Around Town: Truth and Reconciliation, mobile showers, testimonies, Flourishing

‘Imagine a Canada’ award winners Maksimas Viskontas and Olivia Wall with their grade 5 teacher, Marielle Alviz Lung. Photo: Gina Oh

Two students from a local Catholic school have been chosen to represent British Columbia with their Truth and Reconciliation submissions to the Imagine a Canada youth program at the University of Manitoba.

Olivia Wall and Maksimas Viskontas were among the 12 students chosen from across the nation. They are the only two from BC – and both attend St. Pius X Elementary School in North Vancouver.

A release from the school by Dr. Gina Oh noted:

Maksimas Viskontas’ goal in his essay was to bring awareness to the past, present and future states of Truth and Reconciliation and where we are collectively in our learning process.

He states, “Defining Truth and Reconciliation is not something simple, but rather a complicated process; one which requires both prudent attention and perseverance.” He continues to shed light on hope by saying “The history of this nation is filled with dark moments . . . there is only a single thing we can protect: our future,” implying it is up to all of us to re-write our future.

Olivia Wall wanted her song, titled Hand In Hand, to sound like a fall day in September. A young girl walking to school, trying to be cool, knowing nothing about what happened at the residential schools.

In the song, the young girl learns of this at school and now wants to “[seek] justice from those who were in reign” and we must cooperatively “build our home, a native land, together we will walk hand in hand.” This song will also be available on all streaming platforms.

Grade 5 teacher, Marielle Lung, spearheaded the project which led to the winning entries. She was interviewed for an April 17 North Shore News article:

“As we read [I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer], I invited students to share and reflect on their thoughts by way of a learning journal. This was the first time I had invited students to document their thoughts about residential schools,” she explained.

“I was most surprised by their level of interest, understanding and engagement as they continually added to their journals. Their entries were honest and raw and it made me want to find a way to have their voices be heard.”

After months of unpacking our understanding of Truth and Reconciliation, Lung said her students were ready to move from discussions of history and context to action and doing something with this new knowledge.

“I received projects in the forms of essays, artwork, song, poetry, digital media, 3D constructions and multimedia art. Some students reached out to people in Indigenous communities personally. … I was absolutely amazed by our students’ level of thought, reflection and understanding of Truth and Reconciliation,” she said.

I posted a couple of articles about Deacon Rennie Nahanee and St. Paul’s Squamish Nation Church on the North Shore following news that the remains of 215 children had been found buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, here and here.

Neighbourhood showers

A Burnaby church will provide a home for two mobile showers. An April 19 CBC News story described the arrangement:

A new mobile shower program opening in Burnaby this week hopes to bring a little more dignity into the lives of people who are homeless.

Operated by the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, the program will run Thursday mornings between 9:30 and 11:30 am at The Neighborhood Church – formerly known as the Southside Community Church – at 7135 Walker Avenue.

Executive director Carol-Anne Flanagan says the initiative hopes to address the stigma that people without homes experience in their daily lives.

Flanagan said having the opportunity to shower not only improves health and hygiene but also self-esteem.

“There’s always stigma attached to homelessness, although some of our homeless actually have work, they have steady jobs, but there’s nowhere for them to wash up.”

The society has a grant of $104,000 from the Union of B.C. Municipalities to operate the program. The initiative is the first of its kind in Metro Vancouver, with the only other free mobile shower in the Lower Mainland located in Abbotsford.

Refresh Mobile Showers launched May 1, 2019 at Bakerview Church in Abbotsford, as a ministry of King Road MB Church.

Baptism testimonies

Easter Sunday was a day of rejoicing for all of us, but it was particularly significant for a number of people at Christ City Church in South Vancouver.

The church featured 12 baptisms, accompanied by uplifting testimonies:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the annual reminder that death has been defeated and that there is hope beyond this life.

We also celebrate with people in our community who have placed their hope in Jesus and are demonstrating that publicly through baptism.

Below are the written testimonies of this joyful group.

