The 2 Essentials You Must Pack

When our team first arrived in The Pas last October, Archbishop Murray told us a story from a short film by the Paulist order, which illustrated a concept that has continued to shape my perception of mission work in Keewatin-Le Pas. The story was of a young man who came to the people with the intention to instruct and fix; he thought he was a ‘filled cup,’ ready to give water to the thirsty. As time passed, he became aware that he was not at all effective in his efforts, and it seemed to him that all was in vain. The filled cup he came with was empty, with little to show for it...

 

In conversation with an elder, it was revealed to him that his errors and ineffectiveness were rooted in his paradigm that he had all the answers to give and nothing to learn. What he needed to do was change his heart and begin afresh with an empty cup waiting to be filled.

When you're about to be immersed in any new culture, an open mind and a humble heart are two essentials to pack in your suitcase. If you swallow your pride and control the desire to weigh each new experience against your standards and ideas of the way the world ought to work, you'll realize that your own wisdom has gaps to be filled.

This is all easier said than done, and bias from personal experience can be a difficult thing to be aware of, let alone try to leave behind. Recently, I've come to a deeper appreciation of this upon discovering that I've been blessed by receiving a gift I thought I was sharing: the gift of faith. In experiencing life in the communities in Keewatin-Le Pas, God has spoken through the people here to show me what deep faith in Him really is.

Most people we encounter have faced incredibly tragic events and struggles that seem almost insurmountable. Most people in these communities have lost family members and friends; those lost to addictions, shut away in prison or simply missing. We've talked to so many who mourn for loved ones who have died from health complications, alcoholism, drug overdoses, murder, and suicide.

Despite this, there is a great sense of hope and joy in many of these people. There is great respect and trust in God as Creator, and this is what sustains the deep well of peace and hope. They are filled with humility and gentleness that flows from trust and surrender. The first time I noticed this was in a conversation with a Cree elder who was sharing stories of her life with me. Despite all of the painful struggles, she closed her eyes, opened her hands in front of her, and said that when things are most difficult she says, "God, I give you all of my suffering."

Our team is blessed to meet many faith-filled people like her, whose deep trust and surrender in God is a witness that while they are weary and carrying heavy burdens, they truly have rest in Him. There is abundant grace in these souls which have fully realized how to share their yoke with Christ and walk with Him every day.

Day by day, my cup is filled with new blessings, and I'm so grateful for the time spent here. I have received much more than I could ever give, and learned more than I could ever teach. I have been blessed to receive an overflow of gifts from my time spent in Keewatin-Le Pas.

Catherine Shortell, Team 4