As always, the basic question is what did you do? Let me begin by saying that this was much more than a traditional missions trip. Instead, it is more of a snapshot of their larger program, the 10-month long apprenticeship.
So every morning we would get together for spiritual practices/disciplines. The entire week we focused on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Some mornings we would have worship and others just time of deep reflection on the passage. For instance, the first morning we read through the passage twice coming to the conclusion that the passage is about the announcement of the Kingdom. Then we went out into the neighborhood along Commercial Drive just to observe the culture of Vancouver and specifically the Grandview-Woodlands neighborhood. Our challenge/mission was to figure out what other kinds of kingdoms were being announced in that culture. It was very interesting exercise and we found many other kingdoms being announced – from consumerism, hedonism, drugs, anarchy. We only found one poster that would seem to announce the Kingdom in some way, and that was a World Vision poster tucked behind a couple of concert posters on a billboard. So we came away from day 1 asking this question: What does it mean to proclaim/live out God’s Kingdom in a particular culture? And that was the morning of Day 1. For the rest of the week we wrestled with the same passage. We would ask different questions, imagine and studied the cultural context in which he spoke and who might have been in the crowd listening and interpreting his message. Read what different authors and theologians had to say about that particular passage.
Every afternoon we would do two things: activities to better understand/get to know the community and activities to build community with each other. So one activity that we did, that I will blog about in much more detail later, was walk around the Downtown East Side for about four hours on Sunday. The DTES is an area of contrasts, full of life and hardship, business and poverty. Our task that day was just to take the city in, experience the tastes, smells, sights, sounds. Just try to understand the culture and its complexity. Later that week we would go back again and learn more about the history of the area and do some ministry work, which again I will blog about in more detail.
As far as building community with each other, on the second day we all created a symbol timeline. A map explaining our jouney to that point using symbols instead of words. It was one of the most incredible experiences being able to share our stories and hear other’s stories. We had to do it in small groups, but we made it a point to share with each other and hear everyone’s story. So one night we ended up staying up until 2 a.m. to do so, but is was one of the best experiences of the trip.
So one of the fun, touristy activities we were able to do the first Saturday was go to Granville Island. Granville is a small area just south of the downtown (opposite the bay of downtown) that attracts locals and tourists alike. It has a huge indoor market place with several restaraunts, art shops, and bakeries. The area also had many street performers and a local brewery. Below are several photos along the bay where we ate that day. Make no mistake, Vancouver is a beautiful city!