I was born in a Christian home, with Christian Parents. Ever since a very young age, I have always been taught about Jesus through the Bible. Because of this, my conversion has been gradual. Over time, I learned more about and recognized my own sin, as well as my growing need for Jesus. Part of my gradual conversion was also taking my own faith seriously, instead of relying on my parents or family. I never felt as though there was a drastic change in my life. However, my gradual conversion to faith is through the grace of God who granted me with a loving, believing family.

I believe that Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. He is my Saviour and my Lord. He is coming again, and when he does, I will be raised to new life with him. Through Jesus, I am saved by grace, through faith and my sins are forgiven.

One verse that stands out to me is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It was the first verse that I memorized, but for good reason. It sums up the hope in the gospel that I have through Jesus and reminds me of God’s grace.

Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, and I want to be baptized to publicly proclaim that I put my hope and trust in him. Baptism is a way for me to show the faith I have in Christ. I want Jesus to be part of my life because I want to live the life that God created me to live. To follow him and live by his commands and teaching.

My earliest memories are of being a kid full of angst and anxiety. I was always uncomfortable around people, not knowing how to act or what to say. Coming to Canada as an immigrant kid just exacerbated those feelings. I was quiet, shy and very uncomfortable. Fast forward to the age of 14 when I got drunk for the first time. All of those feelings were removed. I was at once comfortable in my own skin. I was talkative and funny. I continued to drink every chance I had and for every occasion. This pattern continued well into adulthood until my drinking started causing problems. Lost jobs, failed relationships and disappointed family. Alcohol stopped working and turned against me. In desperation I sought help and found A.A. I learned that faith in God and surrendering my will to him were absolutely necessary in order to recover. I knew that it worked because I saw results in others. I wanted to know more. I randomly met a pastor from Christ City Church who invited me to the church where I found community. He introduced me to the scriptures and the life and ministry of Jesus. My Life changed almost immediately I now believe that the emptiness I felt as a child was a spiritual void. A soul sickness. I made a decision to give my life and will to Jesus. Today I have hope, joy, optimism and a curiosity to know him more.

I grew up in a conservative christian home, reading the Bible and hearing it preached every Sunday, I was very familiar with it’s stories and principals, but it was never personal or relatable and I never saw the power and love of Jesus in those around me. It seemed nobody was able to answer my questions about how or why God would allow all the things I saw happening in the world. As I grew up it didn’t take long before I labeled Christianity as “a cult meant to control people” and distanced myself from it. At age 20 I moved to Vancouver for school, in search of starting my own life, it was here that I turned to the world completely. Focusing on building my career, chasing after relationships, and trying to forget all my struggles with alcohol and weed. I kept chasing the same things over and over hoping that I would find happiness in the next promotion or finding the perfect partner to make me happy.

One day a friend from the community I grew up in sent me a link to a Youtube series called “Looking at the Bible from a historical point of view”. I decided to watch it and see what it had to say, this was the beginning of God’s work in my life! Watching made me realize a lot of what I learned growing up was based in history, and although many of the strict doctrines I was taught didn’t makes sense, the history behind the God of the Bible was astounding! After watching many videos, Youtube started recommending videos on biblical history and prophesy which I found very interesting, and the more I studied with an open mind the more I started to realize there was undeniable truth in the Bible.

One evening I was sitting at my desk, high on weed and listening to some music. I closed my eyes for a moment and suddenly all I could see in my peripherals was bright light,  all my senses felt hyper-enhanced and I felt as if I was floating upward. I felt a love so profound that it can’t be described, and a sense of purpose so deep and so intense that all I could do was smile and enjoy it. In that moment I knew in my heart “This is heaven”. Then suddenly I was back at my desk. Moments later as I was walking to bed, I felt an aura of panic come over me, I started seeing heat waves, my vision became saturated orange, and it felt difficult to breathe. I felt a pure sense of “self” all around me, like I was in a place where nothing mattered, I had no purpose, nobody cared about me, and everyone here was left to be alone with themselves forever. The feelings were so strong that I wanted to kill myself to escape and in that moment I knew in my heart “This is hell”. But then as quickly as it began, that experience ended and I was back on my bed.

