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‘Stepping Stones’ Toward Healing in First Nations Communities

July 19, 2023
Photo: Resonate Global Mission

Resonate Global Mission partners Anthony and Barbara Pennings witness the effects of trauma every day in their ministry with First Nations communities.

The Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations ministry is helping them take steps to provide healing.

The Pennings work with DayStar on Manitoulin Island, Ont., seeking to share the gospel with First Nations individuals by building friendships with them, discipling them, and encouraging them to reach their own family, friends, and neighbors.

The communities they work with have faced generations of mistreatment including forced relocation, land dispossession, boarding schools, prejudice and racism, and loss of language and culture.

“I see generational trauma, which [brings out] a lot of other issues,” Barbara said, sharing about children in single-parent families, youth with low self-esteem, and the many people who struggle with addictions, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

When the Pennings learned that Resonate missionary George de Vuyst was leading a Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations workshop, they knew they needed to join.

The Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations workshops developed in response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. More recently, Resonate and Christian Reformed churches saw a need for this ministry in Canada and the United States. To date, Resonate has hosted several workshops in North America.

Barbara especially knew the workshop would be helpful for her in overcoming her own personal trauma, and she and Anthony soon realized how valuable the workshop would be for their ministry with First Nations communities.

“It was a stepping stone in my own healing journey,” Barbara shared. “It resonated with me, and I realized that through my own trauma and pain I’m better able to understand just a little bit about what the First Nations people have gone through. I could see how Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations would help our First Nations friends.”

De Vuyst is now equipping Barbara to lead Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations workshops that she will someday facilitate on Manitoulin Island. In the meantime, she and Anthony have been able to use the tools one-on-one in their daily work and interactions.

While visiting a community in northern Ontario, for example, Anthony drew on his experience with Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations while ministering on a local radio station.

After he had shared about the gospel and sung some songs, he said, “a community member called in to the radio expressing hurt from the historical wrongs that people who came in the name of Jesus inflicted on his people.”

Because of the Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations workshop, Anthony knew what he needed to do—he needed to apologize.

“After the man expressed his pain and mistrust of Christianity, I had the opportunity to share an apology over the air on behalf of the greater body of believers for the atrocities that had happened and, in some cases, still happens,” Anthony said.

De Vuyst said that’s the kind of ministry he hopes to see from Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations.

“I hope and pray that Anthony’s awareness of the pain of others and his willingness to identify himself with the perpetrators and ask forgiveness will break down walls and lead to the healing of many hearts and lives,” said De Vuyst.

Resonate is hosting upcoming Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations workshops in Ontario and British Columbia. To learn more and register, visit