Posts

Rachel’s Gift, the final episode: Rachel Speaks for Herself

This is the eighth and final episode of Rachel’s Gift”.  Listen as Rachel finally reveals her “Gift”.  Invite your friends to listen and ‘catch up’ on previous episodes.  If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ from November 28 (right hand column).

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s Rachel: 

Thanks for your support for our Passion 4 Youth Art program this Christmas.  Help us continue this life-changing program.  Designate a donation today! Just click the ‘Donate’ button.  Thanks for your special gift!

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 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 Four, The spiral downwards continues…

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  Go to www.chri.ca for the audio backgrounders to Rachel’s stories. 

This time when I got out of jail I couldn’t go to Ottawa – I was banned from Ottawa.  You know, I wasn’t supposed to be in Ottawa, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go. So, I got caught in Ottawa in a rooming house because I was taking a shower there and was arrested for a breach of probation.  I went back to jail for one month and then they released me in Ottawa (laughter).  I couldn’t go to my mom’s house because her husband at the time was totally against me living there.  I could see why.

I got out of jail and started doing the same things that I usually do.  I was staying in a heated stairwell at Nepean and Bank – it was public property so they couldn’t arrest you, just tell you to get along.  When you are in drugs, people only want you at your house when you had something for them, they say, ‘I would never see you out on the street.’ But when you were in need and you didn’t have any drugs, they would say, like, ‘We can’t have people staying at our house’.

There are some places to stay when you live on the streets, but you have to be careful.  Staying in a shelter was much worse – in my eyes it was like the bottom… as long as I don’t have to go to a shelter, I hadn’t hit rock bottom.

I didn’t have a place anymore, and I found a website where you could and used that to meet guys for a date…  So, I stayed on the streets or maybe in hotels sometimes.  I don’t know, it just became a way of life, survival.

I basically sick and tired of doing drugs, like heroin… I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I ended up in a crack house downtown: people coming and going all the time; drugs in and out like crazy, and I was still using.  I had started the methadone program, but was still using street drugs.  Anytime I used anything other than opiates, it screwed up my methadone and I would get even sicker. 

I guess I just hit rock bottom then.  Doing things I would never do and being somebody that I totally never was.  People totally lost respect for me.  I would overhear people talking about me, and think, ‘Is that what they really think about me?’

I just took a look around one day. I was introduced to Jesus a few years ago.  When I was in jail I accepted Jesus but I was doing my own thing.  Then one day, looked around and said, “Oh God, I know that this is not what you have planned for me, I just know it isn’t.”

I walked out of that place and got a place with some girls, and it was a safe place.

Next Week:    The story takes a significant turn for the better.  Stay connected, you don’t want to miss this!

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.

Gladness and Sadness

Our Christmas Dinner was held this past Tuesday, January 18.  Three weeks after Christmas and people who received their cheques before Christmas are ready for a hot turkey dinner.  Seems to work for everyone.

Two settings of eighty people each, tickets are distributed and it works well.  This year we had an East Coast Trio that did well: one of our Newfoundland guys said, “I close my eyes and I’m back home.”

Volunteers cooking, serving, cleaning, visiting – with our friends from the streets sharing words of thanks and appreciation.  One Christmas treat bag each, along with one sock filled with more treats. The other sock was inside the first one – I asked.

So, near the end of the second setting I leave through the kitchen door to return my camera to the car.

I noticed someone standing, well leaning, on the wall outside the main door, just out of view of anyone inside.  He was standing on one foot, his leather dress boot in one hand, while at the same time, he is putting on a fresh emptied sock from the gift table.  I looked away to preserve some of my friend’s dignity, and my mind was flooded with thoughts filled with emotion.

I didn’t notice any used socks around when I returned: I wonder if he had any socks on at all.  The leather dress boots had seen better days, and then only inside, but the winter had turned them white with salt, and there was enough water to penetrate the leather right to the bare feet.

What could happen to a person that he would not have socks?  This is sadness.

Then, what could be a better Christmas present than a clean, fresh, warm pair of socks?  Can’t get much better than that!  That is gladness.

Sadness and gladness all wrapped up in a simple exercise of putting on a pair of socks.  The sad story behind this we may never know, but we could imagine there’s a lot of stuff hidden in that story.

Then we have to consider the bigger picture of a bunch of volunteer stuffing socks with candies, hoping to bring a little light into someone’s life – if only they knew just how appropriate their gift really was!

A small thing really, for most of us – but a pretty  large thing for our sockless, water soaked, leather booted friend.

You have to wonder if all the preparation of the meal, the music, the gift bags (and sock bags), the venue, the volunteers, and so many countless deeds of kindness that went into the whole Christmas dinner in January… was so that one man, who had cold, wet boots, could have warm feet for just a wee while.

And know that Someone cared.

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

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.”