Rachel’s Gift, Episode Seven: Looking towards the future

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder, click:  Rachel’s Gift episode 7  If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column), beginning November 28.

“I don’t like to look too far into the future, it’s overwhelming and you don’t really know what the future holds.  If I think about the future, I start to think, ‘I can’t do it’ and stuff like that.

Right now I just have small goals.  Like I am looking forward to the training to do street outreach, and start with that.  I want to help people, people that are like, in my position, and do what I can to really help in the outreach program. (Rachel  has joined our Urban Intervention Training and is preparing to do street outreach to people experiencing poverty and homelessness in Ottawa).

I’m praying a lot about what I am being called to.  I do my devotions every day, and read my bible every day.  I try to think about what God or Jesus would do and learn as much as I can.  I’m a new Christian I guess, and I want to help people.

A lot of my friends ask me ‘How did you do it? How did you do it?’ and I tell them, ‘It’s Jesus and the methadone program. I say both  ‘cause if you just say Jesus, they’ll say, like ‘Yah.  OK. Whatever,’ and not listen.  But it’s more than the methadone program.  I try to help them understand the change in my life.  We talk about the methadone, and then somehow they always end up asking about Jesus.  It’s true.  If I didn’t have Jesus, and if I didn’t have a relationship with him, I don’t think I would be clean.  He just led me to the right places.

The fact that He came to the earth, died on the cross, that He died for me, that’s what it’s all about.  That’s what Christmas is all about.  Because of what He has done for me, the least thing I could do is to live for Him. I just keep seeing things in my life that He keeps doing for me, and prayers that have been answered.  I used to be, ‘Yeah, God and all that,’ but now there’s just too much that He’s done for me, I just can’t deny it now.  There’s just too much God in my life to deny it now.”

In our Final EpisodeListen as Rachel herself recounts her story about the Gift this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 and 5. 

THEN, starting Wednesday, return to our website to see Rachel make a video appearance and share a brief testimony of her life.  It’s a Miracle!  It’s a Gift to us all!  Merry Christmas!

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Six: Growing and Developing

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23. To listen to the audio backgrounder, click:  Rachel’s Gift episode 6.  If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column).

“I really think the work skills program is a big part of why I’ve stayed clean.  It has given me structure.  I have made some goals and I am working on my goals.

 The way you guys talk to me, it’s not like I’m on a program, it’s like I work here. We go for lunch together and it’s really cool.  I’ve never had this kind of structure in my life before, and having  people really talk to me is new.  People are not like talking down to me, just telling me what they think I want to hear, they just accept me for who I am.

 In the work skills program, they say you should be responsible if you want to be a part of the program.  You can’t be part of the program and then not follow up.  They will hold you to what you say, you know?  They won’t accept anything else from you.

 If I didn’t have this place to come to, I don’t know where I’d be.  I’d have too much free time to think about things and well you know…  This place is Christian based, and that helps me a lot.

There is a light that God’s people have and I wanted the happiness that they have.   I started going to church, going back to church just over a year ago.  I haven’t felt better –  ever.

 Erin at the office is kind of my boss. It’s going really good.  If she knows there’s something bugging me, she’ll come to talk to me like a real person.  The other day I was upset and I thought she was upset with me, and she said, ‘No, I am not upset with you’.  We talked.  Then she wouldn’t let me leave without praying for me, which was really cool, ’cause I know she really cares.  Nobody expects anything from you.  They are always encouraging you.

 I used to think it was so hard, ‘cause I felt totally alone, but now I am not alone.  I have so much hope.  Totally, lots of hope.  I opened a bank account today.  All right, yeah!” 

Next Week: Closer and closer to Christmas and closer and closer to the revelation of Rachel’s Gift.  Don’t miss the exciting conclusion to this great story.  We do not receive on-going government funding for our programs, but instead rely on the generosity of people who care, just like you.  Why not make a special Christmas donation to help us continue our youth street outreach programs.  Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Five: The Birth of Hope

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder, click: Rachel’s Gift episode 5   If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column).. 

I was on the streets and my boyfriend took me to some of the drop ins in the city. He took me to the OIM drop in – I didn’t even know there was a drop in there.  It was pretty cool.

I came to the OIM office probably about two  years ago.  It must have been Christmas or something, because the spread you guys had out on the table was awesome.  We had lots and lots of food.   It was really, really cool. 

I started to come to the drop in all the time, and one day Jason [youth outreach worker] came up to me and said, “Hey would you be interested in coming to our youth art program?”  When he talked to me, he actually got through to me.  It was like, hey, somebody actually cared for me. 

The next youth event was the art show at the church.  It was really cool.  I saw all the stuff the kids were doing, how happy they were, it was really cool. I didn’t know that about them.  I knew them from the street but I didn’t know that there was anything like this art group.  

