Monday, June 27, 2005

lighting candles

Another Canada Day is almost upon us (July 1st). But to this point in 2005, I’ve not felt much like celebrating my country. As a nation which is internationally famous for its liberal social (constant chatter, for example, pro- legalization of prostitution and smoking dope) and soft immigration policies, and with the biggest growth industry in my part of the country meth labs and grow-ops, it doesn’t help that last week, the only federal party which had any hope of stalling the passage of the same-sex marriage bill (C-38) was caught napping. Barring a miracle, now, it’s only a matter of time before we’re known for that too.

Our church celebrated Canada in the morning service yesterday, though. They did it with a presentation called "Take the Urban Challenge." Church members involved in group after group of church, para-church and community-sponsored initiatives came on stage. Here are some of the things my church helps support with money and people-power.

CLA-Advocacy: This program is run by our church to help the poor get connected to what is already available to them in the community via Social Services etc.

(A personal story about this. About late June, early July last summer, in one of the places my husband and I walk at noon, we noticed a hobo. First we saw him ride the trails. Later we caught sight of him, sitting or sleeping on a park bench. One day we saw his cardboard ‘house’, folded up, tucked behind a tree. It became evident he was living there.

At first we avoided him. But that bothered me. We talked about it and decided the least we could do was get to know him a bit. So one day we introduced ourselves to Vern. He was from Thunder Bay, had moved here some years ago, used to live in Vancouver, but since he got off drugs and alcohol, he avoided the downtown eastside and the part of Surrey where druggies hang out.

The summer was warm and he seemed content in his digs – which eventually included a tent. The place he ‘lived’ was close to both a park with a washroom and a golf course where he seemed to be well tolerated (he sure wasn’t wasting away weight-wise either!). But he didn’t know what he’d do once winter came along.

Some months before, CLA Advocacy had given out business cards at church. My husband had one in his wallet so we gave one to Vern and told him, come winter he should contact that number.

In September he disappeared. Then one Sunday in October, there was Vern in the foyer of our church. The people at Advocacy were so good to him – got him put on the dole which was enough for a cheap hotel for two weeks a month and the other two weeks he hung around church and on cold nights slept in places like the furnace room. In fact he was part of a little promotional video clip Advocacy had made for yesterday.)

Langley Food Bank

B. C. Teen Challenge - a drug rehab program in Yarrow B.C.

Wagner Hills Farm - a drug rehab program in Aldergrove B.C.

M2W2 - organization which coordinates visits to prisoners.

Crisis Pregnancy Center - Newton, Surrey

Downtown Eastside ( DTES): This is very cool. DTES is an umbrella organization for a variety of programs designed to help people in Vancouver’s poorest neighborhoods (called the downtown eastside) who want to get back on their feet, back to work, out of the sex trade etc. One arm of it is involved with Christian businessmen buying up cheap hotels and rooming houses, renovating them (paying residents to do the work) thus providing safe, clean, inexpensive living accommodation for the people there.

Gordon Wiebe (a former pastor at our church – he actually was the one who started CLA Advocacy) moved into the downtown eastside a few years ago with the intent of being a minster to the people there (no salary, he did this on his own!). He now manages the Dodson and Jubilee Rooms – two of the renovated hotels. (He told the story in church last year, of how he actually happened to be living in this hotel when a Christian businessman bought it)

English Studies for Life in Canada (ESLC) - English as a second language instruction classes at CLA.

Punjabi Church

CLA - School of Missions

Campus Crusade - SFU Outreach

Campus Crusade - Women’s Outreach

University Christian Ministry (UCM)

Summit Pacific College

Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC) which among other things alerts Canadian Christians to upcoming political initiatives. It has spearheaded the letter-writing and poll response to Bill C-38.

Global Emergency Mission Society (GEMS) - collects clothes etc., compacts them into bales and ships to needy places all over the world.

Langley CLA Saturday Kids Klub - an outreach of our church’s bus ministry.

As one contingent followed another onto the stage, I felt my spirits lift. There is a lot of good stuff going on in my community, my province, my country. It may not make it onto the news, but it is spreading the salt and light of the Kingdom of God. It reminded me of the proverb: "Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle."

Now where did I put my Canada flag windsock?

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