A clip and a prayer

Leo is one of the ’rounders’ at OIM (‘been around a long time) and comes weekly to catch up and connect with our people.  Life was very difficult for him as he was growing up (the details are really too messy to go into-seriously) and he has been trying to cope with life ever since.

Today, he is sitting in the barber’s chair and our hairstylist is doingone of those remarkable, “I can’t believe that combination of shaved and long hair’ type of hairstyles.  Well, that’s Leo all over again-a non-conformist to the core, standing out in any crowd, but he’s really just a guy who wants someone to love him.

The hair cut is over now, and the stylist stands beside Leo as he sits in the chair.  Her lips are moving and he looks up into her face again, and returns his gaze elsewhere.  Three times.

Oh, she must be praying for him.  Yes, that’s it.

She finishes, he thanks her and he’s off on an adventure with a very stylish, trendy hair ‘composition’.

I spoke with her, and told her how much I appreciate her prayer for Leo.  She told me she prays for just about everyone that comes to her chair, that Rudy, the former hair cutter, had made this easy for her to dollow, as he did the same thing.

“Talking with Leo,” she said, “I found out he was facing some challenges.  When I asked if I could pray for him, he welcomed the offer.  he said, ‘Yea, I really could use some prayer now.’.”

“That is what OIM is all about,” I encouraged her, “Prayer provides an opportunity to go places and connect with people that it is not possible to do otherwise.  Good one!”

And, isn’t it true?  Think of how many people pray for you – right here and right now, and care – right here and right now.  I’m guessing there’s not too many.  Probably even less with our street friend, but OIM is here in the ‘right here and right now’.



Who’s really asleep here?

As I write this, you should know that I am really, really angry!  I am angry as I witnessed and was even an unwilling participant of inflicting yet another injustice on one of our less fortunate.  Less fortunate, yes.  Less fortunate because he becomes so easy to pick on, to blame, to push out of the way, hide somewhere where we, the general public, don’t have to see him.  Hide him somewhere where we don’t have to see his poverty, smell the stench of his pain and suffering so that we can walk by, not knowing, not caring.

Harry was just sleeping.  Of course I knew that he shouldn’t be sleeping outside of OIM’s office door.  I knew that it might upset someone, someone who might prefer not to see him there, might feel that it would be better if he slept somewhere hidden, but really, who was he hurting?  He wasn’t hurting anyone and it’s not like he can go home to sleep.  Home to sleep behind the garbage cans in the back of the office building or in some store’s doorway somewhere.  So, he slept, next to our office door, waiting for our drop in to open.  He wasn’t hurting anyone but he bothered someone and I got the call to wake him up please as he’s bothering me, him sleeping outside your office door.

Harry didn’t like to be woken up and he was angry, angry at the injustice of it all but he left his “comfy” sleeping spot, groggy from lack of sleep and went outside, away from eyes that really did not want to see him, did not want to acknowledge his poverty and pain.  Instead, he went outside and promptly fell asleep outside our building door, on the sidewalk, amid the cigarette butts and spit but not out of sight of the general public and the injustice of it all.

So, instead of sleeping inside, he slept outside – still in view, still in need, and still a commentary on our inability to look after the most vulnerable.  Maybe it’s time that WE woke up.

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.


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!


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.

Wrongs turning out Right!

Mich and his mother came to be friends of OIM first through our outreach teams and then started coming to the drop in. Mich is 19 and Candace, his mom is in her early thirties.  We developed relationship over several months and Mich joined our Passion 4 Youth art program.  There is a story here that I want to share:

Mich came home to their small apartment and saw his mom lying on the kitchen floor – her third suicide attempt!  He called 911 immediately and after the paramedics came, they told him that if he called just 5 minutes earlier, his mom would not be here.  The next time he came to the art program, he asked if he could speak with our youth outreach worker in the hallway for a few minutes. 

When they were alone, he said, “We’ve been talking about spiritual stuff for a while now.  I’m ready.  I need to have Jesus in my life.”  Mich prayed and so began his spiritual journey with Jesus.

Fast track a few weeks later and Candace asks to speak with me at the drop in.  In the adjoining garden we take a bench and she tells me about some of the things happending in her life and she asks for some advice.  She is scared and doesn’t know what to do.  We talk and conversation comes around to the change in life that Jesus can bring.  Mich joins us and the conversation about spiritual things continues.