I had been starting to believe in the Bible message based on historical evidence, but after such a surreal personal experience, I finally realized how small I was, how sinful and selfish my life was, and how without Jesus and his sacrifice there was no hope for me at all. The next morning in the shower I remembered the words of (Romans 10:9) “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.“ and for the first time ever I cried out to God with all my heart, genuinely asking him to take over my life and guide me wherever he wanted me to go. From that moment I felt peace wash over me, I felt safe, secure and completely loved, and I knew that Jesus was real and that he accepted me and was willing to change me.

Since asking Jesus to lead my life I have seen a remarkable change. Immediately I lost my previous drive to keep distracted. I sobered up, and left the things I once chased behind in favor of chasing after God and understanding him better. I gained a new-found love for reading the word, talking about it with others, and hearing the testimonies of what God has done/is doing in other people’s lives! My previous passion for the world has changed into passion to follow God, get involved in the Church, be an encouragement, reach out to the lost, and draw closer to God each and every day! Looking back on all God has done in my life and what he continues to do each day, I don’t feel like my old self at all anymore. I can truly relate to (2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!“ and I am so thankful he reached out to someone like me who was beyond all human hope and stumbling through life without any sense of direction!

Before I trusted Jesus I felt like I was constantly reaching out trying to grab onto anything I could to gain stability. I wasn’t grounded—I had no anchor. I wanted to be king myself. I was looking for ways to elevate myself and to enrich my life by worldly standards. I wanted to be famous, I wanted to be loved, and I wanted to be praised. I loved when people around me looked up to me, or thought that I was special. But not in a way that honours and puts the focus on God. I wanted all the glory for myself. I had worked carefully to construct the facade of myself for others to gaze upon. But inside I was weak, and ready to fall apart each time even the gentlest of nudges came my way in life. Knowing this, you can imagine that when I was faced with a real significant challenge it quickly tore me down. 

I faced the onset of and was subsequently diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) shortly after graduating university. I had been noticing in my last semester that I was beginning to have strange thoughts and fears, and that I wasn’t feeling like myself. I began being terribly afraid of hypothetical scenarios that hadn’t even happened, the crux of which normally focused on fears of contamination. This progressed over the course of a year or so to the point where I was so worried about being contaminated that I began washing my hands enough times in a day to cause my fingers and knuckles to bleed from irritation. The thought of having regular open wounds on my hands only perpetuated my fear of contamination further—what if something got inside my cuts? What if I got an infection, or contracted some rare disease? These thoughts and fears continued until I wasn’t even comfortable leaving my bedroom, let alone my house. I wasn’t really able to function properly anymore on my own: I couldn’t really work, I was too scared to even see my friends or to go out to a movie or restaurant. 

My dad would encourage me to pray, and he would pray with me. In fact, both of my parents did, and they would read Scripture to me. I was pretty suspicious as to whether this could actually help in any tangible way, but I let them pray and read, and eventually even began praying simple prayers by myself. It’s a bit of a blur, but if memory serves, at some point I had actually asked God for help, and He delivered. I was paired with an excellent clinical counsellor specializing in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), and she worked with me bit by bit, over the course of at least a year, to slowly conquer and face my fears through exposure.

But this was only the beginning of my story with Jesus, because shortly after getting significantly better and feeling like I could live life on my own again, what did I do? Well, I essentially thanked God for the help, but felt as though I didn’t really need Him anymore. After all, I was recovering well, and was able to live on my own again. I didn’t feel I needed Him, and in turn I pretty much went back to living life for myself.

But fortunately for me, God wasn’t done with me yet. I struggled for 5 or 6 more years on my own after moving to Vancouver just trying to keep my head above water. I even wrote a music album called “Neck Deep”, but didn’t put two and two together until right now writing this testimony the irony of what I was feeling. In hindsight, I was neck deep. It was this constant treading of water. I could never relax because I was always struggling just to keep my life in ‘check’. I know now that it was a struggle because it was entirely dependent on me, and I’m just not enough on my own. Following a rather difficult end to a relationship, I was brought to my knees once again, and God used it for good. 

