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.

 

Now That’s ART!!

Our recent youth art show was a hit!  Great venue, great art, great food and guests – but there is a dynamic to the whole scenario that surpasses them all!  For you ‘bottom liners’, it’s the work of the Master Artist shaping, reforming and molding lives.  That is the real deal. 

One of the gals with yellow spiked hair took the art group camera and just started taking pictures of people, artwork and activities.  Another young man took opportunity to play the guitar and sing.  A second guitar was picked up and strummed.  One of the girls shared some poetry about life on the street, and another gal sang Janis Joplin’s hit “Lord wontcha buy me a Mercedes Benz.”  People from the community mulling and commenting about the art and reviewing its impact.  Art hanging from the ceiling, art displayed on the tables, spoken word and song… and then, well you know I’d come back to it, the living art that made the art.

Moving.  Stirring.  Amazing.  All of the above.

One piece in particular grabbed my attention.  An old school Polaroid camera with some instructions written and taped near the viewfinder, “Look here.”   Another message taped on the side of the camera said, “One picture doesn’t tell the story.”  Curiousity aroused, I took a peek. 

The viewfinder revealed one photograph of a young man sitting on a curb.  No distinctive expression on his face.  Nothing particular about his appearance, dressed in shirt and jeans.  Not ‘flying a sign’ or cap inviting donations.  Just a young man sitting on the curb.

Ah, then I remember the ‘one  picture doesn’t tell the story’ line and my mind races forward at light speed.  How true, not just of this one young man, but the larger picture (sorry about that) about life.  What you see in a moment, what you experience in one interaction, what you can assess or glean from one brief conversation – does not even begin to tell the story.

Then I got angry at myself: how many times have I had the audacity to analyze, scrutinize and evaluate from one brief glimpse, from one short encounter?  Far too many for me to recount here.  How many times have I made my assessment from one snapshot?  Instances started to flood my mind and my head was spinning.

I held the Polaroid at arms’ length, its message penetrating deep into my own soul. I really don’t know much about art, but something was happening here…

The Master Artist was doing a bit of reshaping in me…

Just ‘doing their job’? You decide…

A few weeks ago, one of our street youth was found drowned in the Ottawa River.  I can tell you he came from a broken home, with all the accoutrements that you might imagine might accompany that.  He left home when he was 16 and was ‘on and off’ the streets.  We have been in relationship with him for the past three years.

A few weeks ago another agency called us to ask if we had seen him.  Neither we nor they had contact with him for three weeks or so, and long story short, he was found in the river after partying at his 19th birthday with some friends.

But that’s not my story… There was a memorial service just last week, and many of the kids on the streets were in attendance to pay their respects.  Our youth outreach worker had to leave the memorial a bit early and noticed the two policemen that were waiting downstairs just outside in the hallway where the memorial service was held.  Imagining that they had come to pay their respects to the deceased, he greeted them and walked outside.  ‘Nice of them to come’, he thought.

The next day we started to hear reports about the aftermath of the memorial.  Apparently these two policemen were waiting for a specific purpose.  They had a number of photographs and list of descriptions of youth who had outstanding warrants, and were waiting for the kids to emerge from the memorial service to apprehend them and take them off to jail.  These would be for breeches of probation, failure to show at court, unpaid fines and the like.

OK, so the police are just trying to do their jobs?  Yes they are.

Nothing technically wrong with it, there were not violating any laws or anything.  It just seems to be a bit shortsighted in that it achieved a short term goal, but does no long term bridge building betweem the kids and the police.

I would love to hear your comments on this one!

GOLF Fund Raiser for Street Youth Outreach

Our street youth art program is really making a difference in young people’s lives.  Street-engaged youth are finding housing, employment, entering programs for reducing their drug use and making better life choices in general.  Each week about fourteen young people come to the art group, but it’s so much more than creating art!

Some of the kids have described it as ‘family’, others as ‘church’, and all as something they really look forward to each week.  Some have described it as the highlight of their week, and look forward to Thursday nights.  It is amazing to watch these young people grow and develop in so many different areas.

One of the ways we are funding this non-government program is through our first golf tournament to be held on June 17.  Mountain Creek Golf Course in Arnprior will host the tournament with a shotgun start at 12 noon.  Eighteen holes with four ‘hole-in-one’ prizes, closest to the pin, longest drive, putting contest and a few other surprises will certainly engage and excite novice and pro golfers alike.  It’s a best ball tournament, so there is a chance that someone on your foursome will make a good shot.