There isn’t anything else out there like this.

I started going to the art group all the time.  It is so different from the life on the street.  The street life is drugs, drugs, and more drugs.  At the art group there is something so real, like its real life.  I haven’t seen that in a long time, probably ever.  It’s just like normal everyday kids.  You don’t see normal everyday kids on the streets.

I go to the art group all the time.  I look forward to it.  When I come to the office on Thursdays (work skills program), I don’t even go back home in case I fall asleep and miss art group.  So I just stay downtown until art group.

I am so looking forward to the next art show.  I haven’t been able to show any of my art yet.  I have a couple of pieces, maybe three.  My mom’s really looking forward to coming and my brother too.

It has made a big difference in the last couple of months. 

It makes me think, ‘Yeah, I can do this’.

Next Week:  Amazed at how she has been accepted into the community, Rachel shares her feelings about finally belonging to a community of caring people.

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Three, “My first line, and move to Ottawa”

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder, click:  Rachel’s Gift episode 3 If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column).

So I was at a party and I saw my mom doing a line of coke and I was shocked.   “Wuh?  What are you doing?” and lost my mind and I started to party real hard.  I was confused and concerned and kinda wondering all at the same time.

 I really started to think.  My mom was using a lot, and using more and drinking and using coke and I was wondering why this was so much better than your children, than loving your children – using coke that is.

 I love my mom a lot, and I still do.  Whatever it was about coke, it must be good. That’s what my thinking was.  I did my first line of coke shortly after that.  I was seventeen.

 I had been living on my own, but one of the things that happened when I discovered coke was, I couldn’t pay my rent anymore.  I moved in with my boyfriend and his mom.  I worked a couple of places, but I was always going in hung over.  I had to get out of that small town.

 I moved to Ottawa and I moved in with my dad. I had nowhere else to go.  I ended up meeting this guy that my dad introduced me to, which ended up being his crack dealer, and I started dating him. My Dad was doing a lot of crack then and I ended up paying the rent – or trying at least.  I was working a bit, but I was partying hard at the same time.  I don’t know why, but my dad really got mad at me.  I mean, he was using all the time then, not working, making deals, and I guess he looked at me and couldn’t stand to see me doing what I was doing – with the drugs and all that.

 I lasted three months and then got my eviction notice – signed by the mayor. They (the authorities) basically brought boxes, packed my stuff and moved me out.  My brother was in jail, but his girlfriend had an extra room and I moved in with her.

By this time I was selling drugs big time with the guy that I met through my dad.  Every day was the same – using more and more, all the time.  I got busted and went to jail for a while.

  When I got out of jail I had nowhere to go, I was just like floating around.

 Next week:  Rachel really does ‘hit the bottom’.  More drugs, living on the streets, the crack house… the cycle continues with no apparent escape.  What will happen next?

OIM does not receive on-going government funding to operate any of our programs, but instead we rely on the good will donations of concerned citizens and business owners in the National Capital Region.  We need your help to continue our youth outreach program.  Please make a donation today. Click “Donate” at the top of this page.  Thanks!

Rachel’s Gift: Episode Two, The early years: ages 9 to 16

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click:   Rachel’s Gift episode 2

“We moved a lot, especially from the time I was nine until sixteen.  I counted, and we moved thirty-eight times in those seven years.  Just one step ahead of eviction some of the times, mostly we got the eviction itself.  It was hard to live like that. 

I didn’t do well at school.  Even though we moved, there always was a party at our house.  And drugs.  Lots of drugs.  Drug dealers, users and all kinds.  Cocaine, heroin and mixtures of drugs I didn’t even know.

I know I missed a lot of school, ‘cause my mom was always hung over.  We moved a lot and with the partying, we never seemed to have any money.  I used to always wonder why we were always broke, and didn’t really find out until later in life.  The pattern was always the same: somehow scratch up the first and last month’s rent, take one month for the eviction to take place and we were on the move again. 

I left school when I was sixteen, no actually before that, ‘cause I never really went to high school it was just the way it was.  There was a guy that lived with us, tried to raise us or whatever – he used to beat my mom up a lot.  We ended going out to Calgary, but the pattern kept with us – we were only there for three months.  Life at home was pretty hard, but I made it through.  Whatever. 

When my mom went back to Ontario for grandma’s birthday, she met someone new and decided on the spot to marry him. 

I was 15 at the time.  We moved back east, and into this guy’s house.  It wasn’t long before I was kicked out of the house.  I can’t really remember where I stayed then, when I first got kicked out.  I eventually moved back in with them – it was a disaster.  There was more partying and the guy ended up cheating on my mom.  The guy was charged with assault and he had to leave.  More partying and then more – it got to a point where I couldn’t handle It anymore.  I had a boyfriend at the time, so I moved out.”

