Saturday, December 15, 2007

Women of Hope

Today has been a welcome breather from the busyness of our ministry's preparations for Christmas. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we've had a new resident come to stay with us. She's just been released from the provincial prison on a conditional sentence, and although the transition from jail has been quite overwhelming for her - especially because of the controlled chaos around the house these days - she's been doing very well.

Please pray for her, she is a sweet girl but is very much in need of healing. And please pray for me as I learn to set boundaries and be firm but loving as the leader here at the house. There are issues and outside relationships this woman brings with her that could affect all of us and cause us some anxiety.

In January we will welcome another woman into the house and then all of our rooms will be filled for the first time in months. I anticipate many challenges as she adjusts to having structure and accountability in place.

Thanks so much for praying for us and may your hearts be filled with the wonder and joy that the Christmas season inspires.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Cheer

Tonight was our W2 Christmas party at the provincial women's institution and a great time was had by all! We made up 150 plates of food and set up the prison gymnasium with 150 chairs. Elsie led us in singing Christmas songs and carols, and told a few jokes, and the women recited some beautiful poems of thanks and sang some songs for us.

They loved their Christmas bags so much that many of them opened all the gifts inside before they even left the gym to go back to their units. Elsie told them about all the many folks who are involved in making up these bags - from a group of women in Ontario (Elsie's mom's friends) who shop throughout the year for gift items and then ship them out to us, to Elsie's mother who buys the material and sews up every one of the 700 bags, to the many folks who come to the house to help us wrap up all of the items that go into the bags. She reminded the women that they are not forgotten about at Christmas time, that there are people who care about them, even though they will never meet most of them face to face.

I had a chance to visit with all four of the women I've been seeing; they'll all be gone before my next visit as they are all being released at the end of the month or early in January. Please pray that Letticia, Denise, Lindsay and Kim will all remain clean and sober and be able to get on with their lives and resume their relationships with their children and families, and that they will never again see the inside of a jail. Every one of them knows the Lord, but my prayer is that they will give their lives into His hands.

Also, please pray for Lisa and her baby girl Jordan. Lisa is fighting to keep her baby with her when she is moved to the federal institution next month and there's a good chance she'll be able to do it, but there's just as good a chance that she won't. Both mom and baby are looking radiant and healthy. I pray that the prison staff will recognize the importance of keeping the baby with her mom.


Jesus' Little Elves

A week ago Vancouver looked like a winter wonderland. We had a huge dump of snow. But it's all gone now and today we have sunshine! That's rare in these parts this time of year.

The Women of Hope house is a beehive of activity these days as we are busy preparing for Christmas. For the past couple of weeks we have had crews of helpers coming in on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings - and whenever we can get them working - to help us wrap the thousands of items that will be going into the 700 Christmas gift bags we will be giving out in the next couple of weeks. Tonight the first bunch will be going out to the women at Alouette Correctional Centre. Elsie and I are members of M2W2 which is a Christian organization that matches prisoners with a visitor and also promotes and facilitates restorative justice in order to bring healing and reconciliation to prisoners and their victims. The women love our parties, and they also love receiving the Christmas gift bags which are loaded! For many of them it's the only Christmas present they will receive. Tomorrow night we will be doing the same again at Homestead, a women's treatment centre run by Salvation Army.

Other folks that will receive a gift bag are those that attend our Christian Twelve Step meetings, many of them men who are in treatment for addictions at the Union Gospel Mission, and folks who join us for our Sunday dinners at the house, Immanuel Church (our church plant), and drop-in times at the Salvation Army Community Services building nearby. But, I am most excited about going carolling on Christmas Eve in the downtown east side area of Vancouver; that's the area known as skid row. We will be sharing the love of Jesus and giving out Christmas gift bags to the people who live on the streets down there, most of whom are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Our hearts' desire and our prayer is that receiving these gift bags will remind folks who need to know, that there is a God who loves them and cares about their lives. He cared enough to send His Only Son to become one of us, so that He could save us from the darkness.

Please pray, especially for the folks on the streets, that they will see the Light shining out of the darkness, and that, if nothing else, a seed of hope will be planted in their hearts.