A barbeque medley will follow, along with a silent auction, and each golfer will take home a special prize – some pretty nice prizes too, if I don’t say so myself.

It is promising to be a great day, and one that you will not want to miss.  We have between 25 and 30 teams currently registered (a few await confirmation – and payment) with room for 36 teams in total. 

The few spaces remaining will go quickly and we will probably sell out – so call us today and register your team.

Remember – it’s not only a fun daygolfing, but a great cause.  All the monies raised will go directly towards our Passion for Youth Art Program.  Call us at 613-237-6031!

Youth Art Show III

A totally unexpected outcome was realized at our youth art show just a few months ago, and I don’t think I told you about it.  So have a read, and let me know if you don’t think that this is the coolest…

The kids were pumped, everything was ready, all the art work was in place, snacks, interactive art table (the kids’ idea), it was all so special, so beautiful.  But none of it was really as beautiful as this.

I mingled with the kids, the volunteers, and introduced myself to some of the early arrival guests.  I had the chance to meet some people that I did not recognize, and early into our conversations, they identified themselves as parents, relatives, grandparents, cousins or some link of family members to the artists in our Passion for Youth art program.

At first, I thought this was very cool.  Then, as I met more and more relatives of the kids, whether on my own, or one of the kids would introduce their ‘kin’ to me, the degree of coolness increased significantly.

It had not occurred to me that the kids would have relatives come out to such an event (I am not sure why).  It sure meant a lot to the kids though.  Of course, some of the parents/ relatives were very interested in winning the bid on certain of the art pieces.  I think each was successful.  While they did not bring their kids home that night, they took a piece of them through the art work their kids had created.

In debriefing with our youth outreach worker, Jason, I mentioned that there was quite an interest on the part of the relatives of the kids, and was this an expected outcome?

No, it wasn’t really, but it made sense to me when Jason gave me a bit of explanation.  Most of the ‘events’ that the kids are involved in with other social service agencies in the city, have to do with such things as safe sex, harm reduction, drug use, safe drug use, etc. – which are exactly NOT the sort of things the kids wanted to sport in front of their parents or relatives.

But an art show?  Bring it on!

The kids were so proud of the fact that they were the featured artists, that ‘many others’ in the community wanted to come (and pay) to see their creations, that they were the centre of attention, that people wanted to talk to them about their art, their stories, their ideas – it was a win-win-win situation.

THAT they could invite their relatives to. 

Five of the kids had one or more family members at the exhibition/silent auction that evening. 

I’d say that is taking a step in the right direction, wouldn’t you?

Drop In to our Drop In, New Year’s 2011

A sunny bright first week of January and many greetings of “Happy New Year” were offered from our friends at the drop in.  New Years is just so much better than Christmas.

In addition to the beautiful day, some of our folks were only just receiving their cheques from December (some glitch in the matrix of ODSP/OW) on this day, so it was doubly beautiful (maybe more).

Our numbers are down a bit because of the cheque thing (a typical first of the month pattern), but we have given up trying to estimate our effectiveness through the number of people served a meal.  Instead we count the number of positive interactions our volunteers have with our street friends – more than ‘the Big three’ of news, weather and sports. 

Downstairs, there’s a couple of euchre games on the go, people visiting with each other, relaxed, informal – a nice place to hang out. 

Let’s ‘drop in’ on a few of my encounters with our friends:

I met Bill who is 19 years old and his sister Chaucery (or so I thought, until Bill told me it was his mom), and we chatted.  Two years ago he ran from a fight only to have a severe stab wound in the skull: “See the mark?” he says as he points to the top of his head.  We talked of a few things, but he told me he didn’t want to talk about his father, one time Chaucery’s partner.  Then, after about twenty minutes,   he brought up the topic of his father, and how he had been so severely mistreated.  Usually, among people who have been mistreated as children it is their fathers who have been the primary causes of abuse.  He didn’t want to talk about it, but then he did.  He had been diagnosed with some condition of mental illness (before the knife wound and somehow associated with his father), he explained, and lives with his mom.  Their hydro had been cut off, and it was a good thing I wasn’t part of the blanket-blank agency, or they would have some choice words for me.  They were going to make it, the mom said, because hydro was not their heat source, and their landlord had allowed them to have an extension cord running to a power outlet in the hall.  “We have lots to be thankful for,” Bill reminded his mom.

