As I come to the crest of the hill, the vista before me immediately warms my heart. There are large rolling hills leading to an abundant agricultural valley fed by a life-giving river that runs through the middle. All framed by the majestic Mt. Adams and Mt Rainer.
This is the home of my childhood.
One of the greatest things I appreciate and respect about Minnesotans – both family and friends – is their love of Minnesota as home. Generations of folks have found in this upper Midwest oasis ‘their place’ in the world. A place where they have put down roots, built a life, and passed on their love of home like they pass on their DNA.
Yet in my experience, those who feel the most grounded in Minnesota’s corner of creation are the indigenous people of its land. My Native American sisters and brothers have a connection to this land that I believe is beyond non-Native comprehension. Every time I am in the circle with the Native community it is abundantly clear to me that they are truly indigenous. This is, of course, as it should be. My people came from Norway and England and a smattering of other European countries and settled in places like Minnesota, Georgia and Washington State.
I have always had the blessing of living amongst Native American communities. This has formed and shaped my understanding of their history which easily pre-dates any history I have in that place. I have also always been blessed to live in contexts that had either well established or emerging cultures: Latino, Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, African and Caribbean. The combination of the indigenous culture and those who have found a new home in the places I have called home has not only unquestionably shaped and enriched my life but has given me a deep appreciation of the fullness of what it means to be created in the Image of God.
This is my story. This is why I am so troubled by what is happening with those who are desperate to find a new home. There are people in every culture who make choices to harm others. Yet the vast majority of people are good people, doing their best to put down roots and build a life. That is, until cataclysmic destruction comes and decimates those places they knew as home. Where are these people to go? Who will care for those who Jesus called his followers to care for, the ‘widows and orphans?’ With the exception of my Native sisters and brothers, were not all our families at one point in search of a better, safer, future home?
In the end, my friends, I believe this is about our common humanity: the fullness of the Image of God. Our call is clear: love of God – love of neighbor; respect for the dignity of every human being.