Warning: This article includes stories that deal with sensitive subjects, including trauma and abuse.
“I always sleep with the light on,” she explained to me “bad things happen in the dark.”
This was in 2006 and I had just signed up for a 10-day Christian lay counselling course on how to handle pain of the heart. Janet (not her real name) and I were settling in as roommates the night before our course began. She went on to explain with a simple statement that needed no further expansion: “I'm a residential school survivor."
If this story was not common, I wouldn't share such an intimate fact. However, over the years I heard this exact story dozens of times, from dozens of women. In fact, tonight, here in Canada, hundreds of women are likely sleeping with the lights on because of their experience in residential schools. In these schools they experienced abuse and pain, often inflicted by the hands of those acknowledged to be and perceived as Christian authorities.
On September 30th, as we take a moment to pause and reflect on Canada’s new federally acknowledged Truth and Reconciliation Day, I hope you will remember women like my friend Janet, still working out the pain and trauma she experienced by her first introduction to "Christians."
I also ask you to think of my friend George (not his real name) who visibly shook as he stepped into the non-churchiest classroom we called “church” one Sunday. “The last time I was in church” he said “I was a young boy beaten with a stick for not saying the right words. My palms are sweating real bad right now, but I want to be here. Please be patient with me.”
The bravery it took for George to step into that space and acknowledge both his pain, and desire to continue, astounds me to this day! How many of us in the church have the will or the patience to listen to the depth of emotion that exists behind those words?
Those simple words of truth, so difficult to express, have me wondering if we have ears that hear and if our churches today are prepared to be places where those who have experienced these types of stories may find healing, reconciliation and restoration?
As we reflect on the deep meaning behind Truth and Reconciliation, I encourage you to look at the resources available today that can equip you to step into spaces where stories may be safely shared and held like those told by Janet and George. Together we can listen, learn, heal, and grow as we seek God’s restorative reconciliation as God’s people.
Here are some things you can do:
Learn more about Truth and Reconciliation Day, utilizing resources including a short prayer video and podcast.
Across Canada this month, Hearts Exchanged launched with approximate 250 people registered for cohorts meeting over the next 8 months. If you are not yet registered, please pray for those engaged as they take a deep dive into understanding the systemic conditions that made stories like Janet’s and George’s possible.
Coming up in January 2022, Healing Hearts Transforming Nations, a national reconciliation workshop that began after the Rwandan genocide, is coming to North America with their 3-day experiential and immersion workshops (held in Maryland, Michigan, California, and Washington State) inviting you to walk a truth and reconciliation path with others who also want to be known as reconcilers!