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I Met Jesus This Morning

I-Met-Jesus-This-MorningMiracles never cease to move me, even the little ones. They always catch me by surprise even at this age. This morning, like most mornings, in the car I am talking with God and singing, which isn’t unusual. This morning’s song is, ‘Open the Eyes of my Heart,’ which I sing a lot. 

I make a quick stop at a local fast food restaurant for some food and meet a homeless gentleman at the door. He is panhandling, which is strange for this location. He quietly opens the door for everyone, never saying a word, never making eye contact, just holding out his cup, expectantly hoping. His clothes look clean but they are in rough shape. Everyone rushes in trying to avoid him, but I can’t. I ask him if he is hungry and he looks me in the eye and says, ‘yes.’ 

Inside, I place my order and his and they inform me the grill isn’t open yet. I go and ask him to join me inside. It is obvious the manager isn’t impressed that he is inside, but I ignore him and concentrate on my new friend. I tell him to order whatever he wants and I will pay for it. I add a gift card and hand it to him. 

When I get back to my car, I am weeping. I have to pause because I can’t drive.  My only mistake was not staying to eat with him because of a commitment downtown. I am torn, my years in the military demand that I keep my commitment, that I can’t be late, but my heart is crying for me to stay and get to know this young man. As tears roll down my cheeks in the car, I finally begin to see what I have been asking Christ to reveal to me:  his pain, his loneliness, his hopelessness. My heart aches for him.

Tomorrow, if he is there I will be late for my commitment. Meeting Christ, and my commitment to him, is more important than any other. Honouring my commitment to him starts at the fast food restaurant and having breakfast with this young man. I can’t wait for another encounter tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for me then…

~Ken B, Volunteer

 

 

 

Pancakes and Paintbrushes

Innercity Freedom GroupThey get up early… something that’s not in their nature or character; mornings just aren’t their thing.

Brushing the experiences of the previous night off their faces, putting on possibly the only set of clothing they own; making their way to a place of love and acceptance for who they are.

The Innercity Freedom Group – a recovery group for whatever hurt or habit someone is overcoming in life – meets on Monday mornings. It’s a safe community where everyone is welcome. It’s a group designed to provide support through whatever the struggle is, and since we all have challenges in our lives, we are all the same there.

As you enter the front doors the smell of pancakes and syrup overtakes your senses and the laughter of a community of friends who have your back makes you feel like you’ve definitely got the right address.

Exploration of thoughts is used through different mediums of art and our motto is “What happens and is said at IFG stays at IFG”.

No one has to share in front of the entire group each week and there is opportunity for one on-one-mentorship afterwards if anyone wants some extra support.

It’s often the little things that help us the most when we are striving to overcome the trials in our lives, like someone saying “I believe in you” or “what you say matters to me” or “I see your pain and I’m sorry that you are hurting.”

Pancakes and paintbrushes. It’s how we do life “one day at a time” at IFG. ‘Right now’ is really all any of us has and it’s worth celebrating.

If you or anyone you know would like to check out the Innercity Freedom Group, come by Monday mornings at 10:00am. We would love to have you.

 

391 Gladstone Av

Ottawa, Ontario

613-237-6031

bonnie_oim@rogers.com

 

 

The Four Stages

the-four-stagesThe monarch butterfly is a glorious creature to behold. If you’ve ever witnessed it’s beauty, watching it in flight is a vision you don’t forget.
 
However, to get to that point in its life there’s a journey and a fight requiring strength and determination.
 
There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a monarch that it must pass through to reach maturity; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), adult.
 
Each stage must be completed before it can go onto the next.
 
We walk around and see caterpillars but forget the stage before that they had to persevere through to become who they are.
 
It’s not often in everyday life that we get to see a chrysalis hanging from a branch…and sadly our first thoughts would probably go to thinking it was a sac of nasty bug eggs instead of the incredible and transforming miracle that is slowly taking place inside of that precious little pod.
 
