Around Town: Jemal Damtawe, Love Does, Leah Kostamo, Richard Bott . . .

Jemal Damtawe will launch his new book at Broadway Church September 15.

Jemal Damtawe is well known and respected in the Downtown Eastside as an outreach worker with Union Gospel Mission (UGM). Many will know that he struggled with addictions himself before he overcame them and began helping others on the street.

But most probably don’t know his full story. Damtawe has told that dramatic tale in a new book, Forced Paths, Ordered Steps, which he will launch and sign this Saturday (September 15), 2 pm, at Broadway Church.

Damtawe was forced into a life of violence as a child soldier in Ethiopia after being abducted on his way home from school when he was 15. After two years he escaped by stowing away on a cargo ship, following a couple of unsuccessful attempts. He finally made it to Montreal, where he married and had a daughter.

But things did not go smoothly. Vancouver Sun writer Nick Eaglund wrote about him September 10:

Eventually, Damtawe left his wife and daughter in Quebec to move to Portland, Oregon, where he joined a gang, sold and used drugs, and was shot twice during fights, he said. His time there took a heavy toll on him, and family and friends warned him to get out.

He renewed his Canadian passport and moved to Vancouver, but his addiction pulled him straight into the Downtown Eastside, where he became homeless and slept under a bridge.

Eventually, the overdose death of a close friend sent him to the Union Gospel Mission, which he had visited for food before but where he now sought a spot in a recovery program. Through bible study and group sessions where people shared their own stories of trauma, Damtawe found Christianity and sobriety.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “There’s a community.”

Damtawe said he hopes his story of transformation through faith will “open the door” for others seeking to put trauma, violence and addictions to sex, drugs and alcohol behind them. There is no shame in sharing one’s past, he added.

Coastal Mental Health gave Damtawe a Courage to Come Back Award in 2016. Another Vancouver Sun article, by Susan Lazaruk, told how his life turned around:

“I tried so many times to stay clean and sober,” said Damtawe.

Until that fateful Christmas morning.

“Something changed when I came to UGM,” he said. “People prayed for me and they encouraged me, so I got that hope.”

He entered into a four-month recovery program and now helps others.

“Without judging them, I just love them, like God loves them,” he said.

His nominators said Damtawe spends Christmas and other holidays with men in recovery so they won’t be alone, engages with youth, preaches at church, offers spiritual care and mentors students.

On weekends, he hands out water and granola bars to people on the streets of Coquitlam, where he lives with his new wife and four-year-old son and attends church. (Damtawe was reconciled with his daughter, now 23, and visits her regularly.)

Damtawe is planning to devote 30 percent of the proceeds from the sales of his book to opening a recovery house in Coquitlam.

Love Does in Iraq

All churches raise money for good works, some quite a lot. But Village Church surely set a local record last year when supporters gave $1.2 million during their 2017 golf tournament to complete and help fund a hospital in Iraq with the non-profit group Love Does.

A year later, there are tangible results. In a Kurdish area which has welcomed many Yazidis, Syrians and others, the Love Does Hospital has been built just outside a new refugee housing complex. Watch the video to get a better sense of the project.

Village Church is remarkable in several ways. CBC News featured them last year: How an unlikely pastor started one of Canada’s fastest growing churches. Love Does focuses on education, refugees, human trafficking and injustice in post-conflict zones; they currently have projects in six countries.

Hope & the Environment at VST

Leah Kostamo

Leah Kostamo will present the Somerville Lecture at the Vancouver School of Theology (VST) this year. She will address Hope & the Environment next Thursday (September 20) at the Chapel of the Epiphany.

Here is how VST describes her talk:

Leah Kostamo is the author of Planted: a Story of Creation, Calling and Community. She is co-founder of A Rocha Canada, a Christian conservation organization that shows God’s love for all creation.

Together with her husband she started the first Christian environmental centre in Canada, which over the past 15 years has welcomed thousands of visitors and interns who have rolled up their sleeves to grow organic vegetables, restore salmon streams and inspire school children.

Margaret Atwood, writing in Sojourners, said of Leah and her A Rocha colleagues, “If all Christians were like them, ours would be a radically different world.”

Leah makes her home in the Little Campbell Watershed and shares life with five other families (and a myriad of chickens) on Kingfisher Farm in south Surrey.

To learn more about some of A Rocha’s recent work go here, and for their connection with Margaret Atwood, go here.

Kostamo will also be facilitating a Journey with God Retreat September 27 – 29 at A Rocha’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre.

