pastors about, you know, appropriate response after the Kamloops unmarked graves were were discovered. And then I was talking with Brett Landry. And Brett's like, "Um my grandmother was in a in a in a residential school. And I was like and he's like and I'm Metis, you know? And I'm like, oh, I didn't know that, you know. So then he said he was preaching on it for the first time that I don't think his church knew.

Tim McCarthy:
I was in Whisler last week for church and Brett was the speaker. OK, yeah. Yeah, it's really meaningful.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So yeah, I think there's probably all kinds of once you send the signal that says, well, we're actually interested in having conversations and knowing about this. Um, that's like your experience, John. Right. I mean, there was an awakening in you where you realized this is, there's things I want to learn and this gets me to another topic and it is about the learning, so, John, you started learning your language and the language of your people back a number of years ago, and maybe this brings up a topic. One of the questions I had for you was, you know, things that you love about this work and things that drive you crazy about how you know, the white church responds or thinks about this and and maybe you could just tell our listeners a little bit about that story, you know, we're not naming names here, but, you know, when you're talking about a church community getting eager to get involved initially, you know, we had a group that that wanted to head down to to the island to meet with people, but they quickly started doing things that you intuitively knew were not going to work and were going to actually be destructive to the relationship. And then the Lord spoke to you about backing the train up a little bit. So maybe tell us a little bit about that and why that's been important and what some of the fruit of that has been.

John Johnstone:
Yeah, that was a powerful learning journey. It seemed like when we decided to go down and try and reach out to the the community in a good way that it started out all good and we were doing lots of prayer over the land, over the people. This is hard ground. And and so that was all going well and good. And we're at it for quite some time and, even in that time, though, I guess there was moments where when we finally had someone that showed up, that was First Nations, just the way we reacted and interacted with them. I think in our church environment to go up and be like, oh, let me pray for you, is is is kind of like totally OK. But in this kind of context because of the power struggles and dynamics that are in there, just the whole phrasing of the word, let me pray for you as if I have something that you need. Totally is different than saying, oh, can we pray with you? So now I'm not coming at a I have something for you, but I'm having like, can we journey together in this kind of deal? Yeah. So there was a moment where that kind of became very clear. There was a moment where it was just tough words how to engage that you're not once again calling us savage, really, and demonic, and you need to be cleansed and and cast out.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm.

John Johnstone:
So that ended a relationship also with with an indigenous person. And that was the whole reason that we were there. And it just seems so like how why would we get to that place in space of having indigenous people walk away saying, like, I don't need this? Yeah. And then to the point where finally the the the final kind of straw was we realized that us being in the little church in the community, that it's the community's church, it's the community's land, it's the people's. And we had been there for three years or four years, and we just it was kind of funny because they they would challenge me. John, why were you in church on Monday? Because we had to have our little gathering on Monday night. Why weren't you there on Monday? Nobody would ever show up from the community, but they wanted to know why we weren't there. So it's kind of a little funny dynamic that was happening. But we noticed that inviting them into the building and we tried Christmas with carols, I'm just like, we're not even going to sing Jesus stuff, we're going to let's sing Frosty the Snowman and come for hot chocolate and candy canes and bring your kids and and really nobody from the community showed up. And we're like, well, maybe it's not about inviting them to the building, maybe it's about trying to be in the community and journey with them.

John Johnstone:
And so they when the church was getting a new roof and a new corner foundation being done. So they kind of had it closed down and we still snuck into it a few Mondays, but then they plywood at the door so we couldn't get back in. And that's when they were asking, John, why weren't you at church? And I was like, well, it's kind of boarded up at the moment. And they're like, and it seemed like a no brainer for them. They're like, well, why don't you ask the office to use the boardroom? And I was like, really? Or, and and this was like from more than one person, I heard this and they're like, well, why don't you just use the cultural center or use the the the longhouse. The big house. And I was like, really, I never thought of that, but and then so finally when I heard it three or four times, I was like, hey, why don't we try and use the culture center? Mm hmm. So we had an event where we had a dinner down there and I thought, well, I should invite our little group, church group. We were called Syeyu, which means friend in Halq'emeyelem. And then I invited another organization that I sit on the board for, Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society.