The pastor at the church I grew up going to when I was little had a great saying that I’ll paraphrase: “Sometimes it’s not until we’re knocked flat on our backs that we look up and see Heaven”. God definitely used me getting knocked down to call me home to Him. I was low and just starting to ideate (although admittedly, naively) about suicide. I called my parents in the middle of the night and cried out to them, and once again, they both gently, humbly, and most of all lovingly expressed that the only true and genuine solution, and only true freedom, was in Jesus. I wanted to believe so badly, so I prayed many times in that moment and days to come, I guess to have faith. But I wanted more. I felt the need for some kind of certainty.

In those moment, looking back I think I did give myself over genuinely to the Lord then. I prayed that I was lost, and I asked Jesus to save me. I believed that it had to be the best way, because my parents seemed so grounded, and because I had tried for so long to have stability on my own with no success. The only times in my life I had felt true stability were the times I had been relying on God the most. 

Over the many months that followed, I started taking actions to further explore Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the rest of the Bible. I dropped into Christ City Church one Sunday morning and was amazed at my experience. I was recognized as a newcomer and greeted by several people following the service. I had been to several churches over the years but had never experienced that level of care and genuine love. I kept coming.

I attended Sunday services for about 5 or 6 weeks, maybe, before we launched into the pandemic. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any tougher! But with God’s strength and the encouragement of my family and newfound Christ City community (I had joined a then-virtual community group), I explored the Word of God over many months. 

Having been created as an analytical thinker, I wanted good reasons for my faith. I knew that faith was by definition in some ways related to not having absolute, concrete proof, but by commitment and trust (and having had the personal experience of God). However, I also wanted to know as much as I could analytically. This desire caused me to stumble into apologetics videos on YouTube one evening. I began devouring 2 and 3 hour long videos on various doctrines and historical studies of Scripture, and after many evenings watching and studying these defences of the living God, I now felt an even stronger belief in the Gospel. I was absolutely convinced.

I now have what I never had before: an anchor. I am grounded in the Lord. My identity is in Christ. I have the relief of being unburdened from my personal desires and idols. I can give it all up to the Lord and rely on God’s strength to get me through any situation. 

When I was younger watching my parents and other Christians, I used to only see what they were doing for God. What they were giving up. I still thought it was noble and good, but I really only saw it as sacrifice. I now see that we believes truly have the better part of this deal by a long shot. 

I’m not just sacrificing for a God on paper. I am in relationship with Christ! He and I talk every day. He’s my friend, and He cares for me. He wants all things good for me. He knows me better than anyone on earth will possibly ever know. He is with me. 

I see now that Jesus died for me on the cross. He suffered and died so that I may live. Praise God, I am made new in Christ.

Hi, I’m Heidi and I’m 12 years old. I grew up in a Christian household going to church every Sunday. About a year ago I had an issue with my friends at school. People would say things behind each other’s backs and everyone wasn’t very nice to each other. I would tell my mom about it and she told me something I never considered before in my daily life: look at it from a Christian point of view. She gave me verses to look over and remember when all the drama was happening and that changed my perspective on life. I wanted to live my life like how God wanted me to. I realized that I was sinful and I needed God to change my heart. I decided to follow Jesus and follow him with my life. Now I want to live with God and a verse that helps me with that is Mark 12:30 which goes like this. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” I want to get baptized because I want to publicly show that I believe in the Gospel and I believe that God sent his son Jesus to die for us.

My entire life, before I came to know Jesus, I had been searching for happiness. What could I do for myself to make my life worthwhile? What would bring me joy? In every new chapter of life, I would fulfil my search for happiness in different ways. I come from a secular immigrant family. Being raised this way led me to fill an empty void with my search for identity and happiness. I didn’t understand the point of my worth, and to ease my pain, I fell into bad habits. From a young age, I began to drink and smoke weed to cope with my emotions of worthlessness and helplessness. I took to self-harm to overcome difficulties in my life, wondering what worth I held in this world if any at all. I would search for my worth in a world of alcohol, drugs, relationships, and partying. Although I believed I was happy during those times, I continually fell back into a place of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. I continually disliked who I was and who I was becoming, a vain yet insecure person looking for happiness in my life within places it did not exist.