Richard Bott now leads United Church 

The Rt. Rev. Richard Bott was elected Moderator of the United Church of Canada this summer. (United Church of Canada photo)

This is slightly old news, but I took August off, so better late than never. Local pastor Richard Bott was chosen Moderator of the United Church of Canada July 26. Here is part of the denomination’s statement:

The United Church of Canada has elected the Rev. Richard Bott, 49, from Vancouver as its 43rd Moderator from a field of 10 nominees. Meeting in Oshawa, ON, over 300 commissioners (delegates) from across the country have gathered this week to decide on a wide range of church business that includes the election of the Moderator, who will be the church’s spiritual leader for the next three years.

The Rev. Bott recently served as the minister for Pacific Spirit United Church in Vancouver and was in the process of moving to a new congregation. But that changes now that he has been elected Moderator, which is a full-time position in the church.

Born in Marathon, Ontario, the Rev. Bott has served churches in Ontario and British Columbia. He is well known for his skills as a leader, writer and educator. An early adopter of social media, he manages a Facebook group of over 700 United Church ministers.

Bott oversaw the merger of Dunbar Heights United Church and Ryerson United Church. Known for a time as Dunbar Ryerson United Church, the name of the combined congregation is now Pacific Spirit United Church. He also successfully guided plans to redevelop the Kerrisdale property.

It has not been long since another local pastor led the United Church of Canada; the Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson of St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in downtown Vancouver was Moderator from 2012 – 2015.

September 13, 2018

Inaugural Lecture: Mapping the Uncharted World of the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls – September 13, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

September 14, 2018

MCC Festival for World Relief – September 14, 2018 - September 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Community Table Winemaker's Dinner – September 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Don Bartlette – September 14, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Smith Fraser Duo – September 14, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Chapel UBC – September 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

September 15, 2018

Freedom Session: Leadership Training – September 15, 2018 at All Day
COLAB Youth Leaders Summit – September 15, 2018 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Dr. Iain Provan: The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture – September 15, 2018 at 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
MinistryLift: The Coach Model – September 15, 2018 at 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Jemal Damtawe Book Launch – September 15, 2018 at 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
How Great Thou Art: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley Performed by Steve Elliott – September 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
The People vs Kinder Morgan – September 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 11:30 pm

September 16, 2018

Praise in the Park – September 16, 2018 at 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Tony Wilson – September 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Camp Tulahead Fall Fundraiser – September 16, 2018 at 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Needtobreathe: Forever on Your Side Tour – September 16, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

September 18, 2018

Alister McGrath on Science & Faith: Enriching or Conflicting? – September 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

September 19, 2018

Alister McGrath: Probing the Viability of Natural Theology for the 21st Century – September 19, 2018 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Elie Pritz: Peace Heroes – September 19, 2018 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Alister McGrath at Regent: God, Science & the Meaning of Life – C.S. Lewis & Richard Dawkins – September 19, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

September 20, 2018

Colleen McLaughlin Barlow: Whale Dreams – September 20, 2018 - November 16, 2018 at All Day
Edith Krause: Adam/Adamah – September 20, 2018 - October 5, 2018 at All Day
Apostles' Creed Chapel Series (Thursdays at noon) – September 20, 2018 - January 24, 2019 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Somerville Lecture: Leah Kostamo – Hope & the Environment – September 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Kim's Convenience by Ins Choi – September 20, 2018 - October 6, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

September 21, 2018

Elie Pritz: Peace Heroes – September 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:45 pm

September 22, 2018

What in the World is Going On? – September 22, 2018 at 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Rummage Sale – September 22, 2018 at 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Set the Prisoners Free: Towards a Just Reconciliation – September 22, 2018 at 9:30 am - 3:00 pm
Orientation and Networking Meeting for Church Representatives – September 22, 2018 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Women's Prayer Conference – September 22, 2018 at 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
DivorceCare (Saturday mornings) – September 22, 2018 - November 17, 2018 at 10:15 am - 12:15 am
Atesto Breakthrough – September 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
EMBER: Night of Worship – September 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

September 23, 2018

Chamber Music Concert – September 23, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sukkot: Feast of Tabernacles – September 23, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
The 45th Avenue Jazz Band – September 23, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

September 24, 2018

Kairos Course (Monday evenings, plus Nov 2-3 weekend) – September 24, 2018 - November 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Jonny Lang & Mavis Staples – September 24, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

September 25, 2018

Kairos Course (Tuesday evenings, plus Oct 26-27 weekend) – September 25, 2018 - October 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

September 26, 2018

Mark Noll: Christians & Politics Lecture Series – September 26, 2018 - September 27, 2018 at All Day
VST Chancellor's Dinner 2018 – September 26, 2018 at 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Elie Pritz: Peace Heroes – September 26, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Mark Noll: The Current Situation – Embattled America, Quiescent Canada, Semi-Secular Britain – September 26, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

