The Rance Trance

In the past few months our city of Humboldt on the Canadian prairies has been rocked by raw and strong emotions. First came the Broncos bus crash, unleashing unspeakable grief and loss, both individually and as a community, a grief that rapidly spread across the globe. All of us got lost in emotional fields littered with shocking trauma, broken hearts and torrents of tears. Would we ever come out of this, would this trance of pain ever end? Then, seven weeks later, the “Rance-Trance” hit us with similar emotional force.

For those who have not been in the loop (that’s most of you regular blog readers), Rance Cardinal is a young Indigenous man who walked 1250 km from Sioux Lookout, ON, to Humboldt, SK, for the healing of hearts, his own and all those affected by the Broncos bus crash. More than 13,000 people “walked” with him through Facebook where daily videos and written updates were posted. Over the course of his 48-day walk, Rance became a living witness of reconciliation and healing, in the power of the Holy Spirit, turning his own life around for the greater good of all humanity — to me it has all the features of a powerful contemporary Pentecost. 

Besides Rance’s personal witness, there is so much other fruit arising from his daring and courageous walk. I became hooked on his daily Facebook posts, not only for Rance’s personal witness but for the outpouring of community, of personal sharing, of healing and reconciliation that this social medium facilitated. I consider it a shining example of the very best social media can be.

The posts and images below are selected from the Facebook page entitled Humboldt Strong WALK. Now I know well the importance of giving proper credit to other people’s words. In this case, I had collected the quotes (and photos) without the names before deciding to incorporate them in a blog of my own. I tried in vain to find the names again on the FB page, but the postings were simply too numerous. Nevertheless I share the words with some images as a witness to the power of healing and reconciliation even in a virtual community of strangers united by the common bond of grief that transcended every border and boundary. The quotes are distinguished by alternating the italics. Should anyone recognize their words and would appreciate being identified or prefer to have their words omitted altogether, please contact me and I will gladly oblige. So now I let the words of others speak for themselves about this Rance Trance:

This tragedy needed a “hero.” Someone to help this nation heal. Rance did that through his journey of walking over 1200 kms. What started out as a journey to heal himself of his own pain became something much bigger and helped many heal from this tragedy. Every step he took, every video he posted, every person he met and the pictures and stories they shared of meeting him has helped us as a nation not only to heal but to come together on this Facebook page to rally behind him and cheer him on. Thank you again Rance for being the “hero” this tragedy needed.

The Humboldt Strong sign and the need for healing is what started this young man on the journey. He started off in the snow not knowing what was ahead but in his heart he knew he had to get to Humboldt. May 27 Rance and his team arrived in Humboldt. What an emotional day for everyone. Along the way he made many new friends , but the person that touched my heart is the man Rance calls his Agent, Charles. Charles met Rance in Regina and instantly knew this young man was someone special and they became inseparable. From Regina to Humboldt Charles walked with him. Charles wept with Rance, laughed with him and walked every step with him. If only we could all be so lucky as to have a friend like that.

Rance Cardinal walks down 18th Street North on Sunday with a hockey stick in hand and his iconic Humboldt Strong sign on his back. (Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun)

One more person who has impacted my life is a woman named Alice. I private messaged her one day after she left our page. From almost day one she has been posting beautiful prayers, asking for strength for Rance, his team and for all those affected by the tragedy in Humboldt. She lead many of us in a morning and an evening prayer. I asked Alice if she was a friend or family to Rance; she told me no she didn’t know them personally and she has no idea who added her to this page in the first place. Now I call that AMAZING. God knew what He was doing. Through her prayers she had hundreds of people saying the same prayer. What a blessing she is.

Rance-Ronnelle Cardinal, thinking of you as the miles grow shorter between you and your destination in Humboldt. We know how healing a journey like this can be. In 2011 a group of us walked over 800 kms from Pinehouse in northern Saskatchewan, to Regina, to protect our lands and water for future generations. It changed our lives forever, as we know it has yours. When we started, we only had enough gas money for our support vehicle to make it to the next community down the road, but all we knew, this was something we had to do, so we did it.