John Johnstone:
I invited the board members and some of the staff to come and be part of it and then anybody from the community. And there was two elders that showed up and and the night I thought went really well and we had a meal together, everybody brought some food, so we shared a meal together. We had a little icebreaker game. I was kind of funny because our church group was like, so we're going to we're going to pray before we eat. Right? And I'm like, well, we're in their sacred space, their sacred house. So if they want to drum a song, which often they do because it's their form of prayer, if they want to drum a song before the meal, then we'll listen. Yeah. And they're like, well, what's the agenda, we're going to sing worship, right? And I'm like, well, again, we're in there on their sacred land and their sacred house. So if they want to sing and drum some songs, then, yeah, we'll we'll listen for sure. And they're like, well, what's the agenda? Like, what's why are we doing this? And I was like, well, we're trying to build a relationship and just it's like the church can't not do something. It has to have an agenda. It has to have a- and to just plain and simple, let's just try to start to build a relationship.

John Johnstone:
It's been four hundred and fifty years of bad relationship. Let's just try to build relationship. Yeah. So we did some Jenn looked up some ice breaker stuff. We had some fun. And at the end of the evening I asked Katie, who was the president at the time of Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society, just to share a little bit about who she was, how the society functions. I shared who I was because I was kind of leading our little Syeyu group. I shared who I was a little bit of my faith journey and then who we were as Syeyu. And then I wanted to open the floor up to anybody from Kwantlen, from the community. And the the one elder got up and shared and and she shared some of her journey and how she had moved around a lot and been part of different different things. And it's her story, I guess, but. She shared, but in her story, she had also shared that she had a Bible and that she had read it and stuff like that because she, I think, was sort of honoring me. She knew who I was, why I was there and what was going on. So she shared some kind words, I guess. And then the other elder shared and he's a little bit more fun. He's not so happy with the church, so he's a little bit more pokey and he poked at the church, which it's his space.

John Johnstone:
Yeah, totally acceptable. And he shared some stories. But in his story, he also shared that he prays and he prays every day. And so when I hear that being an Apple Indian brought up in a white community and in a white family and pretty much going to a white church where I met white God, white Holy Spirit and white Jesus, that when I hear that, that means like, you know, you've got your hands together, you're you're praying or you're kneeling down or you're in your prayer room or whatever. But when he says that because there's a cultural difference, it's completely and totally different. But it doesn't mean that it's not being lifted up to the creator as as how it's happening. So he says he prays every day, sometimes three or four times a day. And so, he shared and shared and shared, and at the end I was like, oh, wow, man, this has been awesome, this has been a success. Like, this is a good good evening. I hope to be able that we can do this again and just share together and begin to journey together, journey together well. And just as that was it, we're done. Yeah, it was a successful evening. One of my friends that seemed at that time to be far to earth- heavenly powerful to be any earthly good, goes up and grabs both elders by the arm and says, here I heard you talk about the Bible and I heard you mention prayer.

John Johnstone:
We just want to put you in the center and pray for you. And again, in our church, that's a great thing. Like, yeah, sit down on the chair and be prayed for. But in this community and this place that has experienced Doctrine of Discovery and and colonization and residential school and foster care, or Sxties scoop, and foster care system, which the church has been part of every single one of those things. And that community, that's not such a great thing. And so it kind of when that happened, I just kind of froze. I had another friend there that was First Nations and his wife wasn't. But the wife was just like, I can't even be in the room. And she left and went and hid in the bathroom. And I know I was supposed to stop it because I was the one that was supposed to be leading. But it was all pretty new to me. And it just kind of it just kind of went on and they prayed and and that was the end of the evening. But I could see that it wasn't right with the, with the elders by any way, shape or form.

Rob Thiessen:
And out of that, you you decided to take, start taking some classes.

John Johnstone:
Well, within a couple within a couple weeks, I went and apologized to each elder and they pretty much said, well, John, I forgive you because I know you wouldn't do anything to hurt us. But the one lady said, you know, and this is the part that really sucked the most about it, was that she was new, coming back to her community. And the longhouse or the big house was new to the community. It's their sacred, it's their cultural place. And her son had shared with her how, mom, when you come through the doors of the big house, you have to leave all bad thoughts and bad feelings outside because this is not the place for that. And so for her to be in there and be brought back to a place of residential school was just so wrong. She said, John, it brought me right back to to residential school days. And I told her, sorry about that. And I, I, I shared with the other elders and I apologized to him, too, for that moment. But it was that moment that was like, we're not I can't journey together in this part of this ministry anymore, because if it's going to hurt the elders, then I can't be part of that. So that kind of shut our our community down and our little church group down.

