First Nations believers are taking leadership, addressing needs in their communities. An example is Philip & Georgina Constant of The Pas, MB.
Suicide continues its serious threat in many Native communities. So why organize a bike ride? “The main purpose,” they say, “is to overcome the stigma that goes with suicide and, instead, people will find hope, understanding and healing when they come out to participate.
“It’s our hope that people can learn to express their loss in a healthy and fun atmosphere. For many, not a word is spoken, but we know what is in their hearts, because our own family has been directly affected by suicide.” As a visual, rather than verbal remembrance, some of the cyclists pen names on their t-shirts.
This year’s annual bike ride, held July 23, was the fourth. The first year the trek was from Flin Flon to The Pas, but then shortened to attract more riders. Now it begins at the Saskatchewan border, heading east for 40 km through The Pas, ending on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
About 80 riders participated this year, from young children up to grandparents. Several support vehicles accompanied the group, with refreshments and a lift for tired riders. Over the past few years Philip has rebuilt a number of bicycles, and lends them to riders for the event. He’s even built a couple tandem bicycles.
About four hours after the start, cheering OCN residents welcomed the riders rolling into the Reserve picnic grounds for a concluding barbeque and program. There were prizes, and words of thanks. A number of businesses and individuals from the OCN community support this event, and local police provide escort the entire route.
Dennis Anderson, NCEM missionary at The Pas, prayed before the meal, reminding people to choose life made possible through Jesus Christ.
Not everyone who participates needs to have been closely affected by suicide, say the Constants. They welcome everyone — the more participants, the greater the awareness, they believe. Local press provided coverage.
Through her employment at a local school, Georgina counsels individuals, and together the Constants lead sessions on the topic of suicide. They’re concerned for many people who struggle alone, not talking about loved ones they’ve lost, or their own feelings of hopelessness. They need support.
Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #509). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.