Category Archives: Homelessness not helplessness

DIVAS of Coquitlam Presbyterian Church – 5 November 2014

Location: Coquitlam Presbyterian Church – Women’s Group
Date: Wednesday, 5 November, 2014 (11:00 am – 1.30 pm)

On our second opportunity to share with the ‘Divinely Inspired Victorious And Serving’ women of Coquitlam Presbyterian Church, the question of “more” came up. After a decade of serving on the streets of our neighbourhood, why are we still doing what we’re doing? Stories of our daily interactions outline that we can be doing “more” –

The Poor will always be with you – Matthew 26:11

We can’t stop doing more: the heartbreak is in the fact that no matter how often we reach out with a nourishing meal, a blanket against the wind or a pair of boots to help that teenager get his first job, there will be others who need our loving, our voice when they have none. That’s why we continue to be there, night after night, doing whatever we can to ease the pain, to encourage purpose, to light the way to hope.

Mac and the women of DIVAS

 

Benchmark Fishing Derby – 2 October 2014

Location: Mission, BC
Date: Thursday, 2nd October, 2014

Sturgeon fishing, how could I resist?! My deepest thanks to Jeff Bontkes and his team from Benchmark for inviting us along to the event and nominating NightShift as recipient of their annual corporate fishing derby fundraiser.

Jeff Bonktes of Benchmark at their annual fishing derby fundraiserWe are all capable of taking the first step to make a difference, a motto that Benchmark embraces in their Giving Back campaign.

This week during one of the evening meals at NightShift, I hung out with men and women, young children and teens, who had joined us as they do any night of the week, to accept a hot bowl of soup or a change of clothes and be part of something larger than ourselves. I looked beyond the labels, saw not prostitutes, drug addicts or alcoholics, but people in need, people broken, yet people respectful and grateful for the love and help they were receiving. Recently, one of our new volunteers commented on how shocked and saddened he was to see children on the street, in line for a hot meal. Yes, we are seeing more children and teens than ever before. One family even asked for peanut butter sandwiches to take home so their children would have lunch for school the next day. And to think this is still happening in our own back yards.

Giving comes at a cost. The first step is scary. Yet the more I speak to people who give, I’ve discovered you can’t out-give God. The more we give, the more we get back – in every way. We are grateful for every person who offers of his or her time to support the work of the ministry and we are grateful for every penny that helps us to keep the lights on.

 

Street Talk – 13 June 2014

Location: Soulkitchen at More Than A Roof for a City in Focus “Talks with Tom”
Date: Friday, 13 June, 2014

Volunteers and tenants of More Than A Roof made breakfast and Tom Cooper invited Father Matthew Johnson from Street Outreach Initiative and me to talk about our different perspectives of ministering on the street – in Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, and Whalley, Surrey, respectively. Both our ministries are situated in the midst of brokenness as we walk alongside people struggling for survival on the streets, and although our approaches might be quite different, we share a compassion to serve “the least of these” in our two different cities.

Street Talk MaryAnne Connor Father Matthew Judy Graves Tom Cooper

The differences

Father Matthew is an introverted man with a personality polar to my extroverted one, but we are both called to step into introversion and extroversion roles depending on the daily demands of our ministries. Structurally, Father Matthew is calling people into the infrastructure of the Anglican Church, from the streets and surrounding community. At NightShift we are calling people out of the church – the structure, the building – to serve, do church and build relationships on the streets.

The similarities

We both realized that despite being nervous about serving people on the street early in our ministry, we each quickly realized that we have so much in common with people marginalized and dealing with poverty, mental illness, addiction and homelessness – the pain. When the pain is too overwhelming to carry by our own power and might, we each go to our knees and spend quiet time with our Father to refresh and be filled up. We both wholeheartedly agreed that it is a miracle how God can redeem the brokenness from our lives to bring healing and wholeness to others.

As Judy Graves summed it up, we all need unconditional love and prayer and meditation is listening.

Street Talk at More Than A Roof

Hear the Street Talk podcast Talk with Tom link courtesy of the new City in Focus website.

Mini We Day at Southridge – 8 March 2014

Location: Mini We Day at Southridge School, Surrey, BC
Date: Friday, 7 March, 2014 (5:00-7:00 pm)

Raising awareness around a variety of issues including hunger and homelessness.
Southridge - We are ALL ONE
As I pulled into the parking lot of Southridge School last night, I was impacted by the signs that fluttered from the light posts along the driveway, proudly announcing – ‘Here we are all ONE’. It was a perfect Segway into what I was speaking about to the students and parents.

