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Look back to move forward


Terry LeBlanc closes the Partnership Circle gathering of March 11, 2011 with a traditional Mi’kmaq drum song praising God the Creator.

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March 22, 2011
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, MAN. — True to his Mi’kmaq/Acadian heritage, Terry LeBlanc uses stories to put his message across.  It’s culturally appropriate, and it’s biblical.

“Do you remember when…” he said, referring to the many times God encouraged the Hebrews to examine their history and how God has been with them throughout it.

LeBlanc was addressing the annual Spring Partnership Circle, a gathering of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Mennonite congregations in Manitoba, sponsored by Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministry and Mennonite Church Manitoba. The event took place in Winnipeg March 11- 12 at Thunderbird House and Bethel Mennonite Church.

With a story from his childhood about a hunting trip with his father and grandfather, LeBlanc illustrated one of the concepts that shape Aboriginal perspectives; the importance of knowing where we have come from.

As father, son and grandfather ventured deeper into the woods and territory unfamiliar to the boy, Terry repeatedly stopped his grandfather to share his concerns about becoming lost.

His grandfather encouraged him to continue to look back over his shoulder, to remember how the forest looks from that perspective, which will be different than it appeared as they were passing by. “Look over your shoulder twice as much as where you are going, and then you’ll be able to find your way back home,” his grandfather summarized.

“It’s a teaching that has never led me wrong,” LeBlanc said. “[Looking back] is not simply nostalgia…it’s a learning tool…we get where we are because of our history.”

LeBlanc has spent more than 30 years helping Native people embrace the “person, work, teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he recites in a litany as he counts each attribute off on his fingers.

“When I came to faith it was be Christian or be Indian. I couldn’t be both,” he said.

At that time, in the 1970s, he felt that there was no place for him to serve in the wider church unless he wore a suit and cut his hair short – so that’s what he did. Although his early ministry with Aboriginal youth was modelled according to western youth subculture, he wondered why he couldn’t draw from his Mi’kmaq roots.

Since that time, LeBlanc has sought ways to draw from traditional Aboriginal culture in a meaningful way, and he is sharing what he has discovered with others.  He serves as the Executive Director of My People International – a holistic ministry program with and for Native North Americans.  He is also a founding Director of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Training – or NAIITS – offering a new approach to the Bible and theology for Aboriginals, and he teaches as an adjunct faculty for Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, among other related pursuits.

Join the Mennonite Church Canada Facebook Group and watch video clips of Terry LeBlanc or download his interview with Church Matters, Mennonite Church Canada’s radio podcast, at