John Johnstone:
And then after that, it was almost like perfect timing, because after that, I was down at the the band office there. And and one of the members said that I grew up with kind of says, hey, John, I'm starting a language class. You need to be there. And I was thinking, and I was thinking that, oh, but that's the same night that we have church and it was a good thing that I only thought it I didn't actually speak it, because as soon as the thought came through my mind, I was just like, yeah, right. No, I do need to be at that. So we began to, me and Jenn and a couple other people from the the Syeyu group started to learn the language. And the beautiful part about learning the language was as that, as our teacher taught us through the years, that you cannot just learn the language because the language actually comes from the land and the people are from the land and everything comes up from the land, including the culture. So to learn the language, you have to learn the people. You have to learn the land. You have to learn the culture and learn all these things. So it was just such a great, incredible time of teaching for the next bunch of years. It was a total blessing.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's awesome. It's funny when you mention you said, you know, you went to white church and were introduced to white Jesus, white God and white Holy Spirit, I'm thinking, well, wait a minute, I wasn't preaching white Jesus, white God, white Holy Spirit. But then I thought when you said that, I thought, well, but I was because what else would I do? Like, I'm a white person, so I communicate. Every Christian, I hope, tries to do their best to read the scriptures. But even the scripture, is it a different culture? And actually it's a culture with more things in common with Indigenous culture than with with Western scientific culture. So it you're you're absolutely right. There's it's we're helplessly bound to translate our understanding of God through our own culture, language (inaudible)

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah.

John Johnstone:
I wanna meet Jesus now as a dark haired, dark skinned, dark eye tribal boy.

Rob Thiessen:
Hmm. Well, I remember when Richard Twiss taught that, you know, and he just he took us to the passage of Jesus baptism and he said, you know, when God's looked down and he said, this is my little boy, is my little native boy, you know? And I thought that that's that's legit. Like, I wouldn't read it that way. But when he said it, I thought, that's not unfaithful to the text at all. And and it is just like, of course, you know, he's it's a beautiful thing to hear someone from another culture put on there, with their lenses to say, well, I just read the scripture and this is what I saw and I listen to it. I never saw that. That's amazing. And isn't God beautiful? And and I think that's one of the things that one of the richness of relationship that, you know, that we've been missing that's potentially here out of this thing of learning from one another. Right. One of our pastors, Zach Hillman, he's over in Port Alberni at Gateway Community Church. He's also been doing language training. And he's, you know, on a on this journey to just putting himself in a place to to learn to to go and say, well, I'm I'm just going to hang out and learn I'm going to learn the language and get to know people. And, church is a struggle. But but relationship is growing and it's bearing good fruit. And by God's grace, we you know, we as a community will see some good things happening. You know, my last I don't know if it was the last thing, but the last thing I just going to raise here, but just in the last few weeks is all the churches being burned.

Rob Thiessen:
And that's been in the news. And I you know, I've been watching that. I think there's so far 20 churches burned, not all of them on on reserve land, but some. And and then I you know, I read and I kind of don't know what to think about it. There's a lot of comments, some people writing in the national news saying, you know, this is horrible. You know, they're burning Christian churches. They wouldn't be burning other people's, other religions. And then now the fire alarm is going off down here in the basement. So maybe that's a good time for us to wrap up this conversation. I think maybe we're going to have another talk at another time. But what I wanted to say about that was that even the stories coming from the Indigenous community saying that they feel hurt that their churches were being burned, I thought, oh, so don't react so much about the political thing. Listen to what what God is doing even through, because of the burning of a building doesn't harm God in any way, shape or form. But even in that, you know, I thought, oh, God, stirring some things in the hearts of the people themselves and let's see what fruit comes from it. Everything the enemy tries to turn against God, will, God will use for some good purpose. And I pray that he uses this conversation for a good purpose to do so with the alarm going off down here in the basement. Thanks for being with us for this hour. Yeah, bless you guys both in your journey. And may God just continue to teach us all to walk together as brothers and sisters.

John Johnstone:
In our language, there is no goodbyes because goodbye is forever, so there's (inaudible), which means till we meet again. And (inaudible), go with good feelings.

Rob Thiessen:
Let it be so.

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