Even The ‘Unlovable’

Serving those experiencing poverty and homelessness comes with rewards and challenges.If anyone has spent enough time serving those experiencing poverty and homelessness, you will know it is not for the faint of heart.

I’m not talking about the stories of trauma, tragedy or loss which I have – sadly – come to expect.  No, I’m talking about something a little more delicate.  It’s the experience of not having everyone you help respond in quite the way you’d expect.

On the one side are those individuals who are just so easy to serve. Humble, courteous and kind, they are a joy to be around and I am grateful to know them.  Just a few weeks ago, after praying with one young lady, she blessed me by praying over me and asking God’s favour in my life. A wonderful and unexpected act of kindness.

And then there are those who are not so easy to serve.  

Some individuals can be disruptive, pushy and rude. While others can be downright aggressive. Just a few months ago, not long after welcoming a young man to our drop-in and directing him to our breakfast buffet, I had to ask him to leave for the day because of his aggressive behaviour towards others. Unapologetic, he left while yelling profanities into the crowd. While we always extend grace, we also recognize when a ‘time out’ is essential. 

Not the picture of loving, compassionate service that some may envision.

There is always a tension that’s felt between serving the ‘lovable’ and so-called ‘unlovable.’ It’s inevitable, regardless of the kind of service or mission field one finds oneself in.

But it is often in these moments that I am reminded of my own ‘unlovability.’ Me, whose life is ‘charmed’ by comparison to my street-engaged friends. I am reminded of the times I’ve been unkind, rude and downright mean towards others, family and strangers alike. I can be selfish, impatient, disagreeable, unpleasant, ill-natured, and hurtful towards those who care for me.

These are all true of me:  a professing Christian.

And yet, Jesus chose to love me anyway. Even me, who is unlovable, is loved.  

Go figure.

So in these moments when the difficulties of service are most acute, I am reminded of the unmerited favour I receive daily, and thank God for his example of how to love even the unlovable.  

 

-Jelica, Staff

 

 

Taking Time To Notice

homelessnes in Ottawa | street outreachA walk through a mall or along a busy street looking into store fronts of book covers, clothes, food displays;  along with a few obscure individuals crouched, laying, or partially sitting along the sidewalk with an outstretched hand, cup or ball cap anxiously anticipating a few coins, can quickly become a blur of disinterest.

And yet, they are all there with the same message: “I want your attention.” 

The reward in the discovery of a “blur” is like a box waiting to be opened.

Jake was one such potential “blur” when I stopped for a moment just to say hello and ask how the day was going. Jake wasn’t very responsive and not much in the mood for conversation.

Some boxes are harder to open than others; glued, taped and wrapped in string make them difficult to see what’s inside.

I had ongoing opportunities (God’s anonymous intervention) to interact with Jake and gradually the wrappings (distrust, previous disappointments, addictions and low self esteem) came off. Jake and I have a wonderful relationship today through telephone and, as he has time, at my house to talk about life.

Jake is now a follower of Christ, paying attention to his health and addiction-free because he was more than just a “blur” to a few people who took time to notice.

Lloyd, Staff

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds Each Day, In Honour of Our 30th Anniversary

This story is part of A Special Series this month in honour of OIM’s 30th Anniversary. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds – for our ministry’s needs.

Thanks and God Bless You.

 

 

 

An Unexpected Encounter

I want to share a short, but quite wonderful, blessing I received from my street-engaged friend named ‘Bob.’

When you are on the streets, you are surrounded by many difficult stories and so much pain, so when a blessing erupts in your ministry it’s an amazing thing. The feeling you get is that of God just dropping a wonderful nugget in your lap to bless you.

Bob is a friend I first met at out drop-in and we also had a few connections at our stop-in. We had talked and shared during these times and things unfolded as many connections do. We at OIM, as always, helped where we could with Bob’s needs. I eventually lost contact with him for several months, so I just had to be content with the fact that I was able to plant or water by being a supportive connection point in his life.

