Meeting Relatives

There are moments in life that are so beautiful that they bring tears to your eyes. This past Friday evening I attended a lecture put on by the Healing of Memories Institute that was held in the District Six Homecoming Centre. The Institute was starteFather Lapsleyd by a man named Father Lapsley, whose work I have followed for years. During the apartheid years here in South Africa, he would have been a voice speaking against the regime. He received a letter bomb that blew off both his hands and damaged his eyes.  Later, his work began to focus on bringing people in South Africa together to tell their stories and share their trauma.

When Bishop McDonald, the presenter for the evening, greeted us he used the language of the Cree people.  I had never heard that language spoken aloud, but that is the language of my grandfather’s and therefore my people.  My grandfather’s family migrated from Canada to Montana.  The story is told that my grandfather was riding cross country by train and stopped off at a small North Carolina town named Pembroke.  He met my grandmother, a Lumbee Indian, fell in love instantly and never got back on the train.  So, in my veins runs the blood of both the Lumbee and Cree.

Bishop McDonald shared the stories of the Indian residential schools for Native American children in CanadaBishop Mark McDonald. They have been charged with actually being extermination camps because of the high mortality rate. They had a 69% death rate and children reported sexual and physical abuse. “The schools had graveyards, not playgrounds,” shared Bishop McDonald. As I listened to the stories, memories of my grandfather who died when I was six years old were flooding my mind. These stories were stories of wrongs done to his people.  Yet, I knew him well enough to know that he lived making sure wrongs were done to no people.

It was a very strange moment to be a US citizen sitting in the District Six Museum listening to stories of my roots being traced right before me. Tears literally welled up in my eyes. I had arranged for a taxi to pick me up after the event and they went to a different location, so I was waiting out on the street as the crowd began to die down.  A group from inside came to stand with me as I waited for the Taxi. They were some of the Khoi Chiefs of South Africa who had been participating in a healing of memories retreat prior to the lecture. I shared with them that my grandfather was one of the Cree people and they told me they learned a practice of the Cree that was to make a relative of everyone you meet. They invited me to attend an event they were having later in the year and when we parted ways, I felt overwhelmed by the gift of being in the right place at the right time.

My grandfather was someone who never knew a stranger.  He lived with love for all people.  I am thankful that my roots trace back to him and challenged in my own life to mirror the Cree Practice that sounds so much like Jesus’ call to love our neighbor.


Walter Pinchbeck

My Grandfather

Fault Lines

Seismologists are those who study the quakes that occur in the earth — earthquakes. There are many reasons for the occurrence of earthquakes, but one of them is movement along a fault line — or crack underneath the earth’s surface.

Seismologists work to predict earthquakes by tracing the activity of seismic waves or pings of energy that vibrate out as the plates begin to shift along a fault line or crack in the rocky ground beneath us. Throughout the course of human history, prophets have served in this same capacity for the people of God. The voices of the prophets name for us the places in our life together where there are cracks.
2015-08-09-Womens-Day-ProtestersOn August 9, 1956, 20,000 women marched in opposition to the pass laws in South Africa. The pass laws were an internal passport system limiting the movement of black Africans.  As the women marched, they held in their hands over 100,000 signatures opposing this law that was one of the evils of the apartheid system that was the fault line of the day — the crack that was killing true community. As the women protested, they sang a song and the words translated to, “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.” This phrase now represents the courage and strength of women in South Africa. Today and tomorrow, South Africans will honour all women as we celebrate National Women’s Day.

There are fault lines beneath us in our life together still today. What might the women of 1956 and the prophets of old have to say to the reality that 1 in 3 women worldwide will suffer some sort of violence in their lifetime and that more than 57% of the women in South Africa who are murdered are murdered by a loved one?  What might they have to say about the racial violence in my own country?

The women of 1956 demonstrated with their march the need for us to gather around the places where there areLydia Women's Day March cracks in our life together as children of God. Injustices need to be named and work must be done to make right the fault lines that shift beneath our feet.  This afternoon I found myself in a sea of women marching the streets of Cape Town naming the injustices of the day.  As I looked around me, I found myself encouraged by the strength of the women as they marched together.  I found hope rising as I listened to the young people singing songs calling out for change.  God convicted me once again of the ways in which God’s people can indeed sing a new song together that transcends our divides! For real change to occur, we must actually reach across the divides in this world and find ourselves bridging those seismic gaps–not just with our words, but in the way we choose to live our lives!

Question for reflection: Take some time to name the fault lines or cracks in the world where injustice exists. What might you do to stand and name these injustices like the women of 1956?  How might your life change because of what is stirring inside of you?

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With you on the journey,


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