August 15, 2006 -- Our Healing Mission to Mistissini, Quebec
It's been a long drive. 987 km each way, to be exact. We took it easy (by Northern Ontario standards) -- spent a night in Amos, PQ on our way north, and another night on our way south.
Mistissini was a shock. It looks like an Edmonton subdivision under construction. A lot of money from the James Bay power project is flowing into the community. They have a four-star hotel overlooking the lake -- honest! (The stars are not the world class kind -- they're awarded by the Province of Quebec hotel association, but even in that league I'm generally a two- or three-star person.) Each room is named after a family in the community, and plaques in the hall, complete with pictures, tell something of the history of each family. Across the street from the Mistissini Lodge, Elders' Point celebrates the old ways -- a place where the traditional culture is re-lived and passed on.
The groups we worked with were smaller than anticipated -- a manageable size for us. The overhead projector had double vision, but a small adjustment set everything right at the last minute. The translators were super and probably improved what we had to say. They even translated Old Testament scripture quotations for us. A number of people are carrying around the New Testament in Cree, but the Old is not available. Saturday ended with a three-hour talking circle that shattered stereotypes and temporarily closed the gap between native and non-native people and our respective languages and cultures.
Our Sunday morning service lasted for three hours. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry to get away afterwards. After lunch, I wandered around the community in the company of a young black lab who had made us his personal project. I was so exhausted I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I started to question the sanity of travelling for a total of four days for a single week-end. At church, we had prayed that whatever good we brought to the community would continue after we had left. Someone told me that we had made an impact that would not be easily erased. If that is so, how come we are practically invisible in Hearst? What is it about imported talent that gets everyone excited?
It will take me a while to think this experience through. Again, I feel transformed, but I'm not sure what happened. My Voice said, "You are now complete." For many years, I thought I was looking for God, but I was really looking for lost parts of myself. Can it really be true that all my missing pieces have finally come together? If that is so, I received much more than I gave. Funny how that happens.
Since June 20th, I have stayed in the Travelodge in Kenora, a mystery house in Regina, Ross Place in Victoria, Sand Pebbles Inn at Qualicum Beach, West Harvest Inn in Lloydminster, L'Hotel Amosphere and L'Auberge Nouvelle Frontiere in Amos, and the Mistissini Lodge. I'm inclined to agree with Dorothy that there's no place like home.
No need to click my ruby slippers three times. My fuzzy pink ones are all I need.