Now, several months later, I am sitting in a coffee shop and who comes over, but Bob! Out of the blue he tells me how his life has changed and he thanked us for being there for him. He then proceeds to pray over me, declaring a blessing and favour, as powerful as any prophetic word received.

So I just want to honour God for dropping such a wonderful blessing in seeing the fruit of the increase he has brought to someone’s life and in knowing the small part I played in that. These are part of the moments that regenerate your tanks and strengthen your resolve. I pray that God continues to grow and stretch my friend Bob, and that the fruit of his boldness to pray for and share what the Lord has done for him, only increases in his life. 

 

Rick, Staff

 

 

Conversation at the Drop-In

 

“I’ve been on my own a long time. I left home when I was 10. Been on my own ever since.”

Edward told me this as we sat together in the drop-in.  He is about 65, with tired but kind eyes. He is a quiet, gentle man who can be easily missed in the large drop-in crowd.But he always nods his head hello with a smile.  

I can only imagine the kind of childhood home that would make a 10 year old run away. He said recently he tried to reach out to his remaining family members, but they wanted nothing to do with him. He had tears in his eyes as he told me is all alone in this world.

I couldn’t help but think of the youth I work with, and how many of them have recently left home and are just starting out on their own. I told Edward that it was amazing that, despite what he’s been through, and despite not having a family, he has maintained a gentle and loving spirit. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of bitterness in him.  I told him that he gives me hope for the young people I know who have just left their families.  

“It’s God. God gives me hope.” 

He said, “I know that God loves me and wants me here. I can’t read the Bible, but I know God loves me.”

“Why can’t you read the Bible?” I asked – foolishly thinking maybe he didn’t have a Bible.  

“I can’t read. But I can feel God around me. I know He’s here.”

It was a beautiful moment, listening to Edward talk about his faith.

A faith that trusts in the presence of God,

even in times of loneliness.

A faith that believes in a loving Father,

even in times of abandonment.

The Bob Series: Marginalized survivors

Note:  To protect the identity of the people I write about, I have chosen to use the name ‘Bob’ in the following piece…

All of the people I share with you are real men and women. Friends with hopes and dreams and all the same desires shared by us all. As a result of some extreme circumstances or mental health issues, their lives have been marginalized to that of outcast in our society.

When we look at those experiencing poverty and homelessness we tend to fit them into a framework and think they have earned the place they have in our culture. It helps us to justify the favour and blessings in our lives.

Yet  God does not see anybody that way. He sees all people through the eyes of the cross.

Namely, who they can be, at their fullest potential, the bride of Christ, clean pure and amazing. We should look at all people through those same eyes of love and then apply action to support them with our time, our prayers, and our resources. I have up to now and will continue to share with you stories about “Bob,” attempting to paint a picture of the incredible resilience and ability there is in the human spirit to survive.

I started this blog with, these are true stories about real lives, of men and women and youth with all the same feelings, desires and dreams that we all have. So remember, as we look at our street-engaged community we need to engage, and also remember that the cliche saying “there but by the grace of God go I”. This may be more of a reality than we care to admit.

Rick Ojala, Staff

 

*To see more from the series, click here to see part 1, part 2, and part 3.

 

 

 

THE ‘BOB’ SERIES: Somebody see me

Welcome today to my third blog. I find myself again wanting to continue our “Bob series” (part 2, part 1). Next month I think I will interrupt this adventure, and connect some dots. It is of critical importance that we see Bob’s tremendous value that equals our own.

I wanted to share today about a gentle soul that I have been blessed to serve on several occasions. Bob has never responded to me except to speak with the eyes or a nod of the head. I don’t know what mental health issues or traumas are at play here but when I see Bob, I pray for the wisdom to look in Bob’s eyes and know what treasures are hidden there. I always feel an emotional tug when engaging Bob. I feel I have the opportunity to carry a very fragile and expensive piece of China for a brief moment and I want to do its value justice. I never want to dismiss or take for granted that here is a child of the King and there is no limit of the time and resources that should be shared regardless of the return that I might receive. It is humbling for me to be around Bob because I can so easily be in the business of serving people and forget to see the one. Jesus talked about leaving the 99 to search for the one lost sheep and “carry” it home.

