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Thursday, March 3, 2011

A unforgettable man.


There is a man who has been taking over my thoughts lately. Now before you all get ahead of yourselves, he isn't what you are thinking. I have never even met him before but I saw him. Isn't it just incredible how one glimpse has the ability to alter your day or even your life?
This man that I saw for maybe a grand total of 2 minutes will forever occupy a place in my mind.
The brief moment happened on a very cold day while driving in downtown Vancouver. A friend and I were driving through the 'rich and famous' shopping area in downtown Vancouver which just so happens to be right next to the infamous downtown east side. The downtown east side of Vancouver is one of the oldest neighbourhoods. It was also coined by the Globe and Mail as "Canada's Poorest Postal Code". Drugs, alcohol and prostitution are in high exercise. With the drug problem being as it is the infection rates of HIV are also at an alarming high.
A friend and I were on our way to meet an individual who works at First United Church in the heart of the area. Here the entire church, including the sanctuary, have been converted into a shelter where no person is ever turned away.
This opportunity to witness such love and care just as Jesus would have, was so invigorating for me. Please don't misunderstand me, seeing such poverty and hurting people is never easy but on the other hand I felt a connection here in this area because it reminded me of my time in Kenya. It reminded me of what I loved doing while I was there. It was a community of broken people all working together. Community...this is something I have felt was missing in my life since I returned from Kenya. I felt it there.
Anyways, back to this mystery man. As I said above, I didn't meet him, nor do I know his name but I can tell you what I do know about him. He is strong,courageous and desperate. I first noticed him because he didn't seem to fit with the other professionals and high-class shoppers around him. He was sitting on the frozen ground with his head lowered and holding a sign. The sign simply read "HIV+ and Hungry Clean and Sober". That's all. To any other passerby it may have been disregarded. That day it was noticed.
We turned the corner and I really wanted to capture this situation in a photo. I took a picture which you can see above that specifically does not show his face. His face is not what defines this situation but the title of his sign.
As the day went on I kept thinking about this man. I wondered if anyone had stopped to help him. I wondered if anyone cared.
If I had stopped to talk to him I would have said two things 1) I am so overwhelmingly impressed by your courage to be so open with your HIV status and 2) I am sorry you have to state that you are clean and sober in order to receive.
This got me thinking even more. Why is it that so many people have decided that they will not give food or money to the homeless? If a person has a drug or alcohol problem does that mean that they are no longer entitled to food or shelter?
I know what the arguments are. "Well, they will just spend it on drugs or alcohol if I give them money", so I have a suggestion for those of you who may think that. Take 5 minutes out of your day and go buy them some food or talk to them for a while. How many of you would even dare to touch them, or give them a hug?
Challenged by my own thoughts we tried to find him after our tour. We did not find him again but another man enjoyed some Chinese food on his behalf.
My challenge from this post is to check your thoughts(this goes for me as well). As a Christian I am told never to judge another person. I am only called to love.

On Deputation

I can't remember the last time I logged onto my blog to post anything. Well, that should change immediately...
I just returned from a month long speaking tour about my work in Kenya. Isn't it funny how you can often force yourself to think one thing and then God totally changes you to think another? Well, that is what happened while I was away from home, yet again.
It was a bit challenging preparing to leave on a speaking tour to parts of Canada I had never been before but I found myself meeting people who've struggled through similar issues as I do today. They were good people who are devoted to following their God no matter what. I was encouraged and empowered by their resilience to keep fighting the good fight.
As I was preparing to leave the last leg of my journey in Vancouver I felt an overwhelming sadness come over me. I remember sitting in a jam-packed airport trying to figure this all out. I concluded that I felt a kinship to the people there; that they feel hurts and pains and frustrations as I do but are not giving up. Their mission field is BC which apparently has the lowest church attendance in all of Canada. They love their home and wish it to be better.
I do believe I will end up out there again very soon... more on that later.