I’ll never forget the first time I ever met Makayla Sault. She was just about five years old. It was my first time going inside a church on the reserve and I was curious to listen to what they had to say.
Church was always something of a curiosity to me. I sat at the back of the room feeling mightily uncomfortable in the pews and feeling pretty bored by the bluegrass gospel tunes. My stomach growled. ‘Ugh, I want to go home!’ I thought to myself.
The pastor walked up to the podium. He was a big burly guy with a big black suit on. “We’ve got a surprise for you folks this evening,” he said. “Come on up here babies,” and he gestured over to two little kids sitting in one of the front pews.
A little Ongwehowe boy with spiky brown hair and a little Ongwehowe girl wearing a poofy dress came calmly walking up to the stage. They were so cute and had a wonderful confidence about them as they approached the stage and took their place up front.
The pastor smiled at them, turned to the congregation and said, “These two kids love the Lord. And today they’re gonna sing a little song for you with their daddy.” Their dad took his place behind the piano and began to play. They were so darling. Their little hands gripped onto the microphone which itself was about as big as their face.
Right on time they began to sing, “Keep in the middle of the King’s Highway. Keep in the middle of the road…”, they sang. The little boy with the spiky hair was tapping his foot as he sang and the little girl, Makayla, swayed from side to side singing into the microphone and smiling from ear to ear.
Even right there, just at the age of 5, Makayla was captivating. She always had this elegant grace about her that was even remarkable from that first time I met her. All the way from the back of the church I could see that she had these long luxurious eyelashes that even made her look even more precious, almost doe-like.
For the next few years my husband and I would become friends with her parents and meet up each week for church. For a while I got the pleasure of spending time with Makayla and teaching the youth at Sunday School class. And to be honest with you, she was one of my darlings. I always wanted to hear her opinions and find out what she was thinking because although she was quiet I could tell that she was brilliant.
One of the most significant things I will always remember about Makayla though, was the sound of her laughter. Our Sunday School lessons could get pretty silly at times and although I struggle now to find the words to articulate it, Makayla had the kind of laugh that could fill a room with this joyful purity that was contagious.
She was precious, she was gracious and she was recently described by someone as a warrior. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Makayla stood up strong for what she believed to be true, even in the midst of her illness. She had the kind of faith that most adults aspire to. The kinds that says, ‘I know what is right and I am going to pursue it no matter what.’ She believed so much in the rights of her indigenous people to be able to pursue their own path that she endured all the way until she drew her final breath.
For the last year Makayla traveled and shared her story with people across Canada and the United States. She passionately shared her vision of Jesus and touched people’s hearts with her courageous story everywhere she went. She gave the best of herself, served goodness and hope to people wherever she went and we were blessed to receive it.
Makayla is a champion. God bless her family and friends this week as they prepare to see her off into the next part of her journey. We love you all.