“At Risk”

   

The term “at risk youth” is thrown around a lot, often without much thought or care. It’s a label that can feel very cold and dehumanizing.

But what are “at risk youth” really “at risk” of?

I think if we stopped and answered that question, we wouldn’t use the term so casually.

Because the truth is, right now, these youth are at risk of dying.

Drug addiction and overdose are not new to Ottawa, but the surge of overdoses over the past year is unprecedented. The youth I work with are more at risk of dying from an overdose than ever. So much so, that lately when a youth does not show up for our weekly art group, I get a knot in my stomach worrying they are the latest overdose victim.

It’s a really dark time.

But in the midst of this, the youth at Innercity Arts provide hope. Even in this darkness, they remain resilient and build each other up – like no other community I’ve ever seen.

I’m inspired by their strength. I’m humbled by their generosity. I’m thankful for their compassion.

I’m always amazed by the beautiful things they create. This year, they have created some incredible pieces of art and music and will showing it to the community.

I hope you can attend the show, and be witness to a truly hopeful thing in this dark time.

Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/131027517429263/ 

 

A Time for Quiet Reflection

This title is easier to write than practice! I try to get away for times of silence, and this is where I am as I write. It is a century old farmhouse (remodeled for retreats), and outside it is winter at it fiercest. March 15, -21 Celsuis. The wind is fiercely blowing, trying to gain access through the windows and doors and the air is filled with sharp whines and whistles as it permeates and invades the inside warmth.  Snow crystals driven like machine gun fire pellets mercilessly pound the perimeter of the house. Relentless winds make snow swirls outside dance like miniature tornadoes and I wonder why, when we should be enjoying the beginnings of spring, we are hurled back into winter's frozen embrace. It is time for solitude, amidst the havoc outside.  It is difficult to find a quiet place physically - quite another to still the noise constantly coming from within.  In keeping with my search for solitude and silence I found this in one of the books here, and thought to share, given our renewed (never ending?) season of Winter: A Winter Wonderland Psalm The ancient psalmist plucked his strings and sang a sentence sprung from you/ "Be still, my soul, like a winter landscape which is wrapped in the white prayer shawl of silent snow fringed with icy threads./ Sit still, O my body, like an icy pond frozen at attention, at rest yet alert.// Be still, my frantic mind, from your whirling like a perpetual gyroscope, constantly restless, ever on the move./ Endlessly you rove on a nomadic quest roaming the roads of my Egoland, visiting its likes and dislikes, a Disneyland of distorted discrimination./ Ceaselessly you visit its sacred shrines of self-righteous forts of fears.//  Be still, my being, so that like Lewis Carroll's Alice, you may, with grace, find the tiny, hidden doorway that leads to Wonderland./ Be still so that you can discover slowly, day by day, that God and you are one, to know in that Wonder-of-Wonderlands who you really are.  (from Psalms of Solidarity, Edward Hays).

The Portrait of the Artist

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

When I read this quote I immediately thought of Eric. So much of Eric’s character is revealed in his portraits.

You can see that every stroke of paint is exactly where it should be – detail is everything.

You can see that Eric puts a lot of care into each portrait – it usually takes weeks to complete. It shows how much he cares about the person he is painting.

Eric loves to give the portrait as a gift. He loves to see the reaction when the person sees their portrait for the first time.

Eric did this portrait of me recently and gave it to me as a gift.

He often says “I love you, and God loves you too.” I think he really wants people to see their own beauty.

 

You give me hope

I pick up day old doughnuts and pastries at a very generous coffee shop in the city, and have done so at this one location for about six or seven months. It is unusual in that the special care they take of the left over product: most other donations of a similar nature usually result in broken loaf slices, crushed muffins, broken cookies and so on. At this location, they place the left over product into bins with tongs and they are almost as good as new, even after I have transported them to the office. I have come to know most of the baristas by name (and they all recognize me), until of course, a new person starts or is transferred to the site from another location. This week I arrive at the coffee shop and go to the counter and tell the new gal that I am there to pick up the day old product. She looks at me, wondering what this means, and I explain I am here to pick up the 'day olds', and she says, "Just a minute, I'll check with my manager." I explain how this works, where the bins are, tell her my name (often the 'Bin Guy') and she says, 'Just a moment please,' and disappears into the back room of the store. She comes out with one of the regular baristas, and I pick up the bins. Before I leave, I stop and explain why I am here and what will happen to the 'day olds': "I am going to take these delicious pastries to our drop in and share them with our street friends. They have come to really enjoy these dainties. Thanks so much." She looks up at me and very carefully says, "You give me hope." Well that felt pretty good! I thank her and when I leave, her words resonate in my mind. I'm not anything special because I'm doing this; it's a good relationship, people are helped (everyone gets a treat), and the donut shop is spared the onerous task of throwing the donuts into the garbage bin. As I am thinking on this, it comes to me that this is not about me. Well, yes, I was the visible point person, but it's more about all of us, the staff and volunteers and donors and prayer partners and business supporters - all of us at OIM - we give people hope! All of us, each in our own roles, each of us doing our own small part - and the  collective result is hope for people's lives. We give people hope. Thanks to all who make OIM happen. Together we are making a difference! Ken MacLaren

