My journey with advocacy in the Christian Reformed Church began in the youth room of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC a couple of years ago. Although I was not in high school anymore, Rev. Syd Hielema had invited me to take part in the youth group events that night. When I arrived I discovered that the night’s activities would be centered around the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, which was being led by Ryan Geleynse and Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan. The exercise revealed, in a tangible way I had not yet experienced, the tragedy of colonial land acquisition and the great injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples in North America. Since then, I have continued to study the historical impact of colonization as a systemic and continuous source of oppression.
When we had finished the exercise, I decided to ask Ryan and Danielle about opportunities to learn more about the work done by their organizations, World Renew and the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue. They pointed me to the World Renew-led advocacy leadership program, where I was able to go to Ottawa to advocate for expanded foreign aid in support of small scale farmers in the Global South.
Through that experience, and my subsequent education at university, I continued to think about that systematic and continuous oppression. These thoughts led me to two conclusions that I am still working through, even as I write this article. My first realization was this: I am privileged in every way. I have been blessed immensely with not only physical wealth, but a position that gives me nearly absolute freedom to pursue my goals, unimpeded by prejudice or discrimination.
I began to see how my everyday actions contribute to the ongoing degradation of God’s creation.
The second realization came at a time when my relationship with the Church was under stress. I began to feel the weight of my denomination’s debate around categorizations of personal sin. The debate had become clouded with cruelty and judgment, as well as incredible polarization. I am guilty of contributing to that negativity. The CRC is my home. It is my family—and in the midst of these ongoing discussions, I became frustrated and sad. That is when I discovered the Centre for Public Dialogue. The Centre’s commitment to advocating for reconciliation with Indigenous people, for refugees, and for action on climate change opened my eyes. I think the work of the Centre can best be described through the words of the theologian Abraham Kuyper: “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Although the power of personal sin to turn us away from God is immense, Kuyper shows us that we must also turn to the other domains of our lives where Christ cries out. Christ claims our public as well as our personal lives. It is not just our daily interactions and business that concerns God. With this new orientation, I began to see how I am complicit in the ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada. I began to see how my everyday actions, from the food I eat to the ways I travel, contribute to the ongoing degradation of God’s creation. I began to see how I had ignored the outstretched hands of my global neighbours. My sins go far beyond the personal.
Advocacy has become a discipline through which I can answer Christ’s call of ‘Mine!’
And yet, in this recognition, I found renewed hope in the mission of the church. The Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, sets forth a framework with which I am able, in small ways, to reconcile with my privilege and sin. Advocacy has become a discipline through which I can answer Christ’s call of ‘Mine!’ Through continuing conversations I’ve come to know that this work must be grounded in humility and the knowledge that all good comes from God. Although I continue to fail at this task, I am comforted by the hope of the Gospel message, and the assurance that it is God’s will that guides this work.