The Messenger

I am going to confess something to all of you. Some days this job gets the best of me. Simply put, it gets heavy and I get weighed down.  On one of these heavy days I was sitting in my office looking out the window watching the morning commuters drive past the collection of folks that had just eaten a delicious SUMS breakfast and were now taking naps on the boulevard. “Ugh!” is the best interjection for my emotion.  My negative thoughts start and my stream of consciousness goes something like this: “Why are our guest undermining me? They know they aren’t supposed to hang out on the boulevard. Those cars going by . . . all those witnesses that SUMS does nothing but enable. Is that all we do . . . enable? Now Dale is bringing out his pipe. He is 2 meters from the road . . . ugh! . . . Why . . . now I’ll go outside only to hear ‘we have no place to go’ and all the while the surrounding community is saying ‘get them away from here’.” I jump out of my desk, lock my door behind me and exit the mission on a mission.

“Mike”

The weight of it all, and I am ready to unleash on everything . . .

“Mike”

Our guests . . .

 “Mike”

The neighbors . . .

“Mike”

Our building that is too small . . .

“Mike”

I step off the curb…

“MIKE”

Suddenly I am taken out of my head because I realize that someone is calling me. It is Darren, the young man who stole our garbage cart a few stories ago. He is smiling and almost laughing because he has seen my current mood. Embarrassed, I acknowledge him and he clearly wants me to come closer. I compartmentalize the frustration for a moment and approach smiling, yet thinking “I don’t have time for this.”

 “I came by to see you,” he said

 “It has been a while hasn’t it” I was starting to realize something bigger was going on. I started to get the feeling that Christ’s loving arms were in this situation.

 “Yes, it’s been four months. I just wanted to let you know that I am doing really well, I am living with family, stopped using and I am back in contact with my wife and kid. So . . . you know . . . thanks. You wrote that story about me. It meant something.” At this point we were hugging. I told him that his timing was amazing and made sure that whether he know it or not God was using him as his messenger.  

 Sometimes, when days are especially difficult, and I don’t have these amazing Darren interactions, it’s easy to wonder if we’re making a difference. When thinking about writing this I asked Amber, one of our more enthusiastic employees, “What are some of the good things that are springing out of our efforts?” I thought it would take a day, but within minutes she had a list for me. These are just a few:

  • Our guest, Mitch, who has been living rough with muscular dystrophy as well as many other medical issues, is now in subsidized housing. We are helping him with budgeting and moving into his home. 

  • We advocated and succeeded for Il to get into subsidized housing after years of living outside.

  • Don had cataract surgery, which would not have happened without support from our Community Connections Workers and the SUMS address as his residence.

  • We partnered with UGM to help Ron get to his Dad’s funeral in Ontario.  He was able to see his son and mother after 25 years away. His son was 11 when he saw him last.

  • Taryna is back with her family in Ontario after surviving a deadly brain aneurysm out front of SUMS.  We walked her through every step. She and her child are back with her family after being apart for 20 years.

  • Our guests clean the inside and outside of the building daily because it is their building and they have a place where they feel safe and loved.

  • We ensured that Sarah went into the hospital maybe moments before she was going to die. She went into a coma, then out of a coma, then out of the hospital and into housing and is now surrounded by a care team of wrap-around services. We were with her all the way.

  • Heather can hear better because we connected her with a free hearing clinic.

 As I write this, a stream of great stories are starting to flow through my head. Yes this call can be frustrating, but the joy of the LORD is our strength. We are seeing His work in the daily prayers, the chapel prayers, and the daily “Amen’s”. In the “I love you too’s,” and the misguided “thank you, Pastor Mike’s.” It is truly a great place to be and I want to invite you to join us.

 We would love to start a Guest Transportation Program and we need a van.

We are working on starting a Christ-centered Housing Outreach Program that will assist people in retaining housing and taking next steps to improve their quality of life.

 We would love to be part of a mentor-ship program to assist individuals as they move into their new homes.