On the way to the coffee urn, Wayne came in and asked if he could have a hamper to take home with him (before the appointed time for hampers) because the service technician was coming to his new place to hook up a phone that afternoon.  Wayne has undergone a remarkable recovery from alcohol, drugs and the street scene.  He has been clean for over a year now, and has every intention of continuing to improve his life.  After many, many attempts to obtain housing, he now has a place of his own.  I marvel at what he has accomplished against overwhelming odds, as well at his determination to keep on the ‘straight and narrow’.

 Jelica, our managing director, put together a few groceries, while Wayne showed us pictures of his two daughters and grandchildren.  “Wow”, I said, admiring the photographs and smiling, “You don’t look it, but you truly are a rich man.”  He quickly nodded assent and told a condensed version of the powerful reconciliation he recently had with one of his daughters – after being estranged from her for many, many years.

“Thank you so very much for the food,” he said, and put the pictures carefully in the front part of his knapsack, and the groceries in the back.  “I’m off to catch the 12:10 bus.”

As he climbed the stairs out of the building, my eyes met Jelicas’, and there was a simultaneous sigh of gratitude and wonder at this example of a transformed life.  More than words are needed to grasp the deep significance of what was happening all around us. 

It’s all a gift from God, and gifts of God.

These kinds of encounters happen all the time, each one purposefully and intrinsically orchestrated by our Heavenly Father:  each one a display of His splendor .  Mother Theresa coined it well when she said, “We see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

You should find out how you could be a part of this somehow.  Happy New Years!

Add a Homeless Person to Your Christmas List – II

Merry Christmas!  Just a quick note today, on the eve of Christmas eve, to invite you to do a last minute gift purchase – for someone experiencing homelessness – for someone you don’t even know.  Click on the banner above for more info.

AND, if you would visit www.chri.ca, you can listen to the podcast of the interview I did with the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson.  This is not a political maneuvering or ‘nail him to the post’ interview, but an opportunity to hear our Mayor’s heart regarding the less fortunate in our city: how at an early age, he learned to care, what he is doing now, and some ideas how citizens of Ottawa (and beyond) can become involved.

Take opportunity today and make a donation.  We’ll be sure it gets to where it’s needed most!

Add a Homeless Person to Your Christmas List

Merry Christmas!  I did some research about how much money Canadians spent last Christmas – it amounted to thirty-four and a half BILLION dollars ($34.5B).  Then the latest stats indicated a family of four would spend between $1,200 and $1,500 on average, with a single Canadian spending an average of $809.

Canadians are generous people.  In fact, in 2009, Canada tied with Ireland for the third highest donators to charity in the world.  Charitable giving to religious organizations ranked three times higher than the second category (health institutions). 

We have enough for ourselves, and we have enough to help others!

This Christmas, why not show your generosity by adding a homeless person to your Christmas list?  It’s common for us to add an additional person to our Christmas shopping list from time to time, what about giving something special to people who really don’t have anything (and who are not really on anyone’s list!)?  This would really make a difference in someone’s life.

You could give a Winter Street Survival Kit or buy someone a Christmas Dinner for $2.69, or make a donation and we will ensure help gets to where it is most needed.

On the banner above are ways that you can quickly and easily add a homeless person to your Christmas list. I have found that people who call the streets their home are very, very grateful for the acts of kindness and gifts that are given to them.   On behalf of those who will be recipients of your generous giving, let me say, “Thank you.”

Tell a friend, challenge them to step up to the plate, and make a difference in your world!

The Gift of Christmas (volunteer social dec. 2)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9; 6, 7

The Gift of Christmas is all wrapped up in Jesus, is Jesus, and is the meaning of Christmas.  His message is the gift that keeps on giving as the gospel unfolds: cradle to cross, Jew to Gentile, one person told another person, who told yet another, they told somebody who in turn told someone else, who that person told someone else and so on to today, and the gift continues to unfold to the world.

You are the gift.

