Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A stop in one of my favourite places ...

This past week I had a fast round trip journey by road back to Brandon ... along the way I was able to stop by one of my favourite places and have an all too short visit with some of the most amazing and incredible people I have been blessed to meet in my time upon this planet ...

I can not say enough about the work that the staff and volunteers at Brandon's Samaritan House Ministries do day in and day out ... they are standing on the front lines of a battle that at times seems lost long ago ... they continue though, to offer Hope, Encouragement, Care and Help to those who others would so easily dismiss and ignore.

Despite the set backs and frustrations that Marla, Marcia, Marlene, Brian and the others face EVERY SINGLE DAY they continue to do the work that needs to be done, and offer a much needed whisper of Hope to those who live and die on the margins of society.

My first involvement with Samaritan House was delivering food from Minnedosa Churches when I served as Minister ... then my involvement deepened as I began to help in the expansion of the food cupboard held in Minnedosa United to a full blown food bank ... next came our partnering with the annual visits of the Holiday Train, and one glorious afternoon hosting a lunch time Tom Jackson Concert in the packed auditorium of Tanners' Crossing School.

Along the way, these folks became friends ...

When I lost my place as Minister in Minnedosa, their care and support kept me going ... and lead to me applying to the job of Homelessness Coordinator in the City of Brandon. Now, rather than being a community partner, I was part of the team seeking to secure and implement the much needed funding this important community service needed ... my visits to Samaritan House became more frequent, and involved leaning more and more about the mechanics of the work they do, and the ever increasing needs they were addressing ...

When my contract as the Homelessness Coordinator ended, I soon became a client of Samaritan House, relying on the day old bread to supplement the food my family needed to survive ... I also became staff by driving their truck periodically and seeing first hand the places where the food and cast offs that feed people (or to use Marcia's term - the "garbage that is used to feed people"). But more importantly the folks at Samaritan House offered support and encouragement that allowed me to keep moving forward and imagine a day when I would once again be living, working and engaging in the ministry I was called to ...

It was a sad day when I left Brandon, but the last place I visited that morning was Samaritan House, to say farewell (for the moment) and to thank them for ALL the support they have given so freely to me over the last 12 years of my life.

On Friday morning when I stepped through the doors of Samaritan House, I was welcomed with huge smiles, warm hugs and the ever presence teasing that is part of them circle of care they offer ... and I felt like I had come home ... home to a place of limitless and unbounded love ... home to a place that welcomes in the most marginalized and most downtrodden and with patience, care, love and FAITH, affirms the heart of the Gospel that tells us that we are ALL the Children of God.

Oh sure, the staff are not perfect ... they get frustrated and catty at times ... but they are doing the best they can with what they have ... and this past week as I walked through the facility and realized how thin the stocked food was, and saw exhaustion and frustration in the beautiful faces of my friends, I felt great sadness that our society has shifted to a place where that care for others has become so rare.

The state of the city in Brandon today is pretty bleak ... even with the pending (and exciting opening) of the Massey Building with its 50+ new units, the situation is dire for many ... rental costs are skyrocketing upward by the week ... the availability of safe, affordable and secure housing is lower than zero ... and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is like a yawning abyss into which the vulnerable and the most marginalized fall like lemmings ...

All the while, the elected leadership and those who sitting in offices of responsibility keep talking about what should and could be done, but then bicker amongst themselves over who should do what and are more concerned with preserving their turf and claiming press coverage instead of just doing what needs to be done ...

Thankfully, on Friday I spent time with people who don't have time for the press conferences and politicking and jostling for position ... instead the wonderful folks at Samaritan House, people I am truly blessed to call friends, are too busy trying to make a difference one life at a time to worry about the nonsense ...

Today, I wish I could do more for the folks at Samaritan House and the folks in Brandon who are being washed away by the economic tide that supposedly lifts all boats (according to a conversation on CBC radio this past weekend, this metaphor has been proven false - the ONLY boats the tide raises are the luxury yachts of the already wealthy - the rest of us are left to bail or sink!!!).

So, for what it's worth - I offer this humble post a long overdue thank you to a wonderful group of people who have for too long worked to change things in Brandon by doing whatever is needed,
- reclaiming food that would otherwise be tossed out,
- creating community gardens
- handing out food baskets
- offering education and training opportunities
- lending a listening ear
- breaking bread and sharing coffee
- offering clothes, furniture and other needed items
- raising awareness
- whispering hope
- feeding the hungry, and caring for the neglected
- offering a refuge for mind, body and soul in a troubled world
- living their faith and refusing to take NO for an answer
- building networks and connecting people
- challenging people in their faith and complacency
and perhaps most importantly:
- daring to actually dream that the Kingdom of God, where all these problems are gone once and for all may actually be possible if people would simply open their eyes, their hearts, their minds and their souls to the possibility that eliminating poverty, hunger, sickness and marginalization can happen if we take seriously the call to action embodied in this simple notion "Love your neighbour"!!

What would Jesus do??

If you want and answer to that question stop by Samaritan House in Brandon and see it first hand ... your life and world will be forever changed - Mine was!!!

 Samaritan House is a beckon of Hope in a world full of shadows, and I for one am glad it is there!!!

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