Dear Companions and friends,
Donna Dinsmore is a Partner of our kindred/sister ministry called SoulStream (Abbotsford, BC) and a personal friend of Selah. Donna recently discerned and responded to a vocational call to be solo pastor of a church on an indigenous First Nations Reserve in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada. With Donna’s permission, I’d like to share what she wrote last week about her heart-wrenching introduction to her new community and ministry in northern BC. I deeply appreciate Donna’s vulnerability and share this in hopes to encourage and challenge and inspire us as a Selah community to live our contemplative lives wherever we find our feet, and to do so with greater awareness and intention.
Remember Selah’s purpose: To invite all people to paus and to nurture contemplative experiences with Jesus, leading to inner freedom and loving service.
“Thank you Donna for your heart and your companionship with us!”
If you would like to respond to Donna, you may contact her at the email she lists.
So be it.
Peace and love to you in this good day,
“I didn’t want to tell you your first night here, so I waited until this morning. There’s been a suicide on the reserve and they need your help.”
One phone call sets the wheels of ministry in motion: a visit to Pearl Snow’s home, two Comfort Services for the grieving family and community who have lost a 15 year old girl by hanging, the funeral, the burial, and the feast.
I enter into their ways. I speak when they tell me to, at each Comfort Service, the funeral and the feast. I lead the casket out of the hall after the funeral. My car, directly in front of the casket now resting in a red pick up truck, leads it to the gravesite. I throw the first three handfuls of dirt on the grave. Thud. Thud. Thud. In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, Amen. It won’t be my last funeral, my last suicide. The Nuxalk Nation lives with suicide like my last church lives with a bad sound system.
This is not what I had in mind, a call to Bella Coola, in the back of beyond, as my first solo pastoral charge. This is not what I had in mind, a very public role straight away before meeting people and listening to stories. There’s no training for this. There’s simply incarnation—showing up and being fully present to the Nuxalk Nation who, over 100 years ago, were nearly annihilated by small pox; a white woman, representing God to people in their deepest distress.
The Nuxalk are recovering the language that was beaten out of them, not only by residential schoolteachers and staff, but public school teachers here in Bella Coola. They are recovering their stories and music and dance and carving. Leaders speak with one voice of the need to learn the old ways and stop drinking. Alcohol addiction is epidemic in my new neighborhood.
They’re trying to recover their story. I wonder if they’ve ever heard the Christian story? The real one, I mean. I wonder why they would listen to me, if I could figure out what the story is (!) and then translate it so they could hear it. I wonder why they would trust me?
Many of [my friends] were affirming and supportive as I was discerning the call to Bella Coola at the annual SoulStream Partner’s Retreat. Jesus had been whistling, for months, the song from the Iona Community, “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name.” In the contemplative SoulStream space the whistling got louder, and I heard it in full phrases, not just snatches. The next week I heard it strongly enough to say, “yes.” [My friends] were part of Jesus’ whistling as they attended so respectfully to me, and didn’t even know it!
If you feel drawn to join me as I wander and wonder in a backwater of British Columbia, I welcome your company. firstname.lastname@example.org