When the global pandemic happened, I was living across the country. I was forced out of my living situation and moved back to Vancouver for what I hoped was to be temporary. At the time, I was devastated. My days of drinking, partying, smoking, and short-lived flings ended, and I did not know how to cope. So, I managed the only way I knew how. I self-isolated and passed the time by doing little to nothing except drugs and drinking, which I primarily did alone.

Being the rebellious self-interested person I was, I broke the rules of the pandemic. I met with my (un unbeknownst to me) soon-to-be boyfriend Isaiah during this time. As our relationship began to progress, Isaiah told me about his relationship with God and how it changed him in many different ways. Although at the time, I had little to no interest in Christianity and religion, considering it was frowned upon during my upbringing, I had always had an interest in religion as a whole. I decided to take some time and explore Christianity for myself, and it has since been the best decision I have ever made.

I have had many moments with God where I have undeniably known that Jesus is the truth, the way, and the light. These moments remain indescribable, and I simply cannot deny my faith. I have been blessed to have many people along my journey to aid me in fostering my relationship with Jesus. I thank God that he has brought these people into my life. Since becoming a Christian, I have changed my outlook on my life drastically. Although I still struggle with bouts of anxiety and depression, the comfort I hold in Jesus is far better than any other coping mechanism that I used to resort to. My behaviour has been directed into grace rather than anger. The forgiveness that Christ has given me has impacted me in every aspect of my life. He has given me a solid foundation on me to stand. My strength is through Jesus, and I can turn to Him in every need, especially when tempted to turn to old coping mechanisms that furthered my anxieties. Since I have surrendered myself to Christ, I have been surrounded by no one else but those who love and support me, which has been an answer to my prayers. The excitement I have for my baptism is unfathomable. Christ is my saviour, and I wish for nothing more than to leave my past behind me and become anew. My baptism allows me to move forward, forgive and have grace for my past self, and begin a new life, a clean slate. I am not defined by my sins but defined by the love of Christ.

My name is Darion and I am so thankful to proclaim my love for God this Easter Sunday! I was blessed to be raised in a christian family so it’s fair to say that God has been present throughout my life. In fact, I don’t remember a time where I did not know about Jesus. By the grace of God, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour as a young child. It wasn’t until university, when I hit rock bottom, that I experienced my first face-to-face encounter with our Almighty God.

Prior to this turning point, I found satisfaction in worldly things. I replaced my insecurities with friends, shopping, sports, and relationships. I did things for myself. I was selfish, prideful and self-righteous. I thought I could do no wrong. I gave myself glory for my own accomplishments. I didn’t comprehend the power of the Holy Sprit until I hit rock bottom, which began when I ended my unhealthy relationships. At the same time, I wasn’t doing well in school and I was in the midst of finding a new church. The best way to describe this feeling is like being stuck in a pit. It’s dark and it’s lonely. It feels like there is nobody to turn to and the only shimmer of light I can see is from above. Before, I was too proud to ask for help. But at my lowest point, I cried out for help. I had to put away my pride and focus on God. Almost instantly, I was lifted out of the pit by God, who never left my side. Like an unstoppable river, God’s love washed over me. Blessings after blessings after blessings. He reconnected me with some old Christian friends, which helped me to reignite my faith and find a new church. He spoke to me through Proverbs 3:5 which says to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” He put me through the refiner’s fire to purify me. He forgave me. He brought me out of the darkness and into the light. I want to bring glory to God throughout my life. My heart’s desire is to be holy because He is holy. I hope to bring others the good news of Jesus Christ.

My name is Kim, and I am very excited to be baptized this year! I graciously grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour at a young age. Throughout my school years, I found it difficult to grasp what being a Christian truly meant. I thought I had to achieve certain goals to be considered a Christian, let alone get baptized. For example, I thought I was only considered a Christian if I read the bible multiple times or knew every single bible story inside and out. I followed a false idea that being a Christian meant being perfect in all ways. So, when I often fell short and made mistakes, I became overwhelmed by guilt, shame, and fear. These feelings lead to discouragement, disengagement, isolation, and letting myself be pulled away from God’s true love – I thought I didn’t deserve to be called a Christian. However, throughout the years, no matter where I lived, where I was going or what I was doing, it was clear that Christ was walking beside me every step of the way. No matter how many times I failed Him, He never let me go. I now know that you don’t earn your right to be a Christian. You don’t have to be perfect in order to walk with Christ. There’s no need to worry about being “good enough”. Christ alone is enough. Christ died for us. It’s not by our works that we are saved, but by His grace and His grace alone. From here, I can’t wait to continue my journey with Christ, and to wholeheartedly learn about His love and endless grace.