Next Week: The first time I used Crack Cocaine, evicted again, dealing drugs and then jail.

Kids on the Street

Sometimes people talk to me about how they came to be on the streets, and there are as many reasons as there are people.  Whether young or old, all the circumstances surrounding a life are different.

Kids on the street, for example, might find themselves there for many reasons.  A seasoned leader of a youth street outreach agency told me this:  on average 1/3 of the kids come from broken and disfunctional homes; another 1/3 come from regular homes; and about 1/3 come from homes where the kids have everything they need.  But on the street there is a very level playing ground. 

Pimps, drug dealers, con artists, pedophiles and other exploiters really do not care where the kids come from!  They are quick to befriend, deceive, and use for their own purposes.

We are there on the streets.  We meet the kids where they are and offer support, help and friendship.  Sometimes it’s a small beginning, but it’s something to build on.  We look for the strengths that the kids have, but maybe do not even recognize themselves.  It is one of the hardest things we have done, and at the same time, brings a satisfaction and a sense of thankfulness when we see the kids make positive life choices.

Thanks for your support!

Come as you ART – AMAZING SUCCESS

Imagine: You have lived your whole life thinking you are a ‘zero without the rim’.  Violence in your ‘home’ has forced you to leave.  The streets are as bad as your worst imaginations, but at least better than the mean drunk of a step father who beat you with a hockey stick.

Then: You become a part of a safe enviornment where you do art.  You certainly are not an artist by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but guess what? People you don’t even know, talk to you about how interesting your creations are, how they stir their imaginations, ask what the story is behind the art… and you are launched into a new realm of existence where suddenly, you are a person.

This is not a far stretch of the imagination!  One of the kids in the show came up to me and with absolute amazement in her eyes, told me that someone bid $100 for one of her paintings.  Low and behold, that person was right beside me at the time!  It’s enough to change a life!

Unexpected outcomes: Relatives of the kids came and bid on the art pieces!  People spoke highly of the program and congratulated the kids!  People lingered and spoke with the young artists.  It was a good day and a great show.

Thanks to the many who made this happen!  Want to learn more?  Call us!

COME AS YOU ART, Art Auction & Coffee House

We wish to invite you to our next PASSION 4 YOUTH ART AUCTION showcasing the artwork and musical talents of street-engaged youth this THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10 from 7pm to 9pm @ Dominion-Chalmers United Church, 355 Cooper St. 

Why an ART PROGRAM for STREET-ENGAGED KIDS?

Imagine growing up with no support, friends, security or encouragement.  Running away from home because of domestic violence and abuse.  You hit the streets with all its darkness, but it’s better than what you left.

It’s like stepping up to the batter’s plate with three strikes already against you.

Then you find there is a safe, clean, dry, welcoming space where you are able to let your creativity flow, join with other people just like you, and find freedom to do whatever you like with paint, canvas and brush.

A volunteer comes along and  looks at your art, and you hear words you have never, ever heard in your entire life: “That is beautiful.  Did you do that?   I would love to have that in my living room.  Can you tell me more about it? What inspired you?”  And they listen to your story.

Can you imagine what that would be like? To have someone you just met show that kind of interest in your life?  When you’ve lived your entire 19 years ‘learning’ you will never amount to anything, never get a job, finish school or make any kind of positive contribution to anyone, anywhere?

Or maybe it’s someone who wants to buy your art, not because they are doing an act of charity, but because they really like your work.  They think it’s great! And you tell them.

A few words of encouragement, just those, might just be enough to turn a life around!

 

Wrongs turning out Right!

Mich and his mother came to be friends of OIM first through our outreach teams and then started coming to the drop in. Mich is 19 and Candace, his mom is in her early thirties.  We developed relationship over several months and Mich joined our Passion 4 Youth art program.  There is a story here that I want to share:

Mich came home to their small apartment and saw his mom lying on the kitchen floor – her third suicide attempt!  He called 911 immediately and after the paramedics came, they told him that if he called just 5 minutes earlier, his mom would not be here.  The next time he came to the art program, he asked if he could speak with our youth outreach worker in the hallway for a few minutes. 

When they were alone, he said, “We’ve been talking about spiritual stuff for a while now.  I’m ready.  I need to have Jesus in my life.”  Mich prayed and so began his spiritual journey with Jesus.

Fast track a few weeks later and Candace asks to speak with me at the drop in.  In the adjoining garden we take a bench and she tells me about some of the things happending in her life and she asks for some advice.  She is scared and doesn’t know what to do.  We talk and conversation comes around to the change in life that Jesus can bring.  Mich joins us and the conversation about spiritual things continues.

