Tag Archives: nieucommunities

The Table

Looking back, one of the most powerful and enjoyable times on the trip was during the meals. We always ate together, around a table. Not in a living room (except one night because there were so many of us!) but around a table where we passed dishes and poured each other’s drinks, a time usually only reserved for holidays in US culture. I am not saying that is Canadian culture, but Kingdom culture. I know I am not the first one to realize this, obviously Nieucommunities understands how powerful this time can be, but I think this is the first time I have deeply realized it. It reminds me of a book I read that emphasized the importance of meal sharing in the Bible. I can’t remember what book it was, but it was clear that it was the basis of acceptance and building relationships and community with each other. That is certainly what it did in our group in Vancouver. I will admit that when Amber and I arrived at the Vancouver airport we were getting grumpy and frustrated. The bus ride from Seattle had taken much longer than we expected and we did not want to be the last ones to arrive. Everyone knows that on Christian trips if you are the last one to arrive you are already out of the group. It just seems that if you miss out on those very first experiences then you will not form relationships because the cliques have already been formed and the lines drawn. So unfortunately, we were the last to arrive, but fortunately none of that junk happened!

Thinking back on it now I still can’t believe the conversations we had over a table just about every night. Whether that was at the dinner table or a coffee table we listened to each other’s stories and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. So we are going to do that here in Spring Hill too. After small group tonight we invited all of them over for dinner on Sunday. We are going to invite others too, to build and create relationships and community here. I believe that is what God put in our hearts while we were there. To build community here, in the burbs, where we live far apart and are busy and have a million other commitments. But we need each other (and Chris if you read this, we can’t wait to have you back!).

So thank you to Becca, Jenna, Russ, Jason, Colletta, Kelsey, and Heather. It is amazing what a week can do and I am still frustrated that I cannot articulate the experience very well. But the conversations were full of life and his Holy Spirit is still with us! Thank you to all the staff there as well. You all helped Amber and I grow and hopefully will continue to do so.

“Time spent around the table with each other in time spent with God.” Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under vancouver

A Rocha

One of the days was quite different from the rest.  Instead of going into the city we went into the country to discover another part of God’s Kingdom that is often either not thought about or thought about in very different ways.  We drove to a place in Surrey, B.C. called A Rocha.  A Rocha is a non-profit Christian conservation organization that seeks to protect and learn about God’s creation.  They have several areas on their property, including a small education building/store, organic garden (which we would get to know real well!), orchard, and an area they use for scientific research to help protect local watersheds.

We began the morning by getting lost on our way there, which was fine with me because I played with Sam, the Moser’s amazing baby boy, and had plenty of political conversation with Emmanuel (from Cameroon), Jason, and Colletta.  On the way we were able to see the gorgoeus northwest/Canadian countryside.  When we finally arrived we started with a tour of the grounds.  The main house was the first thing we came too when we pulled up.  To the left was a large barn, a couple of other buildings, an orchard, and a large area with trails and ponds that they used for research to protect the Little Campbell watershed.  Back behind the main house was the educational center/store and to the right was the large garden and animals.

The small educational center/store...and Kelsey

The small educational center/store...and Kelsey

We spent the morning in the educational center with a deep study on God’s creation.  How much does God care about his creation?  If he loves it and finds it beautiful and sees it as good, then what does that mean for us?  We read through a lot of scripture on how God loves his creation and I would post many of them but I forgot my little packet at A Rocha that day and did not get another one, sorry!  But we came to the conclusion that our faith needs to be more holistic, needs to include more than just what we believe.  The way we approach the environment needs to reflect the way God loves his creation.  Yes, that does trickle down to our everyday decisions.  For us in the US, especially in the south, that is a very hard concept to swallow.  What does that mean?  While this may sound like a bunch of environmentalist propoganda to some, I am more and more convinced of this truth.  One of the subtle yet profound conservation practices that we noticed in Vancouver was the lack of paper products (yes they still used toilet paper!).  In every home we ate at and in most restaraunts there were no paper napkins, only clothe.  In every locally owned coffee shop, and there were a lot, if you did not specify to go then you recieved your latte in a mug.  Some of the locals were amazed to hear how often we use paper plates!  So right now Amber and I are looking at our lifestyle and trying to find ways to be better stewards of this beautiful place, even in the little things!

The rest of the afternoon was fun,  and something that I had never done before…farming!  We weeded and hoed garden beds, laid a cover crop for the winter, picked beans and peppers, and got dirty!  It was a wonderful time and we really had some good conversations over those weeds and beans.  I have always heard that gardening was peaceful, now I know that it is (thats not to say it is not hard work still).  So enjoy the photos of our labor and begin to look at your faith more holistically and ask how God would have you treat his creation.

The Garden

The Garden

Emanuel, playing pool?

Emanuel, playing pool?

 

Amber is proud of her catch!

Amber is proud of her catch!

 

Jason doing it the old fashioned way!

Jason doing it the old fashioned way!

 

Amber, Heidi, and Becca putting their back into it!

Amber, Heidi, and Becca putting their back into it!

 

Go ahead Sam, slobber that green bean!

Go ahead Sam, slobber that green bean!

1 Comment

Filed under vancouver

Contrasts

Ask anyone who has been there, or even seen pictures of Vancouver, and they will tell you it is beautiful.  It is called the City of Glass and is perfectally framed by a backdrop of mountains to the north.  Obviously, I would not be one to disagree with that claim; however, there are other parts of Vancouver that are not quite as beautiful.  On Sunday, September 28th, we headed to the downtown eastside (DTES) to discover a part of the city that has become both famous and notorious. 

