Tag Archives: homelessness

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.

Because He lives

A man staggered into our Centre at NightShift tonight holding his injured hand, looking for a Band-Aid.

His story? He had lost a fight with a street dog who obviously didn’t appreciate his friendly pat-on-the-head gesture. I’m thinking the canine’s crankiness might have had something to do with the fact that the gent was more than a little inebriated.

NightShift soup

picture courtesy Jenelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun

Although busy with the night’s dinner activities, my sister, Susan (a former nurse), dropped her soup-stirring spoon on the stove and immediately went to his aid. I stood by her side as her nursing aid, passed tape and gauze, while I watched her efficiently dress his wound. She was impressive!

Looking back, I do believe his heart ‘owie ouch’ needed her tender attention more than his punctured hand.

After all was said and done, she pointed him in the direction of the clinic for a tetanus shot. As he got up to leave, he threw back his head, and belted out – in a drawling, off-key, gravely voice (I’m being kind here!) – a song to express his appreciation.

What a blessing! Tonight, I’m smiling. But, I have a challenge. I can’t get his song out of my head. Recognize it?

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know-oh-oh-oh-oh He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

A song conveyed by a grateful-heart to a loving-heart. A caring heart who was willing to drop all to show God’s love. In spite of his homelessness, he praised God for His love shown by my sister.

The lyrics ring true in my heart as I snuggle in for the night. Humbled. I can face tomorrow, with all my ‘shifts’ and challenges, because He holds my future and makes my life worth living…knowing that He lives.

Wet beyond wet

Complaining, I mutter under my breath as I bolt for the car. When is this incessant rain going to stop? I toss my bags in the front seat and slide into the driver seat. Shivering until the heater kicks in.

rainy dayKey inserts into ignition as a dark figure moves across my path. A man who’s homeless on the street. Our eyes make contact through the windshield. He stares into mine. Eyes blank. Water teeming down his face. Clothes soaked beyond. Soggy.

I want to look away. But I’m held captive. His eyes soften. Then he smiles. Not a big one. Just enough to acknowledge. He’s ok.

As I back out into the roadway I return the smile – totally impacted by this encounter. I wrestle with myself. Should I do more? I toss an arrow prayer upwards on his behalf.

I feel convicted by my comfortable life. A car to carry me home. A roof over my head.  A hot shower. Warm blankets. A bedtime snack. In stark contrast, he stands under the awning of my office door. Alone. Wet beyond wet.

This image remains in my heart. It won’t go away. We run to help people on the street during snowstorms. Rescue them from extreme cold. What about waterlogged days?

I am grateful for comfort but in the midst of my comfort, I’m uncomfortable.

Papa, please don’t allow me to slip in to apathy. Please never allow me to look the other way and ignore what takes place in my own back yard. May I forever be mindful that I can always do more to help others who struggle.

Even if it’s a simple gesture – taking a moment to return a smile to another heart – a heart alone, troubled and waterlogged by life.