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One of the challenges that our street friends deal with is loneliness. Each night, I get reports from our street teams, and as I read them, I notice that loneliness is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence. Our teams share about how our street friends feel, many common feelings include some form of social, physical, or spiritual loneliness. In many cases, it’s a combination. I’m reading that our street friends are expressing their loneliness more frequently. Many deeply feel these impacts when people in the downtown area walk by them, hardly acknowledging their existence.

I think about how I have been guilty of avoiding street friends in the past. I remember walking to get a coffee at a local shop and passing by a street friend selling art. I glanced at him and his work when I first walked by but kept on to get my coffee. While waiting in the shop, I remember thinking, “Why don’t I talk to him?” That thought convicted me because I had no excuse. On my way out, I walked by, but this time, I stopped and chatted with him for a while. I learned he wasn’t originally from Ottawa and currently attends an art program to hone his skills, hoping to make a living off his craft someday. He’s talented, and I really enjoyed his work. While I couldn’t buy his art because I didn’t have cash, I encouraged him to continue because he had a natural talent.

I stopped to talk with this man because of the grace-filled culture at OIM, which stems from our founding verse, Micah 6:8: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” God cares for the lonely. He cares for those who are physically, emotionally, and spiritually alone. Through various ways, God provides community and a place to belong to those without. Marginalized or outcasted people are given a place of honour and belonging in the Kingdom of God. God’s love extends to everyone, even those who are forgotten and have no one. This notion fuels each volunteer and staff member to connect with our street friends.

~Andrew Murphy, Communications and Connections Coordinator

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