It takes courage and trust to do these things, and in true hockey fashion, you stepped onto the ice when you were called. When you turn your trust over to the Creator, every step with Mother Earth along the way is a prayer of healing and strength. We had a walking staff that carried us, and it’s amazing to see how your hockey stick is that staff for you and does the same thing 😄

The video of you meeting and embracing the people from Humboldt never fails to bring tears to my eyes, because it lays there before us the recognition and bond that is possible between people if we just open ourselves to it. It brings back such cherished memories of our own walk, where we were gifted every day with reminders of how powerful Love is. “Let the tears flow and the love grow.” Love is the most powerful energy in the universe, and is truly what makes miracles happen, as you’ve now experienced yourself.

From the moment you took your first step, you started sending out waves of healing which will continue to radiate forever, in ways that you won’t even be aware of, not only for the victims of the tragic bus crash on April 6 and their families & friends, but for all who were touched along your journey and beyond. They say the root of all addiction is grieving, and by following the call of your heart to do this walk, you began the journey of healing the grief you were holding inside. So many thousands of us are stuck in our grief, and by sharing your story along the way, you’ve helped us to also take that first step in moving on.

Rance writing PEACE in Cree and Ojibway. Photo Credit: Marie Saretsky

Rance, keep on sharing your story of healing for those who may not have heard it yet. We so badly need your message in a world where there are so many forces pulling us away from the red road. There will still be those times when grief for loved ones lost will well up inside you, anger, doubt, frustration, self-pity and all the other emotions that come along with it. But you’re so much stronger now than when you started. When those times happen, just remember how you felt with feet on the ground on your journey, connected with the healing earth and with your loved ones.

Your day arriving to Humboldt is going to be so amazing, so full of all kinds of emotions. It takes courage to walk into that, putting your heart in a very vulnerable place. Embrace the moment; together we are stronger. I wish we could be there, but know you will always be in our prayers for continued peace and strength in the years to come. Thank you to Rosanna and Archie for the amazing job you’ve done supporting and documenting this journey! And Tiniki, Marci Cho, thank you Rance, for listening to the call of your heart and showing us the way.

It’s been so exciting watching you on this journey. YOU MADE IT! It’s also bittersweet because we won’t be seeing your happy, smiling face every day and your awesome updates but you set out to do something so selfless and amazing and you completed it. You should be so proud. You’re such a positive role model and genuine person. So caring and selfless. You’ve made our entire nation and the world extremely proud. I hope you continue to keep us updated with a video here and there, because I’m sure going to miss seeing you daily, as I’m sure everyone else will. God bless you, Rance.

The boys and Dayna must be looking down from the heavens and celebrating Rançe’s journey as he finished the 1200 kilometre walk in their honour. The reconciliation and healing journey sure made us realize we are all the same and we share the hurt for all those affected by this tragedy. It only takes one person to unite us and together we appreciate what he has done. Rance Cardinal will forever the honourary captain for those the hockey community has lost and for those who follow their dreams of one day making it to the N.H.L.

Dayna Brons family welcoming Rance.

Wow…….such an emotional day…well done young man! I’ve been following you from North Carolina and you’re an inspiration to many. Don’t ever lose that kind and thoughtful heart and soul and don’t allow life to harden you. You’re destined to do great and wonderful things, this is just the beginning. My Canadian heart has grown a size or two with pride. Congratulations on a tremendous healing journey for you and many others!

My tears rolled as I seen pics of you walking to Humboldt. Once again I am in Lloydminster doing my job. I had a Smoke for you and prayed. You are our lighting power for reconciliation . You may have started without this connection but you became our idol. You will be forever. I knew the Creator would send help; I burnt my fire till midnight and prayed. When I saw your face in Humboldt with your mom I knew that was going to happen. I knew you were supported 💯 percent! May you stay humble and yes we will meet. Count on it forever; I will for sure meet you buddy 👍👍👍💜💙💜

I am finding it hard to put into words (which is rare for me) about how I am feeling right now. Rance, you have rallied the troops, and inspired not only those in Canada, but around the world. This tragedy affected a lot of people. You have brought not only healing, but hope to those who have been following your journey. Well done.

