Going Beyond with Dione Lacendre
Our NCEM mandate — our reason for existing — really goes past Canada’s borders. First Nations Christians have great potential for reaching not only their own people, but the world beyond.
Dione Lacendre is a 1998 grad of our Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute. After serving with us for awhile at Big River (SK), then with Door of Hope (Meadow Lake), she joined WEC International in 2006. She recently took time from her busy ministry at Melusi Christian Community in Dundee, South Africa to share with Northern Lights readers.
NLs: So what led you to serve in Africa?
Dione: Since high school I have wanted to go to Africa to help the poor. I was in ministry in Canada but, as I kept praying about it, the Lord led me to meet some people who worked with a mission in South Africa.
NLs: Tell us about your present ministry.
Dione: Our focus is helping the poor, so we have two townships that we go to and about 30 families that we bring food to and pray for each week. We try to minister to them in any way that we can.
I lead a weekly kids club where we teach the children about Jesus. I work in our Mission office in the mornings, where part of my job is to welcome people entering our community. And I help lead Bible studies and do devotionals with those who are here because of addictions, as well as with patients in our HIV/Aids care centre.
We have a “Work for Food” program for unemployed people, and I work alongside them and tell them about Jesus. Our mission regularly has new staff joining us, coming from South Africa or overseas, and I help them get set up. Then there’s our Sunday worship services, where I help to lead worship and plan other things.
NLs: How has being a First Nations Canadian in Africa made a difference?
Dione: I think I better understand the local religion and culture of the black people here because of similarities to Native North America. For instance, they worship things, not just the Creator of things. They live with a lot of fear of spirits, and they fear the “sangoma,” who is like a medicine man. They believe he has power, so they do things to make him happy. To make the Gospel relevant here, we speak a lot about the power of God — that there is no one more powerful than Him — so they don’t have to live in fear.
NLs: Have you responded to African worldviews and cultural practices differently than your nonNative coworkers?
Dione: In the area of family, their homes are very open, so that was already very familiar to me. Also, their lives are not run by time — they are more focused on relationships — so, again, that is similar. I’m not sure that I have reacted differently than the other staff here, as I am used to keeping time. But I could say these things weren’t such a shock to me.
NLs: What about people’s reactions when they find out that you’re First Nations?
Dione: They’re quite fascinated, as they have never met a “Red Indian” before (that’s what they call us). They’ve only seen North American Native people on TV so, because to them I don’t look black or black/white mixed, they think I’m white. They don’t know much about present day “Red Indians.”
NLs: You’re serving very far from home. How has that been for you?
Dione: I won’t say that leaving home wasn’t hard, but this was a desire of mine for so many years. I love my family and country a lot, but if I wanted to serve the Lord I knew that I had to love Him more than all of that. When I was praying about going, the Lord gave me Luke 18 — where He speaks about leaving mothers, fathers, families for the sake of the Kingdom (Lk. 18:29,30). When I read that, there was no excuse left for me to make!
And God says that He will be with us. One of my biggest fears was, “Is God the same God in Africa as He is in Canada? Can He really take care of me over there?” In Luke 18:27, God answered with, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
I was also very worried about the money required. But in 18:24,25, Jesus talks about how hard it is for the rich man entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I knew that I shouldn’t let money hold me back from serving my Lord, and I couldn’t cower behind my unbelief because God is bigger than that.
Since I’ve been here, God has really undertaken for me. He’s got me through times when I’ve missed my family, friends and church. I have learned to depend on Him in new ways — because there was no one else to depend on. What a precious lesson for the rest of my life!
Let’s pray for more First Nations to serve worldwide. With no history of colonialism to create barriers, with a relational nature similar to many people groups, with an emphasis on teaching by modeling rather than theorizing, they are great communicators.
However, for a First Nations person who may not have the support of a Christian family or an established church, the challenge to serve in missions can seem overwhelming.
Back when Dione was a KBI student she shared with Northern Lights readers some of her challenges, especially growing up separated from her biological family (she is granddaughter of Barney Lacendre — whose testimony is recorded in the book “Bushman & the Spirits” — but who came to the Lord later in life). Through it all, Dione knows firsthand that “God is bigger.”
Adapted from our Northern Lights news magazine (issue #511). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.