Sermoncitos, a family tradition
We make a great effort to recruit local people to be the teachers and leaders at church; however, we have much difficulty retaining them; because the members are very hard on the Indian teachers and leaders and their own family members, as they know their weaknesses too well. This is not a new problem.
Mark 6:1-6. Jesus grew up in a small town, then left at age 30, got an education and returned to his village as a teacher and healer. The people looked at him scornfully, saying, “who does he think he is now? We know him as a carpenter, we know his sisters and brothers, and now he thinks he is our teacher?” Jesus was not able to do healing or teaching in his community. He started a circuit and had great success in other towns.
The goal of Indian Education during the 20th Century was to remove children from the influence of their home and teach them to survive in the job markets far from home. Now we realize that this educational goal results in methodology that does not help families prepare children to assume a role in their own community. The new goal for the 21st Century is to strengthen families and help them empower their children to solve the problems of their own communities. The church leaders call it “building Zion in her stakes, wherever they may be”.
If parents come to believe that attending church with their children will make their families more healthy and prosperous, they will enthusiastically attend with their families. However, we must realize that families do not exist to help the church, rather, churches exist to strengthen families, and thus build communities. Life is a circle that must include all generations. Churches that do not have the active participation of all members of the families and don’t facilitate intergenerational transmission of values and culture and tend to leave the children at risk in this time of sin and worldliness.
Once we start teaching the Gospel in our families we cannot ever stop, for we are on a road and we can’t go back, we must go forward. We are learning that when we invite people to accept Christ, we ask them to change their religion, not their culture. The Mohawk have a story that illustrates the collaborative nature of integrating cultures. “Two vessels, the canoe and the ship, on the same river should work together in peace, neither trying to steer the other vehicle. In New York we have turned our children’s education over to the ship, not trying to steer our own canoe. In the 20th Century the Indians were encouraged to leave the canoe and ride in the ship, abandoning their language and culture.” Now in the 21st Century the Mohawk are learning to paddle their own canoe. They know they must share the river with the ship and move in the same direction, but they don’t have to abandon the canoe to keep moving in a positive direction.
The people of Zarahemla did not bring the Lamanite refugees brought by Ammon into their own city, but set aside a refuge for them. Their reservation was called “Jershon”(Alma 27::22-24). The land of Jershon became a place of refuge for all who were rejected by their families and communities (Alma 35:6,7).
I pray that our little church may become a place of refuge and peace for all people; a place where our family and community differences are forgotten and the gospel of Christ brings harmony and order to our lives, progress to our lives, and prosperity to our families; a place where we can become “fellow citizens with the saints”; a place where we belong.