For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Downtown East Side - Vancouver

Barbara Kenny, in fellowship at the Victoria Drive Gospel Hall in Vancouver, submitted this update on the assembly's outreach in Downtown East Side Vancouver. Downtown East Side (DES) has the highest HIV rate in the Western World and it is the poorest area in Canada by postal code. The sadness of this area is known around the world for its poverty, drugs, prostitution, gangs and death.

For many years, our Sunday School work has been situated in the eastside of Vancouver and we have worked with under-privileged children from broken homes so our passion has always been to bring the Gospel message to those in desperate circumstances. For years we wondered how we could take it one step further to the Downtown Eastside - a few blocks in the downtown core of Vancouver which represents the most extreme drug addiction in our nation. So often we feel the calling to do a work and it is difficult to take the plunge and in this case we knew this work had an element of danger that we cowered from.

However, in the summer of 2006 while on vacation, we turned on the TV in our hotel room and a documentary was being aired on the Downtown Eastside. As we listened, we sat spellbound as we knew that God was giving us the final nudge to get the work started. Much prayer ensued and we opened it up to others in the Assembly to join us if they wished. The young people were most enthusiastic and recruited some from other Assemblies. We felt burdened to get the Gospel message into the hands of these dear souls as they approach the end of their lives. Life expectancy on these streets is very short - when people reach this level, they have fallen through every possible social safety net and now it is merely 'survival of the fittest.'
We believe that if the Lord Jesus was here, he would feed the people before He preached so we decided that in order to give them Gospel literature, we must feed them first. From the winter of 2006, we have met monthly on Sat. a.m. to make 400 lunches which we distribute from the back of our truck with a cup of hot chocolate in the winter or iced tea in the summer. Each sandwich is topped with a homemade cookie from a dear sister in her 80's that has adopted this ministry with faithfulness. Each lunch includes a text or a tract. We often distribute socks or mittens which are a favorite on the cold streets. When the truck is loaded to go downtown, we have a very focused prayer meeting seeking God's guidance as to location for a parking spot and safety in our endeavors. We have had many tense moments over the years as agitation is common amongst addicted folk but God has protected us and we are grateful for this opportunity.
We have had many good conversations, albeit short ones as concentration levels are limited. However, we are confident that the written texts will be read over and over again. Each month we see a few of the 'regulars' but really this is a very transient crowd so our distribution is not repetitive. We always run out and we could always do more, there is always someone who takes the last lunch but for the 400 each month that we reach - we are thankful that they are given an opportunity to find the Saviour who can free them from the bondage of sin.

Submitted by Barb Kenny

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