At NightShift we are one: us and them. Somehow we believe the poor are less than us! I spoke about removing the labels, the stigmas, that society places on people on the street suffering with poverty, addictions and mental illness, and that we all play a part in finding the solution to help those who can’t help themselves. Society is judged by how we treat our weakest members. Let’s rethink how we look at people. Let’s step out of our comfort zone to bless someone for the seven days – start by giving a smile to someone you don’t know. Pay it forward.

Have you ever felt lonely, unwanted or unloved?

This was one of the questions I asked myself as I looked out through the window of a restaurant on Robson Street in Vancouver yesterday.

A man, wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the cold sidewalk, with but a dish in front of him for company. Head hung low, avoiding eye contact. For over an hour I watched hundreds of people walking past, ignoring him. During that time perhaps four people paused briefly to drop loose change into the dish.

As I watched, I remembered the saying, “A society will be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” Do we just walk by, denying our weakest members their existence? Mother Theresa said it best:

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”

I found myself praying for this man who I didn’t knositting on Robson Streetw. I was curious about his life and what pain he must have suffered through. Just then someone stopped: a man pulled out his wallet and handed over a bill – and didn’t walk away. He stayed to chat a while. The two shared a laugh, their conversation was animated.

This was a random ‘act of love’ I had witnessed. I envisioned angels chest pumping and high-fiving in celebration of this connection of hearts.

Papa’s kiss

Some days I am downright discouraged. Tired, overwhelmed and cranky. Days when I’m not even happy hanging out with myself. Yesterday was one of those days.

I admit this to Papa this morning, as if He didn’t know already, and ask Him if we could do a ‘do over’. Would He forgive me, encourage and bless me in some way today? He is most gracious, forgives, envelopes me with His Love, dusts me off and sends me out for yet another day’s assignment.

Ready for the shift? I’m sitting at our board table a few hours later when I hear the front door open. No-one is manning the front desk so I step into our reception area and encounter one of our street friends, who is having a day just like mine was yesterday.

“How you doing?” I ask gently. With tears welling up in his eyes, he responds, “I’m having a really bad day. I feel like no-one cares and everyone has abandoned me.” My heart breaks. This is a familiar feeling. I remain silent and listen. He continues, “I was walking past your NightShift door and thought if I could just come in and sit for a second, I could have a cry and no-one would see me.”

Sigh.

I invite him to sit with me. I have nothing to offer other than my listening ear. My heart understands. As he readies to leave, I reach for his hands and together we bow our heads in prayer. I ask Papa to comfort him, surround him with Love, to encourage and bless him. I ask Him for a Papa kiss!

I return to my desk and lose myself in the busyness of my morning. Two hours later, my friend reappears.

“Nothing like this has ever happened to me in my whole life! God heard me. He cares!”

He explains that after our prayer together, he walked up the road and ventured into the BC Lions training field, where the team was practicing. As he leaned against the fence to watch, he spied Wally Buono, BC Lions General Manager, standing a short distance away. My friend is thrilled – apparently he’s a HUGE football fan and has been following Wally’s career over the years.

God nudged. Wally responded. Not only did Wally speak to my friend, he called over three of my friend’s favourite players off the field to meet him.

sunsetGod cared. Wally cared! That’s a Papa kiss.

Papa answered a prayer this morning. He knew exactly what my friend needed. And He knew exactly what I needed.

Papa, thank you for the ‘shift’ – thank you for the ‘kiss’.

And Wally, thank you for caring!

An act of kindness, randomly shared

A strange phenomenon is happening right in front of our NightShift, Sisters and The Care Centre building these days. It appears I don’t have to look far for material for my blog posts. Remember some of my past posts? The incessant rain and the dancing red Maple Leaf took place in our driveway.

Earlier this month I had another one of those God moments.

As I backed out of the office parking lot, complaining as usual about the stream of oncoming traffic along the Boulevard, I noticed a man from the street bent over the hot pavement with a NightShift garbage can by his side. He worked alone. Not a soul in sight.

Curious, I paused my car and watched.

random act of kindness_12Jul2013

Focused on his job, he picked up cigarette butts, unsightly weeds, and bits of paper and debris and deposited them in the can.

I was humbled. I can’t honestly say I’d ever stoop down to clean a random parking lot.

Some misinformed folks claim that people on the street are lazy. Takers. Not givers. I beg to differ. Here’s a shining example of someone ‘giving back’ – a random act of kindness – that blessed not only my heart but also the ministry.

This man gets it! “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:25).

One random act of kindness!

No one noticed – except Papa and me. And now you.