I’ve seen some suggestions on how people should do this or that for what Rance had accomplished. I’m of the opinion that we need to all learn from Rance. Instead of suggesting what people should do, or who to send this or that to, etc….take it upon yourself. As Rance had recently proven, one person can make a difference. I had a welcoming reception in Regina when he arrived, I never suggested that “someone” should do this for him. I took it upon myself to help him, the same way I offered to help him with the rest of his journey to his destination of Humboldt. I realize that one person has helped us all come together, helped us all feel better about ourselves, began bridging the gap, showed us that we all care, and showed us that we all matter, that person is Rance Cardinal.
Yes, bigger acknowledgements in the media would be nice, Ellen, MacLeans Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Inspire Awards, The Globe and Mail, The Order of Saskatchewan, People Magazine, The Order of Canada, ESPN, Nobel Peace Prize, New York Times, etc. All of these ventures take considerable amounts of time and it really helps to have a connection. Be like Rance, don’t just talk about it, lead it. As he has shown, if you believe, anything is possible. 

So many beautiful words have been expressed about this man who has felt much mental anguish for his own losses and those losses that the community and families of the Humboldt Broncos have suffered. It makes me cry when I read every post. You are one very special, very blessed man! Thank you for coming into my life with your healing powers of love and humbleness. You are so so special.  God bless you and all of your future endeavours because I have no doubt you will succeed in anything you touch!!

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t stop thinking about you. You are a hero and inspiration to many including myself. The Humboldt tragedy took a toll on the hockey family but you stepped up and it was a way for you to grieve and get rid of the pain you were experiencing. Walking over 1200km to Humboldt takes a lot of guts and prayer but look Buddy. Our Good Lord and his now 16 angels were with you every step you took and every mile you made. You made it to Humboldt and enjoy every minute of it.

I live in Melbourne, Australia. Here, no one cares about hockey, & hardly no one even heard aout the crash. I care deeply about hockey and I cried every day for a forthnight over lives cut short far too soon. Maybe no one will read this, but I just wanted to say that Rance Cardinal is my personal hero. I am so proud of you, Rance, not just for making it to Humboldt, but for everything the walk symbolizes, all the bravery and vulnerability you’ve shown, all the people you’ve touched, all the good you’ve put into the world after so much was torn away so early. Thank you, Rance Cardinal, you mean a lot to me.

Thanks to the Saskatoon Blades 🏒 for the cap and t-shirt! THIS guy has transformed before us all!!! You, my friend, allowed yourself to be vulnerable, you are transparent… and through that you have truly gained back YOU!
You are an authentic individual 💞 and we all got to see you transform from the shy guy with your head always down to this now truly proud, strong, confident individual! You knew your passion from the start and you trusted… and look 👀 what happened!!! YOU, Mr. Rance-Ronnelle Cardinal brought nations together. I am blessed 🙏🏼 to have been in your space, my friend. I am a better person for it. You have something special, You have greatness within you!

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Trinity-style Loving

Every year the Church gives us Trinity Sunday right after Pentecost, and we’re supposed to say something intelligible about this serious theological construct we call God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We have made things complicated over the centuries. The Trinity has filled countless books, all theological and theoretical explanations – well, most anyways. We generally think of the Trinity as a “name” for God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Now that’s certainly correct, but there’s more than merely a name here. Maybe the Trinity is also about how these three aspects of God relate to one another in unconditional and ever-flowing LOVE. Taken together, the Trinity is about relationship. Our God is a relational God. Relating in love, the three-in-one, reveals what God does. God is love, we hear that so many times in Scripture. And for Love to love there needs to be another to love: God so loved the world …

We’re very good at defining God and giving intellectual assent to a God of love. We’re less good, though, at loving like God. And yet, Jesus showed us that we have the capacity to love like God. What would happen if we took seriously the relational character of the Trinity? If Trinity Sunday is merely an intellectual yes to a theological construct defined long ago, a construct that we mindlessly recite in the Creed every Sunday, then it’s not worth the ink in the volumes of books.

But what if Trinity-style loving guides how we live? What if Trinity-style loving makes demands on us that are uncomfortable and challenging at times? What if the Trinity is the primary pattern for being church? And who is the church – we are, together! The church is fundamentally about relationship. Long before the church is an organization, a structure o pr a building the church is about a way of relating, a way of being in the world, patterned on God’s Trinitarian dynamic of loving in and through Father-Son-Holy Spirit.

