Woody Nook Christian Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alta., formally called Sean Folkerts, a member who has been serving with North America Indigenous Ministries since 2016, as Minister of Evangelism and Discipleship in Maskwacis—a community about 47 km (about 29 miles) from Lacombe that is home to the Montana, Samson, Louis Bull, and Ermineskin Cree Nations.
Folkerts was examined and approved as a commissioned pastor at the Oct. 15 meeting of Classis Alberta North. It cements a relationship with Folkerts’ ministry that Woody Nook has supported from the beginning. “Creating this position causes us to be more intentional about our desire to connect with Maskwacis, and it also calls us to greater responsibility in the pursuit of reconciliation,” the church said in its rationale to classis.
Folkerts’ ministry is with two congregations in Maskwacis: Louis Bull All Nations Church and Maskwacis Bible Fellowship. He and his family began attending Louis Bull All Nations after attending a family reconciliation camp in August 2016. The camp came about at the invitation of Louis Bull All Nations leadership after then-pastor of Woody Nook Neil De Koning had conversations with Mario Swampy, band councilor with Samson Cree Nation and the pastor of Louis Bull All Nations Church. De Koning had been exploring how to begin conversations with Indigenous neighbors in the wake of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s public events in 2014. Folkerts was one of about 30 Woody Nook members who attended the family camp. “Wilton Littlechild spoke,” recalled De Koning. “It was a very moving experience.” (For more see a seven-minute video from 100 Huntley Street documenting part of Mario Swampy’s testimony and his pastoring of Louis Bull All Nations Church.)
“It was here (at the camp) I met Mario,” said Folkerts. “We spent an evening staying up real late talking about reconciliation and what that looks like in each of our communities.” About the stories that were shared at camp of intergenerational trauma and the lingering effects of residential schools, “It truly broke our hearts,” Folkerts said.
One Sunday, not long after that camp, Folkerts and his family decided to head to Maskwacis and worship with the Louis Bull congregation. “That was just over six years ago, and we haven't left,” Folkerts said. “We did nothing for a long time, just attended church. We understood enough about First Nations culture to know to just be present. It was about three or four months before we were asked to be a part of a ministry such as Boys Group and Girls Group. From there, God opened doors to be able to do more,” Folkerts said.
That Sean and Becky Folkerts have 11 children in their care has also opened numerous doors for their ministry in Maskwacis. Some are their biological children. Others are foster children and adopted children. “We have been foster parents for years and have permanent private guardianship of a sibling set of four children, the highest level of adoption (that is) granted to a non-First Nation family of First Nation children,” Folkerts explained. While it is Folkerts called as commissioned pastor, he is quick to recognize, “We are a missional family, and we are all, including the children, involved in ministry at Maskwacis.”
The partner in missions of the Folkerts family continues to be North America Indigenous Ministries, a nondenominational faith mission serving First Nations communities primarily across Western Canada, Washington State, and New Mexico. “We raise support to pay our salary and ministry expenses by talking to churches and visiting with people, and we love it,” Folkerts said. “It is so amazing to be able to tell people how God is moving in Maskwacis.”