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More than an Orange Shirt

It’s quiet in my house now. After a bustling morning of getting ready for school and work, breakfast and gathering the things needed for the day. I always take a moment to pray before I head to work, but today my heart is heavy. Today is a day selected by the Canadian government to reflect on the atrocities inflicted on the native communities for 120 years by their design, and with the assistance of the church.

To this date, over 6,500 bodies of children have been found buried in unmarked graves across Canada and parts of the United States, and there are more to be recovered. It burdens my soul that the actions performed in these residential schools run by the churches were done in the name of Christ. Abuse in the form of starvation, brutal beatings, different sorts of experimentation and sexual abuse were rampant in these schools that stole native children from their families in order to turn them into “proper, Christian children.”

I can’t claim to be an expert on what happened in these schools. There are so many survivors out there who have written their stories for the world that will make you weep. They will make your heart break at the injustice of it all. They will make you feel like donning an orange shirt in memory of these children will be inadequate. And to be honest, it is. And as I wonder what to do that would be enough, I look to the word of God.

I searched for something that would be helpful. I searched for something that would give a solution to a situation that I barely understand. And I stumbled across this verse in Jeremiah 22:3.

“This is what the Lord says. Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed, rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!” (NLT)

These words were written by a prophet to the king of Judah, along with his servants, because a good government depends upon a good ministry as well as a good king. They were told that God required of them to take good care of the power that they held in their positions of authority. They were not only to help those who had been mistreated, but also to do no wrong. In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Henry says, that is the greatest wrong and violence which is done under colour of law and justice, and by those whose business it is to punish and protect from wrong and violence.

Similarly, in Proverbs 31:8-9 it says”speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” If these children don’t have a voice, they can’t seek justice for themselves. And if we are on the opposing side as we are in this concern, we need to listen to the voices that can.

There are 94 calls to action for truth and reconciliation in this matter. And many have not been addressed, or have been swept to the side. Information regarding what happened in these schools is missing or has been destroyed. But it’s time to do something – more than just wearing orange in support of a widespread group of people. Because what if what has been done in the name of Christ can only be undone in the name of Christ?

I don’t have any answers, solutions or instructions on where to go from here. I’m just a girl whose heart is broken, and when my heart is broken, I pray. I pray to the One who sees all, the One who wants to restore everything that’s broken. When we pray, things change. Powerful strongholds are broken. And we can pray now, with intention, for real truth and reconciliation. These 94 prayers that coincide with the 94 calls to action is a great place to start.

The God I know would never have prompted violence to be done in His name. The God I know looked on these events as they were unfolding, and I’m sure they broke His heart, as evil and sinfulness does. The God I know longs for real reconciliation, and He has a plan to wipe out all evil for good. The other day as I was reading this book with my son, which we have read together for many years now, these words fell fresh on my heart. I’ll leave them with you now, and hope that you consider more than just an orange shirt today.

God loved his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan — a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes. You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children — with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God’s children would miss him always, and long for him — lost children yearning for their home. Sally Lloyd Jones, The Story of God’s Love For You

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