“Did I tell you what happened a few weeks ago at the art program?” Mich queried.  I nodded yes.  “How’s it going with you?” I ask.

“I don’t really understand it all – but I sleep each night with my bible right beside me in bed.”

“You know, we have a great program just about to start here at the drop in – it’s called Alpha.  There is a video each week, you ask questions and we talk about the Bible.  Would you guys like to attend?” 

To make a long story short, both Mich and Candace have indicated interest in our Alpha course.  Until then we will work with both mother and son, to help them in their spiritual journeys.

God can take the very worst of situations and turn things around to make good.  If we can be there to be a part of what He is doing, it is a privelege and blessing!

I just started back to school – well adult high school to make up two classes, and then college.”

Eddy turns himself in!

Our youth outreach worker recounted this story of last Monday’s events, and I thought you would be interested.

Eddy was one of the first members of our Passion 4 youth art program. He enjoyed coming every week and worked on building model cars and also a model of a mountain with a stream running from the side. After the first art show he and his girlfriend Sue stopped coming to the group. I caught up with him a few times on outreach and he told me that he was selling too much crack now and could not afford to take a night off. So we just kept telling him that we loved him and that he was welcome to come back whenever he wanted to. Then we stopped hearing from him all together for a few months. At one point his girlfriend Sue contacted me and told me that he had been arrested for selling drugs. A few more months went by and I got a facebook message from Eddy. He told me that he had served 7 months in Jail and then was released to serve the rest of his sentence at a rehab facility in Quebec. He was allowed to go home for a weekend and while at home he used heroin again. When he came back to rehab and failed a drug test and was dismissed from the facility.

At his next court appearance Eddy was informed that he would have to serve a few more months in jail because he failed the drug test. He asked if he could go and call his mother. When he left the room, Eddy got scared and decided to run from the court room. He later called his lawyer who told him that he needed to turn himself in to the authorities. He knew that he should do the right thing but he was very scared to turn himself in.

Eddy asked me what I thought he should do and I told him that he needed to listen to his lawyer. He said that he has never willingly put himself in Jail. It was just too crazy to think about. So over the next few weeks Eddy would contact me and tell me that he was going to turn himself in. But the next day he would not follow through. He called me again and said that he was thinking about turning himself over to authorities in the morning. I told him that if he wanted I would meet him I would meet with him at the Rideau center in the morning and we could go together. That way he could have a friend with him in case he got scared and wanted to run away again. Eddy said that he would like that so we arranged a time to meet. When I arrived at our meeting spot he was already there waiting for me. We hugged and I told him that I was proud of him. I got him some breakfast and sat and talked for a while. I asked him why he felt that he was ready now. He told me that he had just found out that our mutual friend Roni had died of a drug overdose last week. Roni was a good friend to him and her death had a profound effect on him. He decided that if he didn’t want to end up the same way he needed to make some changes in his life. We talked about how this was an opportunity for him to face some of the things that he has been running from. We walked over to the court house together. Along the way Eddy noticed a man sitting on the Mackenzie King Bridge pan handling. Eddy walked over and gave him all but 4 of the cigarettes from his pack, as well as all of the money in his pocket. We went into the court and called his lawyer. The lawyer agreed to meet him there. When the lawyer came we approached one of the police officers stationed at the court house and told him that Eddy was turning himself in. He filled out some paper work gave up his wallet and shoe laces. He looked very scared and started to cry. The officer told him that he was going to process the paper work and be back in about fifteen minutes. In the mean time Eddy was allowed to go outside and have one last smoke.

We walked out to the patio in the back and he lit his cigarette. At this point I reminded him of all the times we had talked about the difference that Jesus could make in his life. We talked about how God’s love for him is unconditional, and that he was going to need Gods strength to overcome the things that were controlling his life. Usually an agnostic, Eddy told me that this time he really believed that what I was saying was true. So I asked if he would like to ask the Lord to be his Savior and give his life to Christ he said that he did. I sat next to him and we prayed together.  When we were done praying we looked up and the police officer was waiting in front of us to take him to the cells. We stood up and walked together with the officer to the elevator.

The officer agreed not to handcuff him until they were downstairs so as not to embarrass him in front of the public. Eddy teared up again and then gave me a hug. I left him my number so that he can continue to call me while he is in jail. He thanked me for staying with him and then asked if I would call his dad and let him know what happened. As I left the court I thought about how proud of Eddy I was. This was very hard for him but he did it anyway. I thanked God for taking what the devil would want to use for harm and turning it into an opportunity to bring my friend into a relationship with him.

It’s a new beginning for Eddy, a fresh start.  Let’s pray that he continues to make good decisions and plans for his future.