We began the day with a great lunch in Chinatown.  It is not everyday that I get to eat steamed dumplings!  Then we proceeded to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park for instructions on that day’s activities.  The park was quiet retreat that honored both one of China’s great 20th century leaders and the significant Chinese heritage in Vancouver. While we were there we gathered together and Amy Hunter (a Nieucommunities staffer) split us into groups of three and gave each of us a map.  For the next few hours we were to follow the map around the city to experience its diversity and culture through sights, sounds, tastes, and even smells (and there were many!).  Colletta was grouped with Amber and I and our journey began going back into Chinatown.  If you want to follow our exact route you can follow it on Google maps.  We went up Pender St., turned left on Gore Ave., left on E. Hastings, right on Abbott St., left on Water St. all the way to Canada Place.

Building in front of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park

Building in front of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park with the City of Glass rising above.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park with the City of Glass rising above.

The three of us probably spent 45 min. to an hour going up Pender St.  We had a blast!  It was so much fun going into the little Chinese bakeries and finding interesting and delicious things to eat.  Gateway to ChinatownI found steamed buns in one (actually in many), something that I would eat for breakfast every morning when I went to China.  Amber bought a puff pastry that she got everywhere because it was huge, flaky, and covered in powdered sugar! I do wish I had a picture of that!  Colletta got one of the best Chinese deserts I had ever tasted.  It was sort of like a canoli, only it had a lot of almond in it and it was dipped in chocolate on one side.  The areas was very busy and full of locals and tourists alike.  One thing that I did notice that stood out to me was that it seemed the local Chinese population was quite elderly.  It didn’t seem like there were many younger people in the area.  Perhaps they have moved to different areas of the city.  In any case, it was just a curious observation.

Nothing could have prepared me for what came next after we turned from Pender onto Gore and then onto Hastings St.  I have been to several poverty areas or areas of higher homeless rates in the U.S.  The one that comes to mind the most is New Orleans.  Now in pre-Katrina New Orleans the homeless population mixed in pretty well with the popular business areas.  For instance it was well known that there were many homeless people who hung out around Jackson Square, but it was still an area that was vibrant with tourists and businesses.  There was very little seperation between the two.  In other cities there is usually a transition to the poorer areas of town before you get to them.  Nothing like the stark contrasts that we experienced that day in Vancouver.  As soon as we left vibrant Chinatown we entered East Hastings, an area that is quite the opposite.  Where there were many Canadian Chinese, there was now, only one block over, very little.  Instead the streets were filled with hundreds of men or women living a very different kind of lifestyle.  Either homeless or addicts or mentally ill, and unfortunately some combination of the three.  The air reeked of marijuana being smoked openly, we were even offered it twice that day.  There were no businesses open (granted it was Sunday, but I contrast that with Chinatown which was still very busy regardless of the day) and the buildings were obviously not in good condition.  That morning we had talked about what it meant for us to submerge into a culture the way that Jesus did in the particular culture of his time.  I will always remember Amber’s question as we walked out of that area:  “How do we submerge into that?”  I still ask myself that, how do we live incarnationally among such a culture?  I don’t quite know, but thankfully there is an organization there trying to do just that.  Jacob’s Well is a ministry that Nieucommunities partners with quite a bit that brings the Kingdom to an area that is in desperate need of forgiveness, love, and acceptance.
Bringing the Kingdom to the DTES

Bringing the Kingdom to the DTES

Once we reached Abbott St. we turned left and after only a block we were back into lively Vancouver.  Not even a block outside of the poverty that we had just walked a Ferrari passed us by.  We had entered Gastown, a historic and touristy area of Vancouver.  The place was amazing with its historic buildings and brick roads.  So we finished out our map at Canada Place beyond Gastown where all of the cruise ships take off.  So what began in an area of lively business finished in an area of lively business. 
Charming, Historic, and Wealthy Gastown

Gastown

But I just couldn’t believe the stark contrasts in between.  I have just never been to a place like that before, where only one block separates poverty and wealth in such black and white terms.  We were given a time
Discussing God's presence in the DTES at Victoria Park

Discussing God's presence in the DTES

when we were suppose to meet back together at Victoria Park.  Talk about coming back in a different mood. 

Victoria Park

Victoria Park

A couple of the girls were still crying because of what they had witnessed that day.  It was incredible, but we had to keep asking ourselves what is God doing here?  And realizing that God loves these people, he loves them more than we ever could!  The whole time in the back of my mind I kept hearing the song God of This City.  “And greater things are still to come in this city.”  And we made that our prayer.

Leave a comment

Filed under vancouver

Road Trip Overview

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. 

Discussing what it means to proclaim/live out the Kingdom of God.

Discussing what it means to proclaim/live out the Kingdom of God.

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.

The Commercial Drive

The Commercial Drive

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!

Jason and Collette having lunch on the boardwalk.

Jason and Collette having lunch on the boardwalk.

High rise condos everywhere! The city makes a concious effort to move up and not out.

High rise condos everywhere! The city makes a concious effort to move up and not out.

The weather was perfect!

The weather was perfect!

1 Comment

Filed under vancouver

NieuCommunities: Vancouver!

This fall Amber and I are going on a Road Trip with NieuCommunities to Vancouver, BC!  We are really excited because it is a step in seeking out what God has for us down the road.  The Road Trip is a week long and is a gateway to a larger program with NieuCommunities called an Apprenticeship.  After reading a lot of their information and a couple of conversations with them over the phone and through email, Amber and I feel that God may be leading us there to further prepare us for ministry.  We believe that Vancouver will be an excellent place for God to grow us both as a couple and as individuals.  For me, I would learn to do ministry in an urban, postmodern culture.  For Amber, she would be able to develop her natural ability speaking the Chinese language and work among other cultures.  So the Road Trip is a step in the process of discerning whether or not the Apprenticeship is for us.  Please visit their website and check out the two programs for yourself.

1 Comment

Filed under Other