• Lil Goertzen

Tragedy has connections to congregation

The events of September 4, 2022 in the James Smith Cree Nation community in northern Saskatchewan are heart breaking and horrible. A spree of stabbings in the community left 10 people dead and another 19 injured. A four-day manhunt kept people on guard until the RCMP brought the individual under arrest. That individual, Myles Sanderson, experienced "medical distress" after the arrest on Saskatchewan highway following a high-speed chase and died later, police say. There are many unanswered questions, the biggest one, “why?”

Detailed accounts of the event from various news media can be found on the internet, outlining the time line and outcomes as well as stories about the people who were killed.


Marsden and Mandy Giesbrecht are missionaries in Nipawin SK with Northern Canada Evangelical Mission, and are also the pastor couple of Open Arms Bible Fellowship, the newest congregation in the EMMC family. Nipawin is located approximately an hour northeast of James Smith Cree Nation.

When asked if they / their church had connections to the James Smith Cree Nation Community, Marsden responded with the following:


Gerald regularly attends our church and is from James Smith and drives about an hour and fifteen minutes to join us on Sundays and often mid week for Bible study as well. His wife Cindy is a first responder in the James Smith community and they both have direct connections to many of the victims. They also knew the attackers.

The community is devastated and it will be a long grieving process. Pray that many will meet Jesus as a result of these evil acts.

The absence of God often leads to the oppression of the weak and hopelessness for all. I believe these attacks are a direct result of the absence of God in the lives of the people.

On September 13, I attended one of the funerals on the James Smith for the Burns family. I went to support Gerald and Cindy. As we watched the funeral proceed there were several chiefs from neighboring communities in attendance, and people from quite distant communities as well, who had also come to support the community.

As I listened, I was praying that God would show the people the truth amidst all of the combinations of different forms of belief and half truth and outright deception that had been shared thus far.

Right at the end of the funeral ceremony, an elder from the Garden Hill Reserve in Manitoba was given an opportunity to share as well. He spoke simply about how he had come from his community, accessible only by airplane, how he had flown to Winnipeg then drove (8 hours) all the way here for the service. He shared his support and love for the people here. Then, very plainly and simply he shared the gospel and how the grace of Jesus is the only source of hope in this world.

I was blessed to have my prayers answered right in front of me. Thank you for praying and please keep praying for this community.

As the broader EMMC family of churches, we have the opportunity and privilege to hold Marsden, Mandy and these communities in prayer. Pray that through this tragedy, the love and hope of Jesus can be shared with those who are longing for meaning and peace.


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This article was originally published in The Recorder Volume 59 No 5