I’m Rodrigo and I’m currently 32 years old. When I was 12, my family and I accepted Jesus. We went to church for some years only. At the age of 21, I came back to church. And even though I didn’t use to go consistently, Jesus rescued me from smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex and pornography. So, everything was “ok” now. I was living a “decent” life: running the flexible business “I always wanted” that, allowed me to be the “owner of my time”; having a social life I liked, to spend a good time; exercising and eating balanced, to be healthy; and enjoying my free time. There were things I was working on, I thought I was happy and used to call myself a Christian, until I realized something was wrong. I was lukewarm. I noticed I wasn’t fully living the way Jesus called me to live and I had to make a decision and adjust several things in my life.

3 months ago, I had a 180° turn in my life. These lukewarm thoughts were rounding my head, and I started thinking to myself: “this is not the kind of life He wants me to have”. I couldn’t ignore Jesus nor resist His love and His amazing grace. So, I repented and ran to His feet. I died to my own flesh, to myself, and passed Him the whole control of my life, once and for all. Incredibly, at that very moment, I strongly felt Jesus set me free, from the world and from the things in it, that I even called my mom very excited! Hahaha. It was awesome. I’m still amazed and grateful for what He did that day in me and for what He keeps doing.

Now, I live his way by loving Him, loving others and loving me, by looking for Him in his word every morning and night, by listening to Him, by believing to what He says, by trusting in Him and His will, by ignoring the enemy’s lies, by being consistent and diligent for Him, by being obedient to Him, by learning about Him and from Him, by pleasing, praising and worshipping Him, by daily repenting and recognizing Him as my daily bread I can’t live without, not even a single day and by being daily transformed in His presence in this sanctification process. I don’t feel anymore the need of consuming all the entertainment I can or the need of having control of my life, or the worries I used to feel. Not even the need of getting things or doing the things from this world as a “must”. I’m not interested on that anymore, it feels awesome, He set me free! He provides me with His love and wisdom every day. He blesses me to be a bless for others, and let me see that none of the things from this world matters as much as being with Him and working for His Kingdom. He has given me identity, and I can finally say for the first time that I´m a follower of Jesus; because He is now my number one priority in my life and I dedicate myself to cultivate a daily relationship with Him. This is a lot better than I could’ve ever imagined! I feel so grateful and privileged for all of this and I know for sure this is not just a “flashy love”, this is the life He always wanted for me. A life with a purpose, a life with Him, by Him and for Him. Just because He loves me so much. So now, I want to exalt Him and glorify Him. And I want to get baptized to proclaim Jesus as who He is, the LORD, my Saviour and my everything.

I was loving the world and the things in the world. I was living the way I thought was the truth, not realizing I was losing my life. But Jesus came and said to me: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”. 1 John 2:15 NKJV. And then He said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me …” John 14:6 NIV.

I grew up in a liberal, atheist household, the youngest of 3 girls in a blended family. From an early age I began repeatedly requesting to attend church on Sundays, although we never did. I did not grow up with any biblical knowledge outside of my school’s annual Christmas concert in Christ Church Cathedral. I struggled with health issues, relationships, and attended nearly 1 dozen funerals of those close to me before reaching the age of 20. I feared death and understood it as a definite end to life. At 21, my health struggle became too precarious to continue my studies and I was forced to leave school. After a particularly traumatic experience at 22, I became a recluse and sought to run away and hide from my problems and the world. Shortly after turning 24, I moved to Vancouver to start a new chapter of my life – 2 weeks before the world shut down and months before we would realize the impact.