A Trinitarian way of living and loving embraces the world wholeheartedly.  We cannot be church in isolation from the world. We cannot be church without relating in love to others. Autonomy and individualism are good goals of development, except when taken to the extreme, leading to cutting others off and out. Trinity-style loving excludes autonomy, isolation and self-sufficiency. Instead, Trinity-style living and loving always takes into account the effects of decisions on others, and those effects could mean life or death.

Trinity-style living and loving is at the heart of a life of discipleship in Christ. Trinity-style loving means not using Jesus’ words “I am the Way-Truth-Life” to exclude, but instead apply these words to include in our circle of love. Trinity-style living makes our faith very personal, yes, but never private, as if confined to some lofty ideas about heaven. When Jesus claimed to BE the Way-Truth-Life, he referred to a way of BEING in the world that is driven and guided by LOVE – God’s love. However, these words Way-Truth-Life have fueled suspicion and prejudice towards those embracing other paths. But I don’t think Jesus ever meant these words to shut others out, but to bring others in through loving.

So this coming week here in our own community, we have an opportunity to practice this Trinity-style loving, to bring others into our heart and into our orbit of love, to put our faith, our discipleship in Christ, in action. Many of us harbour suspicion and misunderstanding about our Indigenous sisters and brothers. Why can’t they seem to get their lives straightened out? Why can’t they get over it? I hear this often. Yeah, why can’t they? If that question lives in your heart, if you’ve ever spoken that question to another person, then the Blanket Exercise is for you. Because if Trinity-style loving is what God asks of us, if Trinity-style loving is what Jesus showed us how to do, then that type of all-inclusive loving becomes the litmus test for what faith looks like in the world. No textbook in the world has the same effect as real people committing to real God-like loving. And that loving involves being open to learning and understanding how and why others suffer and why they can’t seem to get their life together.

I have personally participated in the Blanket exercise several times. It is a unique and powerful experience of discovery, after which one can never go back to the old preconceived ideas. We cannot successfully address the current challenges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada without understanding how those challenges arose. Truth comes before reconciliation is possible. If Indigenous peoples need to face up to their part in making farms and rural living unsafe, us offspring of the original settlers must own up to the fact that we have not held up our side of the Treaties our ancestors signed.

It seems to be the week for connecting with our Indigenous siblings. Today, in a few hours to be exact, Rance Cardinal is arriving in Humboldt. An Indigenous young man from northern Ontario whose life was falling apart – yes, he struggled to keep his life together – has found the light of healing and reconciliation, arising from, of all things, the Broncos tragedy. In a few hours he will have completed a walk of 1200 km to heal and unite and reconcile and renew the face of this hurting world through his little, simple contribution of … walking. Rance’s meagre offering of three loaves and two fish have multiplied a thousand-fold. Countless people across the globe have been following him (13,000+ on FB alone), and now feel inspired, encouraged and healed by his  witness.  Reconciliation-in-Motion, they dubbed him. A young aboriginal man, an unlikely person, showing the world, showing us all, what Trinity-style living and loving can do for the healing of all – no exception.

As Rance arrives in Humboldt in a few hours, I am convinced that his heart is dressed in God’s own finest Trinity-style wear. His is a true contemporary Pentecost story. What’s more, Rance has been helping countless others to don the same holy attire. His own broken heart and the broken Broncos hearts are being healed and restored and renewed for the sake of this world so loved by God, a God of LOVE we proclaim as Father-Son-Holy Spirit. Rance set the bar high; can we follow suit? AMEN

Homily preached on Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018

Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

* Update June 1, 2018. Upon his arrival in Humboldt Rance received an emotional and unforgettable welcome. He spent three days in our community, speaking at schools, playing ball hockey in the arena with the kids, visiting the players still in a Saskatoon hospital, visiting the crash site and paying his respects, being featured on our local radio station. He showed humility and determination, generosity of heart, courage and simplicity. His healing journey touched many not only in Humboldt, but around the world. Rance and his support team returned to Sioux Lookout, ON, by car. We will never forget him. More on Rance in my next blog posting.

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