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Freedom…

This past May, Mark, a long-time member of the art group, was in a terrible accident. He was struck by a car which caused severe head trauma, and he was placed in a medically induced coma. The doctors did not know if he would pull through. The youth in the art group were devastated. Mark is like a brother to them so the thought of losing him was unbearable.

Prior to his accident, Mark had been living on and off the streets for more than 5 years. His addiction was very powerful and controlled most aspects of his life. Despite this, he was a beautiful person and a talented artist. It was so painful to watch addiction control his life.

It was equally painful to see Mark once he woke up from the coma. He was unable to speak or move and the doctors did not know whether these effects would be permanent. Mark stayed in the hospital for several months. But after a lot of work and treatment, Mark has regained most functions. He can now walk and move like normal and his speech has improved immensely. His accident has left him with several deficits but he continues to improve every day. His progress over the past 5 months has been truly miraculous to watch.

Mark’s dad brought him to art group recently to see his old friends. They greeted him with hugs and tears. It’s hard to know how much Mark remembers, as his memory has been affected by the accident. But Mark remembers his old life of using drugs, and he gets really frustrated with himself. He often says “I used to do really bad stuff. I was so stupid.” His peers, who remain controlled by addiction, comforted him by saying “You weren’t stupid man; you were just in a dark place.” Another said “Yeah, and you’re free now! You’re so lucky to be free.”

These youth were looking at Mark longing for the kind of freedom from addiction that he has. In this moment, I saw a glimpse of just how strong the clutches of addiction can be.

-Moira

Thanksgiving Dinner at OIM!

As I looked around the room as lunch was in full-swing yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel very blessed to be surrounded by great 39 amazing volunteers as they bustled around the room preparing lunch, setting tables, rolling napkins, making coffee and doing many other of the critical tasks related to hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for over 200 people.  Over the weekend many more hands cooked turkeys, mashed potatoes, made stuffing and boiled up delicious gravy to be served to our street friends. It all came together in a beautiful way as we served 2 sittings of turkey dinner with all the trimmings at Dominion Chalmers United Church.  We were blessed with enough food that everyone had a full plate!  The food received rave reviews from those present and the warm fellowship was the ‘icing on the cake’ as one of our friends put it.  What could be better than good food with good friends?

Special dinners at OIM are…well…special indeed.

Kudos!

So last week the Wednesday night group got SOAKED (during that big rainstorm) on our evening walk-around. I mean drenched. I’ve seriously been less wet in the shower than I was out on the street last week. “Oh well!” I thought to myself “At least we’ll have a pretty quick tour, most people will have found shelter somewhere.”

 

Sadly, I was reminded that many of our friends don’t have the means to acquire shelter (even in a downpour), or are denied welcome at places where they could huddle, out of the storm.

 

In the midst of this sopping-wet mess of humanity, however, a ray of hope! For the sake of his modesty I won’t report on his name, but one of our volunteers was a real trooper, sacrificing both his umbrella and a big chunk of his time to escort our good friend John home from the market. It probably took an hour, working down the sidewalk at John’s rather sedate pace, bumping hips against his wheel-chair, but they made it, with John more-or-less dry.

 

Kudos to anonymous volunteer! Your efforts refresh my faith!

God knows what we need..

I can’t help but feel a profound sense of sadness and tragedy some nights during outreach.  But, once in a while you stumble upon an individual who truly inspires and humbles you in the face of such “despair”.  One such individual I have seen on a rather consistent basis in the past month, and he never ceases to inspire and reaffirm the greatness of God.  “On one hand,” he tells me emphatically, “On one hand I can count the number of times, in the last five years, when I have been hungry.” Amazed, I am pretty speechless at this point in the conversation.  This fellow then goes on to give all the glory to God, Who he says (correctly I might add) will provide to those who ask with a sincere heart.  A rather jolly fellow, I always look forward to chatting with him; I have since come to realize that God is most certainly among our street friends, giving them all that they need.  “The difference,” he goes on “is that we may not always know what we need, but God does.”  Leading a simple yet humble life, this street friend demonstrates how little we need to be faithful and reverent – two qualities God very much adores.

Kevin

The bright shining key

Well, it wasn’t exactly bright and shining.  It was more like a dull and well-worn silver key, but the glow that came off the face of our friend Danny made it shine like the my grandmothers newly polished silver.  Danny has been trying to find housing he could afford for a very long time.  The week before at stop-in, he was waiting for news about an apartment that looked very promising.  He was just waiting for the landlord to give the final approval.  He was pacing in the office, he simply couldn’t sit still because he was so anxious and excited.  We prayed with him that the answer would be positive and that he would be able to stop sleeping on the streets.  When the doors opened at drop-in last Tuesday, he bounded up to me waving his key all the way down the hall.  “I GOT IT!!!!” he said.  He was wearing his key around his neck and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the pictures I’ve seen of athletes when they wear their medals around their necks.  I joined in his excitement and asked him what he needed now to set his place up.  He could have said ‘everything’, but he only mentioned one thing.  He wanted a clock.  He said that when he wanted to know what time it was he had to go outside and find someone with a watch.  How incredibly simple…he just wanted to feel home…

-Kim

Love and Respect

Some of the most down to earth and insightful exchanges I have are during outreach with OIM.  Week after week I stop with my fellow OIM volunteers to chat with people with diverse backgrounds and histories.  To us it doesn’t matter where they came from, or where they may be headed; the point is to be there for them in whatever way they desire.  If they want to chat, we lend an ear; if they need something to eat, we give them some food; if they don’t want anything, we move on.  At OIM we aren’t there to judge, but to do what God has called us to do, and that is to love others as we would ourselves.  We are there to give a little bit of respect to people who perhaps deserve it more than people think.  Day in day out they are scrounging, facing judgment, being humiliated, ignored, and sometimes flat out disrespected.  Once you get to know our street friends, you might see that they deserve a little more than what they get.  Being blessed, God gives us the privilege to go and deliver the love and respect that He so readily offers to everyone.  And of course without fail, I see God forge true friendships between volunteers and street friends time and time again – not surprisingly.  Praise God!

Kevin

What did your morning look like?

Going to work this morning, I came down the same hill at the same time and saw the same bus going up the other side.  I got on my usual bus with the same driver and saw the same people going about their routines too.  Before that, I got up, checked my email…watched the morning news as I had my coffee and said goodbye to my family as I do every morning.

 

Routine…predictability…we might be tempted to see it as boring…but it’s actually healthy!  Of course we like to shake it up every now and then to keep it interesting, but mental health experts say that routine and knowing what tomorrow will bring is a key factor in your overall health.  The stress of not knowing what tomorrow will look like can be seen first in a lowered  immune system leading to frequent illness, and chronic stress leads to changes in the very biochemistry of one’s body leading to conditions such as depression.

 

What did your morning look like?  Many of the people we see at OIM woke up not knowing where they will eat today, or where they will sleep tonight.  Many don’t know where they will be tomorrow, let alone in a week.

 

Routine…predictability…doesn’t sound so bad does it?

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.