When I think of the amazing wonder of the Monarch butterfly my heart and mind immediately go to our street engaged and homeless youth…they fight the odds around them and win against the world that tells them they can’t. These incredible young people fight and succeed to go from one stage to the next with the strength of giants and the determination of a Monarch. 
 
What a gift we have in getting to be a part of this process or when we take the time to stop, listen and appreciate the miracles all around us everyday.
 
Let’s remind each other to push the pause button, sit on a park bench, share our time and listen to the story of someone who had to fight hard to get to the stage in the cycle of life that they are currently in.
 
~Bonnie, Staff
 
 
 

Behold, Real Art

innercity arts programOut of pure curiosity I browsed around on Google yesterday checking out the value of the top 10 paintings at The National Art Gallery here in Ottawa. I encourage you to explore the same in your spare time; some of it is definitely interesting. Most of the paintings and art work exhibited there cannot be put with their price tag beside it for security measures that have been put in place…they are in the MILLIONS.

We can all look at the same piece of art, read the same book, see the same movie and feel and take away something completely different; that’s the beauty of life being unique and imperfectly perfect.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then art speaks to the heart through the eyes of those who choose to feel the emotions behind the paint and clay.

Art is a form of therapy, an emotional outlet, a best friend to talk to. Art can be raw and tell a story of past hurts or hidden scars. It can also be a way to watch a life and heart slowly transform, learn to trust, break down walls and build a safe community with support and unconditional love.

Up until a few years ago our home had some fancy prints of famous artists; that was until I came to Innercity Arts and met true artists with stories, faces and names. Now our home is proudly decorated with colors and hanging art depicting the talents and stories of REAL artists. For us we feel truly blessed to have gifted art in our home worth MORE THAN MILLIONS; the priceless stories behind them worth more than any amount of gold.

Purchasing art isn’t always about “agreeing” with the artist’s choices, it’s often how it makes you feel and the emotions that it either inspires or provokes.

Coming up soon is an amazing opportunity to meet our artists and purchase some real  art at the 10th Annual Innercity Arts Show on May 9th. It’s being held at the Ottawa Art Gallery from 6:30pm-9pm. We can’t wait to see you there!

~Bonnie, Staff

 

 

 

Come As You Are

Art Hand-minMusic playing in the back ground. The rustling of voices. Some laughing, some random chattering. The room is filled with various hues of paint color and textures of fabric. The faint smell of burning wood can be detected in the air. A large plate of home-cooked dinner awaits, with plenty more for seconds and take-home bags.

It’s a safe place where you are accepted exactly as you are. There is no judgment; just unconditional community, support and love.

Welcome to Innercity Arts! It’s an amazing place where our city’s street-engaged youth can sign up to be a part of a community where all different forms of art are used. It’s a way of coming together to offer a few hours of creative expression in a safe environment surrounded by food, friendship, and mentoring with individuals who accept our youth for exactly who they are.

Innercity Arts is a place where youth are seen for their talents – either visible or hidden – and encouraged to be the very best version of themselves. Our youth come from all different backgrounds, and all with a story of their own that is protected and respected.

Every youth is assigned a qualified mentor who walks alongside them with goal-setting or any struggles they wish to share in confidence; without any judgment. For our youth, the art group is a place to grow, to discover who they are and to encourage them to soar through using art as a way to heal and communicate their emotions. All this, while surrounded by a community of staff, volunteers and peers who believe in them and their abilities.

We are all special, unique and amazing exactly as we are. We all just want to be and feel accepted for the way we were made…Here, at Innercity Arts, we try to provide just that because our youth are incredible!

-Bonnie, Staff

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: One Final Thank You!

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series featuring one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program that began on November 26, 2018. We hope it offered insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the program. Today’s blog post is a Special Message that comes directly from Larissa’s on-air presentation on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM (airing 8 am and 5 pm). Thanks for listening!

Larissa’s-Journey

Hi, my name is Larissa.