September 27, 2018

CLF National Conference – September 27, 2018 - September 30, 2018 at All Day
Journey with God Retreat: Facilitated by Leah Kostamo – September 27, 2018 - September 29, 2018 at All Day
The Convergence: An Ishmael and Isaac Reunion – September 27, 2018 at All Day
Symposium on Religion, Law & Human Rights – September 27, 2018 at 7:00 am - 8:00 pm
Mark Noll: Triumphs of Anglo, American & Canadian Christian Politics – September 27, 2018 at 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Allegory in Narnia, or being Edmund and finding Jesus – September 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Reduce the Demand for Buying Sex – September 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Mark Noll: Tragedies of Anglo, American & Canadian Christian Politics – September 27, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

September 28, 2018

Ignite (awesome worship night) – September 28, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Jason Byassee: Prophetic Listening – Listening to God, One Another & the Neighbourhood – September 28, 2018 - September 29, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Voice of Thunder Prophetic Conference – September 28, 2018 - September 29, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

September 29, 2018

Ride for Refuge: Journey Home Community – September 29, 2018 at 7:00 am - 12:00 pm
MinistryLift: The Trust Bubble – September 29, 2018 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Walk the Wall Vancouver – September 29, 2018 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Healing School with Jamie Rauch – September 29, 2018 at 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Happy 21 Years Worship Invasion! – September 29, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Faro – September 29, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

September 30, 2018

Vancouver Life Chain – September 30, 2018 at 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Ben Lockwood – September 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

October 1, 2018

Jonathan Kuttab: Hope for Change in Palestine / Israel – October 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Jonathan Kuttab: New Thinking for Post-Oslo Palestine Challenges & Opportunities – October 1, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

October 2, 2018

Jonathan Kuttab: The Holy Land – International Law & Scriptural Perspectives – October 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Reduce the Demand for Buying Sex – October 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

October 3, 2018

Reduce the Demand for Buying Sex – October 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

October 4, 2018

Interface: Faith & Science Lecture Series – October 4, 2018 - November 28, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

October 5, 2018

Forever and Ever, the Christian Musical – October 5, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
A Skeptical Look at Atheism with Dr. Andy McIntosh – October 5, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

October 6, 2018

Creation: The Cardinal Truths & the Wonder of Hearing with Dr. Andy McIntosh – October 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
The Intricacies of Flight with Dr. Andy McIntosh – October 6, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

October 7, 2018

Creation and Biblical Infallibility with Dr. Andy McIntosh – October 7, 2018 at 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Creation and the Cross with Dr. Andy McIntosh – October 7, 2018 at 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

October 10, 2018

Missions Pastors Roundtable Discussion – October 10, 2018 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am

October 11, 2018

Kairos Course (Thursday evenings, plus Nov 23-24 weekend) – October 11, 2018 - November 24, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

October 12, 2018

Windows into Heaven: Epiphany Sacred Arts Guild 15th Anniversary Exhibition – October 12, 2018 - October 20, 2018 at All Day
Elevate Conference 2018 – October 12, 2018 - October 13, 2018 at 6:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Elevate Conference 2018 – October 12, 2018 - October 13, 2018 at 6:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Life on the Margins Workshop – October 12, 2018 - October 13, 2018 at 6:30 pm - 4:00 pm
Saturate Everyday – October 12, 2018 - October 13, 2018 at 6:30 pm - 2:30 pm

October 14, 2018

Jazz Benefit Concert for Homeless Action Week – October 14, 2018 at 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Village Missions Funraiser – October 14, 2018 at 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm

October 17, 2018

Our Children, Our Future: Educating for Tomorrow – October 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

October 18, 2018

The Global Leadership Summit – October 18, 2018 - October 19, 2018 at All Day
Ken Shigematsu Book Launch: A Survival Guide for the Soul – October 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

October 19, 2018

The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe – October 19, 2018 - November 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

October 20, 2018

Disciple-Making Movements: Why Not Canada? – October 20, 2018 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Adam Robert Thomas & Band – October 20, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

October 22, 2018

C2C Network Celebration Evening – October 22, 2018 at 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
New Hope Annual Gala – October 22, 2018 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

October 23, 2018

The Game of Love and Chance – October 23, 2018 - November 3, 2018 at All Day
Experience Regent for a Day – October 23, 2018 at 9:45 am - 4:00 pm

October 26, 2018

Dr. Caroline Leaf – October 26, 2018 - October 28, 2018 at All Day
Into the Neighbourhood – October 26, 2018 - October 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm
NightShift 12th Annual Gala of Light – October 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Jacob Moon – October 26, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

October 27, 2018

MinistryLift: Responsible Discipline – October 27, 2018 at 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

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