 If you read these and feel that desire to get involved in any way call me. My number is (604) 788-7343

 

 

 

 

Spring: Russel's Story

Many of you, who come to the mission regularly, know my friend Russell. He is perhaps one of the most colourful people I have met. I think there is a story to tell from every time we meet. He faces his struggles with cantankerous toughness, sharp wit and surprising moments of selflessness.

My wife, Stephanie, tells this story:

Every Sunday we take the van and stop by the mission to see if anyone wants to come to church with us. Today was my favourite Sunday yet! While we were waiting to pick up Don, who volunteers to serve breakfast every Sunday, Russel showed up. At 5’4” with the mouth of trucker, he is a cantankerous old man with a huge heart. He’s wearing camouflage cut off shorts, a royal blue sequinned fedora and a beige unzipped Nike track jacket. Just a jacket. It’s a toasty warm morning, and his milky white chest is a prime target for today’s rays. I forgot to mention that Russel is 84.

“Where you going?” Russel asks. 

“Were off to church” Mike answers, “Wanna come?”

“Ya. I’ll come” Russel starts to walk around the van to the empty seat. 

“Russel, I think we should get you a shirt.”

“I can zip up my jacket. But I think it’s broken” He squeezes the jacket shut and looks to Mike for approval. 

“Let’s get you a shirt, Russel”. Mike hops out of the van and heads into the mission to shop...

Another volunteer pops his head out and offers Russel a breakfast sandwich. Mike returns with a beautiful button up short sleeved shirt. Blue to match his hat! We’re off. Russel sat with us, chatted through part of the sermon, enjoyed coffee and cookies after the service and let us drop him back off on the strip afterwards. Hands down one of the most enjoyable Sundays I’ve had! Christ came not to serve those who are well, but the sick and needy. We are faced every day with opportunities to serve and to love.

Some of you may have already heard the pink fire truck story:

Thanks to Rick Diamond and Alethea Udell, we were granted access to a beautiful pink fire truck today. After it was detailed by the amazing volunteers from Luke 15 house, we decided to take it for a spin. Our special guest Russell, the fella in the photo, was overjoyed with the idea of going on a ride on the pink machine. So, we loaded him up and off we went for a tour around the block. As we returned to the mission, Russel seemed upset, so I asked him what was wrong.

Russel said, “I really want the guys at my house to see me in this because they don’t think I’m important”.

After a brief look at the driver, Shayne, who promptly gave a nod of approval we decided that Russel’s hat didn’t fit and we would have to go to his place to get a different hat. Russel’s excitement was palpable and his language was colourful as we traveled down 108th to the house he shares with several others. We arrived at his house with lights flashing and a few horn honks (we couldn’t figure out the siren knob). Russell walked into the house with several looking on from inside, then quickly returned with a baseball cap on.

“Your chariot awaits” I yelled loud enough for everyone inside to hear. With many onlookers, we helped Russel into the truck and we were off. When we got back to the mission I helped Russel out of the truck. At  this time his colourful language was out of control, as he expressed his excitement. “So much @#$ #%@ power” he said as he jumped off the step. After I stabilized his landing, he said, “I couldn’t find the right $%# $ hat”. I love this place. Everyday is an adventure.

Russell is a war vet who served our country for six years and was dishonourably discharged for flying home, without permission, to see his recently widowed mother. He talks about relentless shelling in “Little Gibralter” and the horrors of Kapyong. His story is a complicated one that is full of bad choices, lost love and a copious amount of fights. Russell recently received his veteran status, and I had the honour of being there when the nurses informed him. The look on his face was of joy and accomplishment as there has been so much disgrace felt since he had come back from war many decades before.

Thank you for your prayers and support. Russell was declining mentally and physically. He was living in a home run by a slumlord, and this old man was getting beat up and stolen from frequently. Without the support you give us we could not be there for Russell. He is now in a wonderful, clean, safe supportive living home where he is finally being properly cared for.

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.   Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37b-38). Thank you for joining us and continue to pray for the harvest. There are so many people suffering in Whalley and there is a need for more workers in His harvest field.