Over the Christmas Holiday season in 2020, a person I held in high esteem encouraged me to watch a video about the history and astronomical phenomena based on biblical times. God used this person and their love of knowledge to speak to me in a way I could understand and bare witness to the truth. From this point on, I continued to read and seek answers to questions from those with more knowledge and experience with the Lord than myself. The more I studied and learned, the more peaceful and stable life became. The anxiety that cast a dark shadow over me was brought into the light of Jesus. I relate to Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

Jesus came to me on the skytrain on my way home from a particularly grueling day of work, that picturesque section between Chinatown and the stadium. It was early autumn, and the leaves were only just starting to change colours; I was thinking over what I had read about that day when an overwhelming feeling of love and peace washed over me, and I began to cry. It was in that moment I understood that I could never comprehend the sacrifice that was made for myself and my fellow man. That kind of love is pure and priceless. Romans 5:3, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Before I found the Lord, my life was broken and rudderless. In Jesus I have found community, purpose, and a family. I have found all the things I have prayed for all my life. I’ve seen Him ease my pain and eliminate anxieties that once ruled my life. The Lord was there when sorrow and tragedy came and nothing of this world could ease the loss and heartache. Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Hi, I’m Cameron Cheney and I am 19 years. I am getting baptized today as a declaration of my faith and a commitment to continuing to grow my faith and living my life for God.

I was born into a Christian home with two amazing parents and two siblings. Early on I was taught about God and how much he loves us, and how Jesus had died for our sins. Though I didn’t really fully understand what that meant for myself or anyone else, it was just what I was taught growing up. When I was around 12 or 13 I went to Anvil Island Summer, there is when I can first remember truly questioning and understanding what Christianity is about. Throughout my life there has only been a few moments when I have really considered walking away from my faith. But in those moments and in the toughest parts of my life God has always been there. Offering comfort, support, and guidance. Even though for a long time I didn’t feel fully committed to God and have lived a sin full life. God has never given up on me nor has he ever left my side.

In August 2020 I began University though I didn’t actually get to go to the campus because the world was still in Lockdown and school was online. That school year I had a very heavy workload and spent most of each day working on a computer screen in my room. Through that time, I really struggled with consistent stress and feelings of depression. Though when I felt at my lowest I still was able to turn to God and could even rely on him for something as simple as joy.

I know I can trust in him and have been saved by Jesus’ sacrifice. And I don’t want to go through this life without God or the Church.

Flourishing, online

Brian Fikkert will be a keynote speaker at the Flourishing Conference.

Food for the Hungry (FH), based in Abbotsford, is hosting a two-morning online Flourishing Conference April 29 – 30.

It will provide an opportunity “to explore the root causes of poverty and discover how you can be part of the solution – both overseas and over your own fence.”

Keynote speakers Brian Fikkert and Rudo Kayombo will be joined by several Canadian speakers, including Brian McConaghy (Ratanak International) and Cherie White (Steadfast Developments).

Fikkert is co-author of several books, including the best-selling When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself. He holds a PhD in Economics from Yale University and is Founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development.

Here are some quotes by Fikkert from a recent podcast:

  • “We tend to define poverty as a lack of physical things, hence our solutions tend towards providing physical things.”
  • “The poor tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms.”
  • “If you can actually get people working again, it has its own therapeutic effect.”
  • “Most poor people in the world are not in a crisis, they are actually in a chronic condition.”
  • There is a place for bringing in outside resources when the local resources are inadequate, but those outside resources should only be brought in when they complement the internal resources rather than crush them.”
  • “I think financial supporters have one of the most difficult jobs in the whole world.”
  • “We’ve got to start moving into how God really works in the world, and most of us aren’t functioning out of that very well.”
  • “We are functioning out of a theory of change that is more reflective of a Western individualism than of a proper understanding of what a human being is.”
  • “There’s a better story for the poor, and there’s a better story for us, than the story of the American Dream of highly individualistic, highly self-centred, highly materialistic existence.”
  • “God has wired us to be priest-rulers to extend his reign and his worship from the Garden of Eden throughout all of creation.“
  • “Every nonprofit is terrified of their financial resource partners.”
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