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Healing Through Jesus
Her aunt taught her that God has never forsaken the Native people.

As a child, I remember church as ritualistic and threatening. A huge statue of the archangel Michael, clutching a heavy sword, warned grimly of the consequences of refusing the faith. Another statue of the crucifixion spoke of suffering.

They told of a loving and forgiving God who lives in heaven, waiting for my acceptance of His son …

I was raised in the native community of Rae, N.W.T, where some 1,800 Dogribs blend teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Dene tradition.

During my 20s, I worried about the complexities of life and the struggles to maintain our identity as an independent Dogrib nation without continual political and social injustices. I prayed for stability, not my hit-and-miss approach to peace and a happy life.

Soon a young missionary couple came to live near my parents' home. They told of a loving and forgiving God who lives in heaven, waiting for my acceptance of His son Jesus as Saviour. I became a Christian in 1979 and now attend a Baptist church.

I cherish my Christian heritage alongside my Dene heritage, thanks to my Christian aunt and elder, Elizabeth Mackenzie. She taught me that God the Creator has never forsaken native people or treated them as "pagans." She patiently pointed to our ancestors' gifts and survival skills.

My parents and many Dene elders practise an ancient custom of offering tokens of respect and prayers of appreciation to God. Often, bannock, tea bags or pieces of meat are placed into a fire or a lake. Today, drums are also used for worship in the same way that pianos are used by Western believers. Though I don't follow the traditional ways of worship, I respect my ancestors who relied on the Creator.

I rejoice over the Great Commission to preach peacefully about Jesus' saving grace. God has provided hope for all nations to have healing through the precious blood of Jesus.

Celine Mackenzie Vukson is a freelance writer based in Brantford, Ontario, and a member of World Vision Canada's Aboriginal Writers' Focus Group.

Originally published in Faith Today, September/October 1997. faithtoday.ca

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