Making Room at the Inn

Posted By Julia Buckingham
December 20, 2016

Abbotsford, BC – When MCC BC was approached about turning our Material Resources Warehouse into an Extreme Weather Response shelter, the immediate answer was yes. “We didn’t have all the logistics figured out,” said Jane Njogu, Coordinator of MCC BC’s Homelessness Prevention & Outreach program, “but we knew this was something we wanted to do.”

Between November and April each year, BC Housing provides funding for temporary emergency shelters through its Extreme Weather Response program. The program provides mats for beds, and coffee and muffins for breakfast, but needs spaces for these shelters to be set up. In Abbotsford, two other Extreme Weather Response shelters exist at Salvation Army and Cyrus Centre, which together provide shelter for up to 26 individuals.

Since the summer of 2015, MCC BC has been hosting a weekly Thursday Evening BBQ, and a bi-weekly Sunday Dinner at the MCC Centre, located at 33933 Gladys Ave. Over the course of these meals and individual meetings with clients through MCC’s program, Njogu has built strong relationships with members of Abbotsford’s homeless and at-risk of homelessness community. “When people talk about MCC in the forest, what they say is that you care,” one man said.

So early in December, when The 5 and 2 Ministries asked us if we would be willing to consider opening up a space to provide an emergency shelter, the obvious answer was yes. When Njogu made the announcement at the Thursday Evening BBQ, the response was one of extreme gratitude. “Everyone else said no to us. But you… you didn’t,” one woman said with tears in her eyes.

Jane in the Warehouse
Jane Njogu stands in the MCC Material Resources Warehouse, which is transformed into a shelter on a moment’s notice (MCC Photo/Julia Buckingham)

Each time there is an extreme weather advisory in effect (as deemed by BC Housing), MCC will open its doors to 20 individuals on a first come, first served basis. Thanks to resources from MCC’s Material Resources Warehouse, the MCC Centre Thrift Shop and Common Place Cafe, these men and women will have access to sleeping bags, blankets, winter gear, dry clothes, games, entertainment, and a hot evening meal.

“We’ve made room at the inn,” says Njogu.


Go in Peace

Posted By Scott Campbell
November 19, 2016

I wasn’t at my best last Saturday. Coaching my son’s soccer team, it was a tight game, even though we were outplaying the other team. The referee was missing or miscalling many plays and it seemed to me, my assistant coaches and a few parents on the sideline, that the calls were lopsidedly against us. In the final few minutes of the game, the score tied, the referee miscalled a play that had a good chance of seeing us score. That was enough. From the sidelines I started challenging the ref for the bad call and for what seemed like a pattern of preference for our opponents.

I was disruptive enough that the ref threatened me with a “yellow card”. (For non-soccer players, all you need to know is that a “yellow card” means you did something quite out of line and your team can be penalized.)

We went on to win the game, scoring in the final minute of play. But it was a bitter win. As I drove home with my son, I wasn’t experiencing the rush of excitement that comes post game after a well-played match and a win. I had spoiled the experience.

It wasn’t lost on me that this incident took place the morning after Novemeber 11, Remembrance Day. For the last several years, I’ve adopted the tradition of wearing the MCC peace pin at this time of year. “To remember is to work for peace”, it reads.

peace_buttons

I certainly wasn’t working for peace when I was yelling at that ref.

I seem to be hyper aware of the importance of peace lately. Maybe many of us are. There is the constant barrage of nasty rhetoric spewing from the US election, the ongoing displacement of people in the Middle East and Africa due to conflict, and earlier this month, in the hometown of our MCC provincial office here in Abbotsford, the random killing of 13 year-old Letisha Reimer.  These feel like the ugly truths of the world we live in. Brokenness, loss, fear, and anger rule.

So what does it mean to “go in peace”? Throughout the Old and New Testament, from Joseph to his brothers in Genesis, to the many peace references in Isaiah, to the words of comfort from Jesus’s for many he met, to blessings in Paul’s letters, peace is a gift offered to all.

Definitive or not, I found a definition from a Catholic theologian and friar helpful. “[Go in peace] means that we leave church with the intention of making peace happen in our personal lives and in what happens around us.” They go on to say, “We go forth to act as priests, making Jesus present to the world. We go forth to act as prophets, speaking on behalf of the oppressed and bringing hope to those in despair. We go forth to act as kings, serving and protecting the vulnerable and providing for the needs of others.”

I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea that peace is some kind of self-actualized homeostasis that we must work for in order to find balance in our lives or personal fulfillment. To go in peace is to go with God, to go into the world knowing the love, grace, and compassion of God.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is our example. His life is a testament to “going in peace”, fully known and fully knowing the faithfulness of his Father.

It’s too big a jump to say that my sideline antics reflected a shortcoming in my faith, and it’s too trite to remind myself in such situations to think “what would Jesus do”. Rather, in living my life, by going “into the world”, I was confronted again last Saturday with my own humanity. I was reminded that to “go in peace” is not a call for me to somehow manufacture a state of peacefulness, but rather to step into the fullness of life, to speak, act, and serve in ways that bring life, with the awareness of being known by God, and in some way, imperfectly and with limited understanding, knowing God.

At MCC, we occupy ourselves daily with discovering ways to work with partners locally and around the world to help with relief, development and peacebuilding. In these ways we are sharing God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ.

Like me, on the sideline of my son’s soccer game, we don’t always succeed, but there is goodness in the intentionality.