“Did I tell you what happened a few weeks ago at the art program?” Mich queried.  I nodded yes.  “How’s it going with you?” I ask.

“I don’t really understand it all – but I sleep each night with my bible right beside me in bed.”

“You know, we have a great program just about to start here at the drop in – it’s called Alpha.  There is a video each week, you ask questions and we talk about the Bible.  Would you guys like to attend?” 

To make a long story short, both Mich and Candace have indicated interest in our Alpha course.  Until then we will work with both mother and son, to help them in their spiritual journeys.

God can take the very worst of situations and turn things around to make good.  If we can be there to be a part of what He is doing, it is a privelege and blessing!

I just started back to school – well adult high school to make up two classes, and then college.”

It happened at the drop in: a Miracle??

Greg Payne is our volunteer chiropractor at the drop in.  He told me a story about an encounter he had with one of our guests, and I asked him to document it. Here is his story.  (Name changed, naturally).

Jenny (mid forties) came to the drop-in for her chiropractic adjustment. She complained about a bloated feeling that her Crohns was making a rather symptomatic episode. The day before someone had given her a free lunch at Tim Hortons, but she could not hold it down.  She further said she was suffering from intense bleeding and was afraid to leave her house.  She had to wear disposable diapers.  Her GI MD <gastro intestinal doctor> did an X-ray and told her she had a small bowl obstruction and the bowl had shifted out of place. They admitted her and “stuck tubes in her nose and everywhere” Jenny reported. 

 I prayed for her, and told her she would do well with her adjustment and that she would be healing.

 Two weeks later she returned for another chiropractic adjustment and told me that the day after her adjustment she felt only a little better. But, on the second day following the adjustment she was A LOT better! She returned to the GI MD. He retook the X-rays and said that her small bowl obstruction had gone, that her bowl was in the correct place and “that her Crohn’s or evidence of her Crohn’s had disappeared”!

To this her MD mentioned that it must have been ‘that guy there at the drop-in’, that chiropractor that did it!  I told her that it was Jesus who brings the power to heal, but he does work through his people.  It certainly was not me.

This is an answer to prayer and totally beyond the power of any man.  I am both an observer of what God is doing among the poor, and also an instrument in His hands.

Jenny clearly needed and received immediate aid – the kind her doctors were unable to tend to without invasive strategies.  The Lord’s timing is fascinating!

Jenny is still in need of prayer and support – and whereas her symptoms did disappear as confirmed by her physician, she still suffers physically. 

However you try to understand the dynamics of this story, it is an amazing testament to the healing power of God.

Profound Encounters

Easter Dinner happened May 19th, a couple of weeks after the event . The delay is typical for us, so our folks can enjoy a special meal after the other agencies have held their own event meals days running – sometimes there will be two turkey dinners on the same day!

Maybe one hundred and fifty at two seatings – it all went smoothly. There were many volunteers, great service, greater interaction with our street friends, and seconds of meals and desserts for all who were interested.

Let me highlight one key interaction that was both powerful and profound. There are two young men, maybe 11 and 12 years old, who have been volunteering at our special dinners for several years. They came with both parents this year, and are both comfortable and capable in their service at the dinner.

I was talking with one of our guests, Bill, after the dinner when our two young volunteers walked by, preparing to depart with mom and dad. I stopped to speak with them and asked them how their day went. Fine, they affirmed. I asked if they had opportunity to visit with any of our street friends, and they said they did not have that chance. I thanked them for coming.

Just then Bill, who had overheard our conversation, joined the conversation and had some specific words of encouragement that he delivered to the two boys. He commended them and their parents for coming out to volunteer and help serve the meal. It was very special to have young people learn how to serve others at an early age he said, and it really meant a lot to him (particularly) and to all the guests (generally) to know that others cared. He spoke sincere words of appreciation and thanks to the young men, and again thanked them for caring.

I could sense Bill’s words carried a great deal of weight as the boys looked up and eagerly listened to this ‘rounder’ (been around a long time) as he expressed his gratitude. It was very real and genuine, and the boys could sense his sincerity. Although the conversation lasted only a few moments, it will be a conversation that the boys may never forget.

It is also typical of volunteers’ interactions with our street friends: no matter how convinced volunteers are that they come to encourage, minister and help, they learn quickly that they are often the recipients of the encouragement, ministry and blessing.

