Aboriginal speaker stands up for culture

“Jesus didn’t save me so he could take away my culture.” Lakota speaker and author Richard Twiss wants Mennonite Brethren to understand that, as they journey to becoming better neighbours to First Nations people.

In conjunction with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite Church Canada’s Witness Council, members from Sardis Community Church gathered with their aboriginal neighbours at Skwah First Nation Hall in Chilliwack, B.C., to hear Twiss’ testimony.

Pastor Hugo Reimer says both communities were well represented by the 130 attendees. The gathering opened with a drumming song and a meal. Darryl Klassen of MCC’s Aboriginal Neighbours program presented quilts to honour the elders, musicians, and drummers involved in the evening.

A First Nations understanding of what it means to follow Jesus not only enriches and empowers the body of Christ, said Twiss, but to dismiss it is destructive. He shared his story of a troubled early life and his coming to faith in Christ. He spoke frankly about the suspicion and negativity he experienced from evangelical Christians regarding his Aboriginal culture, and challenged those of European descent to be open to all that is good in the culture of First Nations people.

“I am so encouraged and excited about what happened last night,” says Don Klaassen, a Sardis member and former pastor. “I’m hoping this can be a new beginning for our church and for our relationship with the First Nations people all around us.”

—with files from Don Klaassen and Hugo Reimer

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