As we celebrate the resurrection of our Messiah, our King, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
I was talking to someone the other day about how COVID has not caused much jobless in the Sask Valley and surrounding area. They mentioned that someone in the financial industry had mentioned their was no one that they knew who had lost their job, and they realized they are in the same place. Sadly, we cannot say the same. We know so many people in Camp Ministry that have lost their jobs, and some hope of returning to their job. A friend of mine who is a WestJet Pilot lost her job on April 1. So many in the travel industry - hotels, resorts, fishing destinations, travel agents, restaurants and more have had their hopes and dreams put on hold because of COVID19. For some the loss is much greater than others. Yet we all feel isolated, our mood dampened, and some joy taken out of us.
At the Youth Farm Bible Camp, we have been able to keep all of our year round staff active and employed. We did not have as many summer staff in 2020, but were still able to hire eight students for the summer. We are excited about the potential for this summer and have opened up registration for summer camps. We have also added a new program that takes people to Northern Saskatchewan for guided canoeing. However, we know that it will not fully be back to normal for summer in 2021. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we hold a story of redemption deep in our souls that needs to be told to this world.
These last couple days, I have been reading Peace Child by Don Richardson. It’s a story about a young couple named Don and Carol Richardson. They met at Bible School in Three Hills, Alberta and felt called to minister to the Sawi People of Western New Guinea, Indonesia. In the 1960s, this tribe was living in isolation from the world and practiced head hunting and were cannibalistic. Don and Carol came in peace and were seen as supernatural Tuans that would trade axe heads, knives, machetes, matches, fish hooks and fish line for labour, food and other goods. The Sawi people greatly appreciated this young couple and three tribes came to live close to their house hoping to benefit from this relationship. Carol was a nurse and Don studied the language. Eventually, they were able to share the story of the good news, that Jesus came into the world to save and to be the righteous King. However, the Sawi people thought that Judas was the true hero in the story. One of the greatest feats of the Sawi people was to use friendship to bring someone close, fatten them up, and then kill them unassuming. This act would make them a legend that generations would talk about. That is why the act of betrayal that Judas performed to turn Jesus over for crucifixion was what the Sawi people celebrated.
Don had lost hope in why he was there. The tribes were always threatening way and he felt they would be better off isolated from one another and not together close to his house. He told the tribes that he was going to leave so their could be peace between the Sawi people. The tribes did not want this. They chose instead to perform the ancient ritual of the peace child. The two warring tribes would each present a baby to the other. Two families switching their children with the fathers taking the name of the other. As long as the child was alive, their would be peace, the two fathers would make sure of it. Don realized that the divine had placed within this tribe a redemptive analogy that would help the culture understand the true peace child that came into this world. A child that is much stronger, the son of God himself, given so that all can have peace, given so the world would have redemption. Don shared the meaning of the ultimate peace child with the Sawi people and they began to comprehend the Good News of Jesus. There is a short video that takes place a few years ago when Don and three of his sons went back to the Sawi Tribes and found them living in peace 50 years later. They were a part of a baptism of hundreds of people and renewed friendships that were started earlier. Peace Childis a remarkable story of how God implants redemptive analogies into cultures to understand the great story of redemption through Christ. Thanks to our staff Gustavo for sharing about this missionaries story which is well known to Bible School students in Brazil but not as well to the people of the prairies where Don Richardson was trained over 60 years ago.
I know of a psychologist that is working in the safety field helping large companies understand that safety for workers is a much deeper task than at first glance. They have helped large corporations insure safety at work by tending the souls of the workers. Bringing redemption into their lives and helping people restore relationships at both home and work. This soul work has helped companies have greater safety records saving millions of dollars for workers compensation. They are christians using their skill set and talents to bring changes to whole industries through redemption and restoration they were taught by Christ. Jesus saves, yes indeed Jesus saves, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Through serving people with special needs, or the name we prefer, people with exceptional abilities, we have come to understand a fuller theology of weakness, or as Anabaptist prefer the “Third Way” or “Upside Down Kingdom”. Jesus came to restore us to him, and he came as a servant, on a donkey, washing the grime of his disciples feet in a humiliating act. Our campers understand this theology more than we can grasp. They have helped us to become open to all peoples of this earth. They have helped us to understand how to be more caring, more compassionate, putting the needs of others before our own. We could say that we practice church community, while they are the church community. Sure, redemption and restoration are still acts that are not perfected by our special campers, but they have more practice with it than many. Their culture has changed our culture. Thank-you Jesus, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Like the great Henri Nouwen before us, people with intellectual disabilities inform greatly the organization that they are a part of. Our core values are sacrifice, serve, share and seek. We chose to sacrifice, to die to self and live in Christ, to embrace humanity and weakness instead of celebrities and pride. We choose to serve rather than feeling entitled. We choose to share rather than independence. We choose to seek, to be curious rather than knowing all the answers. These are the values that have been ingrained into our organization over the last 80 years and we seek to continue developing the depth as we share Jesus with people and provide a place to serve. That is part of the redemptive analogy that was imbedded into the Youth Farm Bible Camp through the prayers of the ones who came before us. Thank you Jesus, let us rejoice and be glad in it.