I think it is a principle of the Kingdom. A reversal of the world’s values and expectations. The greatest will be the least, the servant will be the master.

Happy Easter – every day!

What? Weather?

March winds blow, or it pours rain, minus 30 with the wind chill – or any combination thereof.   Only in Canada, eh?

We can look forward to spring, but it seems a long time coming.

No less for our street friends – not that’s the understatement of the year.

Christmas is a time typically when there is a generous outpouring of love and generosity to those on the streets and we are thankful for this.  But what about after Christmas?

Maybe we don’t think about it all that much, but the winter is a misery when you are on the move all the time, with no place to rest your usually wet, cold, freezing feet.  The laundromat is usually a good place, but it is often the case that the proprietors of the same are on the lookout for people who don’t wash their clothes.  The laundromat just beside our offfice entance is a good example.  It is common for the police to be called to this place, because some of Ottawa’s homeless population need a warm place.

In extreme cold -whatever that is- I guess it depends on whether or not you are in the cold all the time .  Street-engaged people are herded up and forced to go ‘inside’ (not the Chateau Laurier).  This experience can be worse that staying outside, because it is yet another violation of their persons (the force that can accompany can be excessive) – there are reasons why people cannot access services.

I guess I’m painting a pretty dark, bleak picture.  A bit negative, eh? But it is what it is – I’m pretty sure about that.

What then?  Well, don’t forget about those on the streets, even when the weather has some degree of improvement: the nights are still very cold.

Why not think about doing something about this problem?  You could contact one of the local agencies in your city and volunteer to do something.  Maybe you could give something – time, talents or money.  Stop and talk to someone you pass who is panhandling on the streets: you would be surprised how ‘invisible’ someone can become as soon as they sit on a curb with a ball cap and ask for money.  Give or not, it’s up to you, but you need to see that this is a real person, with a real story,  he/she is where she is, not from choice,  but from a cascade of trouble that they could do nothing to change (it usually begins with childhood abuse – how can we hold someone responsible for that?)

Give some change if you like – better a bill.  Once you give, forget about what will happen to it.  We hold people so very responsible for so little, when we are so careless with the treasures with which we have been blessed.

One thing for sure: we really can’t do nothing about this.  In our affluence, remember the  poor.

Make a difference.  Go out there and change your world.

Deaf and Dumb, but WHO?

Big transition of our drop in this past week from Salvation Army Gladstone Street to Dominion Chalmers U/C on Lisgar.  For those who aren’t aware of this prestigous United Church, have a look at photos at  A remarkable, extrememly well kept, renovated, bright, cheery place – exactly the kind of place that our street friends deserve to come into for a meal, refreshment and friendship.

Switching from Wednesday to Tuesday and the first of the month when all the cheques are out, and when it is absolutely beautiful and sunny, attendance was a bit low.  But, every person is important, and our gift is to come alongside those who are given to us on any day.

I had seen Jacques several times but never had a chance to sit and visit until today.  Add to that, Jacques can neither hear nor speak.  So I sat across the table and tried to communicate, thinking he might read lips or we could have some sort of communication.  He clearly indicated some things to me, one of which was he was not interested in trying to communicate with me (at least in my clumsy manner).  I was at a loss, until I looked at the white napkin in front of me, and then caught a glimpse of a pen that my neighbour had placed next to her book.  DUH!!

I picked up the pen and napkin and wrote a sentence of welcome.

The transformation was immediate and eagerly accepted.  After a few pen exchanges, I went and found some loose leaf and we spent the next while going back and forth, writing like we were age old friends.

Jacques told me days, dates and years of significant events in his life.  We talked about the drop in and answered questions that he had since he came through our doors some time ago.  Of where he lived, how it was hard to live on ODSP, how old he was, where he was raised and more…

It was refreshing, even exhilerating!  I had a friend to talk with, and so did he.

We get so busy with things – and I would be one of the worst offenders.  This and that call for immediate attention and we can neglect or overlook the gifts of beauty in the people around us.  This is clearly my story with Jacques. 

I wonder who the deaf and dumb one really is.

 I don’t know why I didn’t think of writing before, but I am thank God that I thought of it this week.

And I thank God for my new friend – my note pal.

I wonder what riches we will uncover as we develop our friendship?  I am really looking forward to more.

God help us to slow down and see the opportunities that present themselves to all of us each day.