“Where is Jesus in your ministry?”
This is a question chaplains hear often from the church. It’s a complicated question to answer, though. Chaplain Harold Roscher has touched the lives of many, though he often doesn’t get to see how their stories end. Through his work, Jesus operates in small moments, tiny gestures, and tremendous amounts of grace.
Harold is the Executive Director of the Edmonton Native Healing Centre, which serves as a drop-in ministry for indigenous people who have fallen on hard times. Many have moved from reservations to the city seeking work. Some are homeless or need food. Others need mental health counseling, or assistance finding work. Some just want to reconnect with the families and communities that they left behind. The Edmonton Native Healing Centre, sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church, serves them as a place of stability, where they can have their basic needs met as they try to build new lives for themselves and their families.
Harold Roscher is an indigenous person. Born Cree, he was adopted by a Dutch Canadian couple when he was young. He grew up in a Christian Reformed church. For many years, Harold wrestled with his two separate identities. Coming to work at the Native Healing Centre, Harold had the unique opportunity to combine his Cree heritage with his Reformed faith.
“Our reformed worldview says our world belongs to God,” he says. “I feel I have great freedom under that statement to go back and explore my Cree heritage, and to see where Jesus fits within that culture.”
For many indigenous people, Christianity is very separate from their culture. While some have heard of Jesus, many of them have never been invited to share the faith. Often when Harold asks them if they want to pray, they will decline.
“Most often they’ll say oh no how about you pray for me,” he says. “They don’t want to engage in it themselves because some of them still think it is a Christian thing to do.”
Despite their hesitance to engage in Christian practices, indigenous people have an advanced capacity for spiritual understanding. They come from cultures that emphasize prayer, humility, and a relationship with a divine creator. Because of this heritage, they often readily engage when Harold asks them about their spiritual needs.
“Most people don’t understand the indigenous people are praying people,” he says. “They are willing to talk about the spiritual realm like it’s an everyday ordinary thing.”
One aspect that makes the Edmonton Native Healing Centre unique is that it provides space for indigenous people to engage in their own spiritual practices. Harold finds that this enables them to reengage with their spiritual lives and be more open to healing.
“There are redeemable things in Cree culture,” he says. “They appreciate that moment when they can deal with the spirit. And I receive very little push back when I offer to pray for them or to talk about Jesus.”
A while back, Harold spoke about his ministry in a Classis meeting. Later, a delegate sent him a picture, which he had painted himself.
"He said I looked tired that day," says Harold. "He appreciated my Cree heritage and wanted to encourage me in my ministry. God is good to us in so many ways, and the gift of that painting felt like that 'Atta boy' from Jesus."
Whatever an indigenous person’s need is, the Edmonton Native Healing Centre works to help them meet it. Often Harold doesn't get to see the end result of his hard work, but he will always remember that this is a place where Jesus is ever present.