When I think of OIM, I think of faith, unconditional friendship, support, resources, food and a community of really good-hearted Christians trying to do their best.

They made such a difference in my life, and the lives of so many youth in our City!

I hope you will be able to help them continue to do their good work, by making a donation of  any amount.

Every dollar counts, and your prayers and encouragements mean so much.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and blessed New Year!

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: I Met OIM – Choir & Innercity Arts

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

Larissa’s-Journey

How I first met OIM?

Well, there was this girl that used to go to choir, Alisha, and I asked her to come over. In my kitchen, I could only find macaroni and cheese. I didn’t have any money. None.

She said, “I go to this place where they pay me to sing. They also have an art group. If you like, I could call Moira and see if you could go.”

I was like, “Ohh… maybe I could get some free food.” I was so happy, and thought, “Maybe there is a chance for me.” I was on my last straw and did not know what to do. At the same time, I was also nervous, thinking it was not going to be what I thought it would be. Honestly, it was better. It was very organized.”

When I first went to choir, I was really excited, because I thought: “I could become famous.” I was so excited to become famous. Once I tried it out, I thought, “This is awesome.”

That was the beginning.

I got into the choir, and had to go on a waiting list to get into the art group.

I begged Moira to go to the art group, begged for weeks on end.  When an opening came up in the younger “Innercity Arts” program, Moira told me. I asked her about all the details

I was worried that if I came to the art group that I would be judged, thinking they would think I would be in the same place as they were. The youth made me feel like I was a part of everything. They involved me in just about everything. When I come to the Innercity Arts program, it’s like, “Hey everyone! Larissa’s here!”

When I got to the art group, I couldn’t believe how good it was. I loved it. I enjoyed myself. I did really good with fabric art.  Really good! I sell all my fabric art at the art shows we have each spring.

I never felt unwelcome, and though sometimes I got teased, it’s been going well.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares “My Changed Life.” Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words.

 

 

Community BBQ

Our Administrative Assistant, Gaby, is normally busy working at the office.  But recently, she had the opportunity to visit our drop-in on BBQ Day!

It was a fun day with plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs, sides, dessert and beverages to go around. Everyone was so appreciative of the community donations that came in so that we could organize this special event for our street community.

Blog post – Gaby

 

Gaby was happy to be there, helping serve, visiting with people, and seeing some of our street friends who visit the office.

I recently asked her about her experience at the drop-in that day, and this is what she said:

“What I sensed was a real community: People know each other, clients, volunteers and staff alike, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. For some of the ladies there, they told me it’s their only outing. It gives them an opportunity to see their friends and be a part of a caring community.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

– Jelica, Staff

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

 

 

Nurturing God’s Creation

Each spring, my wife and I find joy in feeding the birds that frequent our large rural Ottawa backyard. Together we peer out at our many-winged visitors through the kitchen window or separately through the patio doors. Species include beloved cardinals, chickadees, doves and nuthatches. Uninvited, yet equally welcome, guests are feisty red squirrels and their companion, more docile black squirrels.

Our love of nurturing nature in this simple way brings great joy.

While most of us understand the need to nurture God’s creation, helping people living on the margins may not always come so naturally. Judgement, criticism and stereotypes sometimes precludes caring for people in need. 

Street outreach organizations like Ottawa Innercity Ministries, however, look beyond ‘first impressions,’ scratching below the surface to the person underneath. They do so by sustaining life on the streets of our fair city and bring great joy to those in need.

Each day of the week, volunteers generously donate a couple of hours of their time to provide food, clothing and words of affirmation to our street friends. The outpouring of Jesus’ love and warmth during this brief interaction offers hope, which can enable the escape from the prison that is street life.

OIM conducts drop-ins, a youth art program and advocacy to those who grasp at this hope and seek a better life.

We know that these interventions bring with them joy through faith in a better future.

Isaiah 43 v 1: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”

-Peter, Street Outreach Volunteer