Drop In: I stood at the doorway to the sanctuary and watched: Rudy just finished cutting someone’s hair and asked if he would like prayer; a volunteer doing foot care right in front of me; sounds of Carolyn and Wendal distributing clothing upstairs and beside the stairs a staff spoke quietly with one of our street friends, behind me in the sanctuary, two more foot care volunteers massaged and soothed tired feet and Clara worked her touch care on tired aching backs… and I marveled at the gift unfolding…

Youth Art Show: in the moment I stood back and surveyed the room: young street artists, volunteers, donors, partners, prayer warriors and intercessors all there.  Many of the kids didn’t recognize the gift but each knew there was something special happening right in front of them.  I sensed the Giver of gifts painting on the canvas of human hearts, and it was a powerful moment.  All the work, the people, the prayers, the gifts working through His people… and the gift was unfolding…

Years ago on Street Outreach, Steve and I peered into a loading dock in the Byward Market and made out the figures of two small girls.   The one that spoke told us they just arrived from Montreal, that they were both sixteen, and were OK.  We shared what we had, noted references to places where they could get help, and in some way, I sensed that Steve and I were the gift, unfolding…

Sparky had taken refuge in the Laundromat near our office and I went in to sit with him for a while.  He was pretty intoxicated and did not do too well hiding the bottle of cooking sherry from the Laundromat overseer lady.  We had a conversation, and I stayed a bit longer.  When I got up to leave, Sparky told me in a very clear, impassioned plea, “No.  Please stay with me,” and for a moment I could not tell whether I was the gift or if he was, just unfolding…

Years ago at a downtown drop in, William, who was at times subject to alcoholic seizures, tottered and swayed, pointing his finger in my face and prophesying, “The Lord is blessing you.  The Lord is blessing this place and what you do,” and he became the gift, telling me we were the gift.  And it keeps on unfolding…

We come alongside one another as the gift unfolds through us, in us and through our street friends- in whom the gift is birthed, delivered and manifested.  And we thank God for each one.

You are the gift unfolding, Christ in you, the hope of glory, and I watch it all the time.  And I count it as a gift and privilege from the Gift Giver Himself to come alongside you and walk and work with you as we together we watch the gift unfold.

There is a tradition in some churches to speak over the communion elements of bread and the wine, to say, “The gifts of God for the people of God”, and the response comes, “Thanks be to God.”

Here tonight, in and with each other, I present each of you to all of you, and say, “The gifts of God for the people of God,” and we say together, “Thanks be to God.”

Youth Art Show II

The evening the kids have been preparing for had finally arrived.  It was time for the ‘Passion for Youth’ art show at Dominion Chalmers.  There was sufficient space for each artist to choose five pieces of their work to show, and it was a challenge for some to decide.  Hustle, bustle, the staging of sofas and tables from the art room on the second floor, the preparation of the interactive art table where guests could be creative, coffee, tea and snacks set near the entrance all combined to accelerate the excitement and anticipation.

In the end, all was readied.  The stage was set, the players were ready, last minute adjustments to the easels were complete, the live entertainment arrived ( Max and August), and the mood was  set. 

Guests enjoyed the ambiance, the artists and the art work.  Ahh, the art work.  For some of our guests, the time had finally come when the art work that was ‘for display only’ at our auction, was finally available for bidding.  There were pieces of art work that captured hours and hours of devotion, had become a  labour of love, and were now revealed to the public.

But there was something here far greater than what initially captured the senses.  There was a clear demonstration of a Master Artist at work with figures of moving clay.

The real demonstration of art was that of the artists themselves.

Initially, many of these youth never had any idea that they could create anything beautiful at all.  The images of childhood that are so familiar to us were either non-existent or so overshadowed with such painful memories that it would have been better not to have had them at all.  Years of repeated abuse served to reinforce their belief and image they would never amount to anything.  They were told as young children that they were losers, worthless  and discarded and treated as less than animals.  They had eaten from the garbage bins, slept in the bins or wherever they could, experienced cold and discomfort that are beyond description.  They were survivors, despite it all.

Tonight was different.  People they didn’t even know told them over and over again, that they had created something beautiful.  So beautiful in fact that they would like to buy the items and remember the artists.  The youth were the ones encouraging the younger guests and showing them how to hold a paint brush, how to mix the colors, how to ‘let themselves go’ and be creative.  Photos were taken.  The young artists were congratulated for work well done, praised for their choices of color or texture, and one small bit at a time, I believe some changes began to occur.

Maybe the voices of the past were wrong.  Maybe I’m not useless, after all, someone likes what I have created.  Maybe there is something good about me.  Maybe this is not the end.  Maybe, just maybe, I can do something good.  Maybe there is something good about me.

That was the real exhibition of art.  It wasn’t the paint on the canvas, or the music that filled the air: it was living, breathing, young people experiencing hope and a promise for the future.  And, maybe, just maybe, that might be enough to change a life.