As many of you know, a group of Lighthouse students went on a Service Trip to the Yakama Indian Nation over Spring Break. As the intern in charge of the trip, I had been anticipating and planning it for a long time, but I did not know exactly what to expect. I had not been on an Indian Reservation before and knew close to nothing about the history of the Yakama Indian Nation. But over the course of our trip, I learned so much, created meaningful relationships, and came to deeply appreciate the Yakama Indian culture, practices, and hardships.
Some of us may be wary of forms of worship that are different than ours, but as Jesus people, we should not be. Yakama Indian Nation Christians hold the same beliefs as many of us do: the belief in The Creator (God) and His son Yeshua (Jesus). They may worship Him differently, but we all have the same beliefs and were chosen by God to be His people. The Yakama Indian worship practices reflect important aspects of their culture, passed down for thousands of years, such as chanting and singing. In one form of worship that we participated in, the worship circle, God’s presence was explicitly emphasized, with a place in the circle being left for Him, which was extremely meaningful. As it says in Matthew 18:20 ‘where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.’
Corey Greaves, a Native worship leader and director of Mending Wings, the nonprofit organization that put on the Spring Break Trip, shared a meaningful passage from a Chinese theologian. It said that the sharing of Christianity is better done when a seed is brought to be planted into a pot with its own soil rather than bringing an already-rooted plant. This was particularly meaningful to me, as it emphasized the importance of a connection to already-shared, though diverse, values and practices. God made each of us as a unique person, belonging to a distinctive culture, and we should embrace that, viewing diversity as a strength and something to learn from rather than a weakness or something that needs to be changed.
Many times throughout this trip, I felt a large amount of gratitude for my exposure to, and recognition of, a great variety of cultural practices. Being born and raised in Hawaii has greatly influenced my worldview, as I grew up placing a great value on diversity, from culture to food to religion. Unfortunately, many people have not seen that breadth and width of God’s love. His presence is everywhere and is found in many different forms, but many of us do not stop to recognize that. We are all ‘made in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:26-27), worthy of God’s love and unique in our own way, and great value should be placed on that. To grow in our faith, we need to ask ourselves, what can we learn from those who are different from us?
I can say that I have learned a tremendous amount over the past week, from the SLAM Trips Staff, volunteers, elders, Gordon College attendees, Lighthouse attendees, and everyone else who contributed to making this a great experience. And am excited that I get to share some of it with you
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