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Faith walk: finding a way through pain.

AS I GREW UP, I TURNED AWAY from anything that had to do with religion. The very word reminded me of residential school. Evening prayers and forced Sunday school attendance; I was having none of that in my life. I wanted no reminders of my childhood at all. In doing so, I was turning my back on faith.


As a young adult struggling with alcohol addictions, it took finding my faith to take those first steps to sobriety. Ironically it was at a church that I found faith or it found me. My brother James invited me to his church one evening. I had left Child and Family Services after reaching the age of majority. I was at a crossroads in my life.

I felt something was missing in my life. An emptiness that the bottle couldn't fill.

I was living with James and he had certain rules in his home. I put up with his church routine because I needed a roof over my head. I called him a holy roller with all his praying and reading the Bible. Still, after a few weeks of living with him, I started to feel an awakening inside of me. My brother had changed and I could see it.

Then one evening my brother invited me to his church. I went reluctantly and sat in the back pew. Even sitting back there, I heard and felt the message. I was listening to what the speaker was saying. Then after he was done, an invitation was given. I got up and headed to the front.

I have never regretted that moment. I found faith. The emptiness within me was gone. Still my life didn't get easier with my new faith walk. There were still challenges and struggles. I even slipped back to the bottle on occasion. But drinking wasn't the same as before. It didn't feel right. The ugliness of the bottle didn't sit right with my faith. I had to choose one.

One that was going to either kill me or change me. I decided that I needed to change and moved forward in my life.

The faith that I found was different from what was taught to me in residential school. It was loving. I became a loving mother. It was giving. I gave what little I had back to my community. My faith didn't hurt the ones that I loved. My faith strengthened me. As I learned to live with my faith, it taught me that what I learned in residential school was not faith but a doctrine of beliefs for that time period. It was to kill the Indian in the child.

I found that I could teach my children my Indigenous ways and still be a woman of faith. My son learned the beauty of listening to his grandparents talk in their language. They took him fishing and taught him the ways of the water and land. Faith was being with family and sharing your teachings. My son was able to hear his grandparents pray in our language.

My faith helped me in my darkest moments. Like when my oldest son Tyler passed away a few years ago. I recalled the first week that I had to spend alone after the funeral. I was alone with my grief. The pain of losing my son was unbearable. It brought me to my knees. No one was there to hear my sobs as I knelt there with my arms wrapped around me. Yet I felt the strong presence of my faith within my grief.

I spent the next weeks and months praying and reading the Bible. In my weakest moments, my faith held me up. I am an alcoholic and there were thoughts of drinking the pain away. Thoughts that I would push away.

Now that sharp pain of losing my son has passed. I consider that time to be a true blessing. Never has my faith been so strengthened and tested.

My faith is my closest friend. Not what I thought it was when I was taught as a child. This is different. My faith takes away the pain and fills the loneliest parts of my spirit. It is healing. It allows me to be who I am, an Indigenous woman of faith.


Vivian Ketchum is Anishinabe of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation, outside of Kenora, Ont. She lives in Winnipeg.
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Title Annotation:SHARING WITNESS
Author:Ketchum, Vivian
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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