Although I had grown up in a Christian family, I have always felt a distinct disconnect with the Christian church. I longed to follow Jesus, to be his disciple in a way that was true and ‘living,’ but something in the Christianity that I saw and knew didn’t line up with the God that I read about or had experienced. I was taught about a God who loved us all so much that he left his palace in heaven to live and suffer amongst the worst of us, “taking the form of a servant” and humbling himself “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” [i] – but experienced a Christianity that did everything it could to separate itself from the ‘worst’ and their suffering rather than sharing in it. I read in the Bible how God repeatedly insists that his chosen people care for the poor and protect the oppressed [ii] - but experienced a Christianity that supported the social and economic systems that continued to oppress the most vulnerable and powerless parts of our society. And I couldn’t help but be impacted by Jesus’ own words when he taught his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” [iii] – but knew in my heart that I had never done that, nor had I, in honesty, seen much of it in the Christianity around me.
My wife and I were certainly being called – we just did not know to what or to where. Initially, our exploration led us to a bunch of books [iv] and we read a lot about the re-exploration of the concept of Christian community that was happening across the world. This idea of living simply and communally, investing in relationships rather than wealth, although a bit hippyish for us conservative Albertans, caught our attention because it seemed to fit more closely the model we felt Jesus left behind for us and the church that sprung up in first century.
We were not able to find a Christian community like this in Edmonton, but one of the books we read mentioned a community here in Vancouver, Servants, and while meeting them we had the opportunity to meet Jonathan Evans and some of the War College students who were helping the Servants Community move to their new home. I was impacted by the way the War College was acting as Christian neighbors (I had never had anyone from my church, let alone a neighboring one, help me move!) and the more I talked with the students about the 614 community and the training they were receiving, the more interested I became. Eventually, after some months of researching and praying, my wife and I applied.
War College, and 614 in general, have been great to my wife and I. We have fallen in love with our neighbors and chosen to make this neighborhood our home. We have unexpectedly discovered how powerful of an impact we can have for Jesus by making every part of our lives our ‘ministry.’ Every time we walk to grab groceries, or I take my wife for a date we are able to invest our money into local families or ‘just’ businesses that employ and support the poor in the neighborhood rather than exploit them. Everywhere we go we meet friends who we can encourage and pray with and we are given opportunities to invest our time and our hearts into people. It has been shocking, and humbling to see how much of a difference our constant presence in this neighborhood is. By far my favorite story is when one of the guys from the Harbour Light treatment program, stopped my wife and I just to tell us that the week before he had been fighting with his girlfriend over the phone and went to cool off outside when he saw the two of us walking down the street, in love and holding hands. It touched him so much that it made him go back inside and make up with his girl. He just wanted to thank us and let us know!
I have realized that in coming here to the DTES, and joining in with the work of the 614 community, that God has allowed me to see – and be a part of – a Christianity that has left its comforts and security for an opportunity to recklessly love and become a servant like Jesus. I have also seen and been allowed to join in with a Christian community that tries to protect the vulnerable both locally and globally; and I have seen, maybe for the first time, crosses carried, and am learning to pick my own up too.
That is why I love 614 and that is why you couldn’t chase me away with a 2X4.
[i] Philliians 2:7-8
[ii] Deuteronomy 15:11; Isaiah 58:10; Matthew 19:21; 1 John 3:17-18; ect…
[iii] Matthew 16:24
[iv] – “How to Inherit the Earth” by Scott A. Bessenecker
- “The New Friars” By Scott A. Bessenecker
- “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne
- “Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers” by Shane Caliborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
…to list a few that first got us started.