I am hopeful: My beloved church is showing up for my people

Photo:Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.

Every year, members of the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition gather for our annual meeting. Since our coalition is national, we work on campaigns together by phone and virtual video meetings in the day to day. We work in committees, as Mennonites do. We talk, plan, collaborate, create, organize. 

Throughout the year, we accompany Indigenous communities as we struggle together for Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty. 

We stand with the Stronghold Apache of Arizona as they protect their traditional places of worship and -sacred waters from the mining industry.

We stand with Indigenous advocates working to preserve Indigenous families by upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act.

We stand with Mayan communities protecting their sacred waters from pollution resulting from large-scale agriculture, tourism and settlement. 

Sometimes our work can feel exhausting and discouraging. It can feel like the stakes are high. 

This year, Indigenous advocates for the Indian Child Welfare Act — like the Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and our friends the Stronghold Apache — face weighty court decisions that will impact the entire country. 

As traditional lands are encroached upon and the pollution of sacred waters intensifies, it can feel like things are getting worse. 

And yet I feel delighted and hopeful. My beloved church is showing up for my people. 

This year we held our annual meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., hosted by Albuquerque Mennonite Church. It was an amazing homecoming for me. I grew up in Albuquerque, graduated from high school and college there. 

Yet it can be bittersweet to go home. The homeland of my grandmother and people in northern New Mexico was seized by executive order during World War II and used to develop nuclear weapons. While the Federal government promised that it would only be used in this way for a brief time of dire need, my homeland was never returned. 

I describe myself as a displaced person because, like many Indigenous People, I am a stranger in a land that is owned and controlled by others. 

Yet this homecoming felt different. Members of the coalition came together to plan, strategize, fellowship and celebrate the life we share. 

While the struggle is sometimes hard, the presence of others assures me I am not alone. This is crucial: Often we come to the work out of conviction, but we stay out of love for one another. 

When I met with Tewa community leaders struggling to repair damaged soils and communities in my native lands, I was able to come with hope. 

Often we do not have the ability to change injustice with individual actions alone. But our charge is not to do what is right only when we are sure of success. Rather, our charge, as 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says, is to stand firm, to be courageous, to be strong, to do everything in love. 

The Apostle Paul does not say to do these things only when things are going our way or when we are successful. We do these things because this is who we are. 

I have learned from my elders that what we do creates the context for the ones who come after us. I have learned from them that we should live with integrity and courage, understanding that our actions will impact generations. 

We may not see the outcomes in our lifetime, yet we are making way for the ones who may complete the work. 

Sarah Augustine

Sarah Augustine, a Pueblo (Tewa) woman, lives with her family in White Swan, Washington. She is the Executive Director of Read More

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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