Those who serve and those who support OIM are the ones who allow for these precious and valuable moments.

I pray that God will use me to show his overwhelming love for Bob that comes with no strings attached. I also pray that God will soften Bob’s heart enough to let someone inside and represent that overwhelming love that comes with no strings attached.

Rick O, Staff

 

 

Canadian Stone Carving Festival

On July 21-23, thirty-five stone carvers gathered on Ottawa’s historic Sparks Street for the Canadian Stone Carving Festival. Each was given a large slab of limestone and 18 hours to make it into something.

During those 18 hours, I saw some amazing things.

I saw people bringing renewed life into an old art.

I saw community members giving up their time and skill for a cause.

I saw artists creating extraordinary works of art out of ordinary things.

But what was most noteworthy for me was to see the carving community interact. They are a special community who supports each other and bonds over a passion for carving. There way no competition or arrogance, just fellowship.

Together, $9650 dollars was raised in support of Ottawa Innercity Ministries.

We are so thankful for the amazing carvers who took part in this festival.

A special thank you to Smith & Barber Atelier for putting on this festival, for Dave Smith for acting as our guest auctioneer, and to all of the sponsors who made this possible.

 

Stone Carving Workshop

Innercity Arts was lucky enough to have Patrick Imai, a local carver, volunteer his time to come in to teach us about soap stone carving. Each youth was given a piece of stone, a file, and various types of sand paper.

They were given basic instructions and then invited to try it. I must admit, I was expecting more detailed instruction! But Patrick said the best way to learn was to try it – and of course, he was right. The pieces of stone were grey and rough, and certainly didn’t look like anything special.

But as the youth started filing, carving and sanding, it was amazing the transformation that happened.

 

 

Check out some of the finished pieces.

 

Thanks so much Patrick for sharing your talent with us. We are excited to continue working with soapstone at the art group. We are also excited to see Patrick carve at the Canadian Stone Carving Festival next month. It will be an awesome festival, with proceeds being generously donated to Ottawa Innercity Ministries. We hope you can join us!

 

 

Loss, Hope and Joy

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30: 11

Artwork by Freya Barber

A hopeful image from the book of Psalms, but I wonder how much comfort it would give a young couple mourning the loss of their only child…

It was my first year working at OIM when I met with Hali and Danny Barber. They looked exhausted, still in shock after the death of their 17 year old. My heart sank when they told me that she had taken her own life after struggling with mental health issues.

Joy was so far away from them. They appeared to be struggling to make it through each moment.

Joy seemed….impossible.

They told me about their daughter, Freya – a creative artist with a passion for helping others and a desire to connect with those who don’t fit into society. They wanted to honour her passions by donating in her memory to Innercity Arts. They felt it’s what Freya would have wanted. It was an action that touched my heart – and I felt hope for them. Hope but not joy. Joy was impossible.

Over the past few years, the Barbers have stayed connected with Innercity Arts. Attending art shows, donating supplies and taking the volunteer training. But this year, Hali felt she was finally in a place that she could volunteer at Innercity Arts. She is now attending every Thursday evening and is a support to youth who desperately need the kindness of an adult.

We are honoured that this year, proceeds from the annual Canadian Stone Carving Festival, which is hosted by Smith & Barber – Sculpture Atelier Inc., will go to Innercity Arts.  We are so blessed.

I’m not sure that Hali and Danny would say their mourning has turned to joy. They are still grieving and will always mourn for Freya. But what struck me is that joy was not impossible.

Joy has come to others through Hali and Danny.

When youth opened the donated art supplies….joy!

When Hali sits with a youth at Innercity Arts and creates art with them…..joy!

When we can support more youth through the funds raised at the carving festival…joy!

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30: 5

 

 

 

“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/