Daniel Stonechild knows the value of mentoring relationships – his life is proof of that.
Stonechild, who is of First Nations descent, credits mentor Rodd Sawatzky with changing the course of his life when he was just 14.
“At the beginning of my relationship with God, (Rod) helped me to see what God had to offer,” Stonechild said.
Stonechild found Sawatzky’s counsel to be especially helpful for some of the issues he faced growing up on his reservation.
“It’s difficult for natives growing up,” he explained. “There’s stealing, drugs and alcohol and everything there. Rod was there to say, ‘God will be there to give you His strength to be able to stay away from all the addictions and stuff that traps our people.’”
The Regina resident continued to grow in his Christian faith when he attended Caronport High School (CHS). Sawatzky found a sponsor who paid for Stonechild’s Grade 12 year there.
“CHS was the opening of a doorway to the awesome life that God had for me,” he said.
During that year, Stonechild played for the Cougar basketball team coached by Gib Hinz, which went on to become the 3A Boys provincial champs. The coach remembers the important role Stonechild played on the team.
“Daniel was one of those guys you loved to be around,” he said. “A bit of a class clown yet he loved his basketball! He certainly was a feisty competitor on the court! He wouldn’t let his opponent get away with anything sneaky.”
Stonechild’s time on the team not only helped his game, but taught him important lessons for his life.
“If you work your hardest it will pay off,” he said. “Laziness will make you lose. We can be winners on the court and be the best team out there, but if we’re not winning at home – making smart choices, breaking free from addiction or violence – you don’t need to do that stuff anymore. Be a winner.”
That message of faith in Christ, and living a responsible life of good character is what drives Stonechild today. He seeks to be a positive mentoring presence in the lives of young men he meets in his life.
“It’s crazy because I’ve never had my own father,” he exclaimed. “I’m learning to become a man just as I’m teaching these guys. I’m learning to be strong.”
“(Daniel has) developed a passion for culture and he continues to be a strong advocate for those less privileged or lost,” Hinz said. “And his love for Jesus Christ today strengthens his position.”
Stonechild will be presenting a seminar entitled Native Missions and Missionaries during Aboriginal Awareness Week at Briercrest College and Seminary March 12-13.
“The native people are hard to reach,” he admitted. “A lot of missionaries say that we’re the hardest people to reach in North America.”
Stonechild is honest about mistakes – such as residential schools – the church has made in dealing with the native people. But he also wants to focus on missionaries such as Bud Elford who brought the message of Christ by honouring the native culture and truly serving the people.
The seminar speaker says consistency and patience to stay over the long term is important for reaching out to the native people.
“They need to see there’s a commitment,” he explained. “They’re used to being abandoned. It’s an opportunity to know that you’re going to be there a bit.”