Imagine A World With More HOPE

george frederick watts hope paintings This is George Frederic Watts 1886 painting, "Hope." Hope is sitting on a globe, blindfolded, clutching a wooden lyre with only one string left intact. She sits in a hunched position, with her head leaning towards the instrument, perhaps so she can hear the faint music she can make with the sole remaining string. This painting,  inspired a scene from a (1922 film) of the same name and it is thought by some that it had an influence on Picasso's early 'Blue Period' paintings. Nelson Mandella reportedly had a print of the painting on the wall of his prison cell on Robben Island.. After Egypt was defeated by Israel during the Six-Day War, the Egyptian government issued copies of this painting to its troops. The painting was the subject of a lecture by Dr Frederick G. Sampson in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1980s, who described it as a study in contradictions. The lecture was attended by Jeremiah Wright and inspired him to give a sermon in 1990 on the subject of Hope. He said: ...with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God ... To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope ... that's the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt's painting. Barack Obama attended this sermon, and later adopted the phrase "audacity of hope" as the title for his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address as well as the title of his second book. Obama's speech instantly catapulted him to a national stage, both as a star within the Democratic party and set the stage for the day that he would become president.

Imagine a World with more Hope.

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may overflow with hope. Ken MacLaren      

Thank you from Danielle

Hi my name is Danielle. I just want to say thanks for letting me tell my story here on family radio CHRI.  Telling my story and having people listen is really a great step.  I like that it can help people who really need it right now. Maybe my story would touch your heart and help you decide to help someone close to you. Sometimes the person you least expect could use your help. When I think of OIM, I think of faith, unconditional friendship, support, resources, food and a  community of really good hearted Christians trying to do their best. They made such a difference in my life, and the lives of so many youth in our City! I hope you will be able to help them continue to do their good work, by making a donation of  any amount. Every dollar counts, and your prayers and encouragements mean so much. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and blessed New Year!

Episode 8: Danielle’s Christmas Wish

Hi I'm Danielle. My wish is that everyone has someone to be with this Christmas, and if not, that they feel God is with them, that His presence would comfort them and remind them that they are not alone. I wish that everyone will have a place to stay, that no one has to spend Christmas out in the cold. I hope and I pray that OIM continues to help those in need, and that God continues to reveal Himself to their community and bless them, to do his work through them with people who need it most. I wish that no one will go hungry, that every child wakes up Christmas morning with joy and wonder in their hearts, and families everywhere would come together and really appreciate love and happiness.  I wish for you who are listening, that whatever your situation is, that you have a wonderful, wonderful holiday and are surrounded by love, friends and family. God bless you. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!    Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 7 – What’s happening now

 
“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
Jason baptized me in the Ottawa River. He used to drive me to church with his family. It was a turning point in my life. I graduated from the art program, and entered Algonquin College for Animation.  I graduated last year. Right now, I am getting closer to getting a studio job as an animator.  In another couple of weeks I'll do another interview and then I will be able to complete my homelessness journey, and support myself without relying on others. My art is more than creativity, it was my means to escape the horrors of abuse and homelessness. It kept me going. I  escaped the temptation of drugs, and turned to my stories when I needed to escape that world.  It was my home when I had none. Homelessness taught me what happiness is all about. It is not about materialism. It is not about having money. I was happiest, when I was with my friend and her mother. I was happiest when I was at OIM, as a part of the art program, and their staff and volunteers offered so much - support, encouragement and acceptance. This has made all the difference in my life. Life is about love.   Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 6 – Innercity Arts

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
    I was trying to get into transitional housing, and they said two things: first, I had to volunteer, and second, they told me about this art group. I got hold of Jason (OIM youth outreach worker) and we met for coffee. I didn't know he was the one I would speak to, he was the one who I met on the bridge that day some time ago.  So Jason invited me to his art group. When we got to the art program, I was the only one there.  I read him my stories, and he offered me encouragement.  I was in this giant classroom in this really big church. Others started coming, and although I felt like so different from them - different values, beliefs and all that. They were more involved in the streets than I was.  Some were sleeping outside, some were doing drugs, some involved in prostitution. I mostly kept to myself, but the art group was a really good place for me to be. Cindy, a volunteer, came and taught me about painting. She was a painter. It was hard for me to accept feedback, but I learned a lot. Money from my art helped my pay my rent and buy food. Once they had a surprise birthday party for me. It was the first time I ever had a surprise birthday party. I felt a bit awkward around the other kids, but I felt welcome and safe. It was a good place. I remember we had a big art action and everyone wanted to talk to me. One youth was happy to have earned $20, and I had almost $1,500. I used it for rent, and for college.   Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 5 – I found OIM (or OIM found me)

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
   
It was about this time I met up with an Ottawa Innercity Ministries street outreach team. It was rainy and cold and they gave me food and I was one of the first people at the art program that just started up. I was treated with respect, and it felt like I was stepping out of the community of drugs, violence and gangs. OIM gave me food, friendship and all the things I had ever longed for.
I began to volunteer with them, and soon started in the Work Skills program. I moved out of the shelter, and finally left the street community.
I found Christians like me, who knew forgiveness, love and patience, and who accepted me for who I am. This was a profound experience for me. It wasn't too long after that I became a barista at a coffee shop and then enrolled at Algonquin college for animation.
  Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.