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Hearts Exchanged is a learning and action journey being offered across Canada that was designed to prepare Christians to build relationships marked by mutual respect and reciprocity with Indigenous communities. But why is it called that?

In part, the name comes from a Christian Reformed Church in North America initiative way back in 2000. The 2000 Cross-Cultural Ministry Forum allowed participants to share and listen in a new way. 

At that forum, Dale Missyabit, an Indigenous staff member from the Indigenous Family Center in Winnipeg, said, “It was beautiful to share in an open and honest way, to look at each other, to say I still love you.”

In the same way, the Hearts Exchanged provides participants with an opportunity to walk through the history of interactions between CRC and Indigenous people and carefully consider how to personally respond, today, in order to reconcile relationships. More than 250 people in 15 groups have already participated.

The name  “Hearts Exchanged” implies holding each other’s perspectives and hearts carefully.  It also echoes Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  

So, what does this look like in real life? Terry Veldboom, a Hearts Exchanged participant in Classis Niagara, pondered this by saying, “Is ‘exchanged’ a matter of transforming my heart, the one that beats within me and makes me tick?  Little steps. Or does ‘exchanged’ involve me giving away my heart to another and receiving one from another in return? Big steps.”

The answer seems to be a little bit of both.  

Syd Hielema, joined a Hearts Exchanged group in Ancaster, Ont. with other members of his congregation. He said that his “group of 17 has become a tight-knit community, sharing insights, difficult questions, and other helpful resources that we have found on our own.” 

Along the way, he has grown as an individual - gaining better understanding of his Indigenous brother-in-law’s struggles - and as part of a group. 

Hearts Exchanged helps one to clearly see how a Christian faith syncretized with colonial greed and violence has profoundly harmed Indigenous communities and persons. We have recognized how this perversion of the gospel lives on in our own hearts and communities, and together we have experienced significant distress concerning this. But our monthly time together has given us opportunities to share this distress in open, honest and vulnerable ways,” said Hielema. 

“We hope that the collective learnings of our group of seventeen will impact the entire congregation in some ways,” he added. “We are in conversation with an Christian Indigenous preacher at the nearby Six Nations Reserve. He joined our Hearts Exchanged group and continues to participate in Hearts Exchanged activities. We hope to develop additional organic ways to cultivate friendships with our Indigenous neighbors.”

New cohorts of Hearts Exchanged began this fall and several participants will participate in a Canadian National Gathering in Ottawa, Ont. in May 2023 to further this gentle carrying of hearts.

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