A WORD FROM TIM KEENER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
I’ve always loved the saying, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” We are all a collection of stories, experiences, and relationships. Stories allow us to recall our heritage, what makes us who we are and what gives us purpose.
Jesus connected with people through well told stories that captivated attention and drew people in. His parables described through comparison, bridging the gap of a new idea and a person’s own experience.
Neighbourhoods are also collections of stories and have their own unique heritage. Their stories are told through artistic expressions and collective memory. Each community has its own identity and journey. And if we listen closely, we can hear stories of beauty, struggle, redemption and grace.
People may not immediately see the story of God in their neighbourhoods. This is why we work to help others discover that story within their neighbourhood story. This requires appreciation and celebration of their heritage, as well as the proclamation and demonstration of God’s story in compelling ways.
This December, we are reflecting on heritage, not just the heritage of our city and its communities, but also the heritage we share at Christian Direction. We’re particularly giving thanks for the work of Glenn and Sandy Smith and we’ve asked them to help write this newsletter.
Sandy shares…“When we joined the small Christian Direction team in 1983, we ‘inherited’ the innovative spirit of Keith Price, the founder. We would often walk (Glenn would jog) to the top of Mount Royal and look over the city of Montréal. It was there that a vision for transforming cities, and especially Montréal, was born in our hearts. With a growing team and by partnering with churches and missions who caught the vision, the ‘heritage’ became innovative, contextual, urban ministry. We began discovering how God’s story intersects with those of different neighbourhoods.
A heritage includes benefits, belongings and, yes, stories that are passed on from one generation to another. Often we think of heritage buildings – either we cherish them or we are stuck with them! But heritage as vision of ministry is pliable, mouldable and lends to that innovative spirit that continues to define Christian Direction and the ministries of our team.
‘Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.’ Psalm 127:1 During COVID-19, many neighbourhoods, like yours, have been beleaguered by business closures, no place to go, and terrible virus outbreaks! With less distractions and outside-the-home entertainment, we have too much time to look inward.
Psalm 127:3 says,” The children are a heritage from the Lord.” Stories of children, teens and their families are the heart throb of our ministry in the city. We think of Patricia who was working with 15-20 immigrant mothers in Ville St. Laurent. They had moved here from countries with a rich, cultural and religious heritage. Here, they were cooking together, learning French and confiding in her about their challenges at home in a new country…And then COVID-19 hit. These women have become prisoners of their fears, isolated at home, dealing with difficult family dynamics. The multi-cultural diversity of this community masks the abuse and poverty behind closed doors. Patricia now talks by phone to five of these moms almost on a daily basis. She is their lifeline, as she seeks to change their story into one of hope.
There is a rich heritage of church life on Montréal’s West Island. This Fall, committed Christians from five different churches began doing porch visits together, going door to door in the fragile borough of Roxboro, with the mayor’s blessing! They checked in on seniors who had previously received food baskets, referred families to the community’s various resources, and encouraged each one to love their neighbour with their ‘Top 10 Ways to Love your Neighbour’ flyer. Daria says that heritage there is not about church buildings but about expressing the loyal-love of Christ, the Transformer, through concrete gestures.
Come with us to beautiful downtown Montréal, a city that esteems its 400-year-old heritage. Khrystelle, our Connections program coordinator, coaches a cohort of 14 youth at risk of not finishing high school. Innovation Youth and Skol, an arts centre, are leading a project of artistic expression together: ‘Tell me the story of my neighbourhood’.
Art is a window on the soul, collaborative art gets people ministering to each other in really sweet ways. Through practicing photography and digging into the city’s archives, these youth are finding a new life story to express their hopes, experiences and worries, as well as their appreciation for the Peter-McGill neighbourhood. They will create several photographic installations, while this work in progress transforms their hearts.
Between the Olympic stadium and the river lies one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Montréal, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, with the oldest continual level of poverty in Canada. Its heritage is in the architecture and its people, with several generations of the same family living side by side. But first-time condo owners and families of visible minorities are replacing the factory workers, the artists and the underemployed that once made up its village-type community.
At Entr’Ados, Fredielly and Caroline are working with eight young teens to tackle the growing tensions over race, culture and religion in their high school community. They are creating ‘The Light in the Streets’, an exploratory program to increase understanding of ‘the other’ and a movable art installation they are building with paint and cinder blocks. Together they are creating a new heritage in an old setting. Each teen’s cinder block will intersect with the others’ and the installation will be displayed outside in different parts of the neighbourhood.”
A CALL TO GENEROSITY
By Glenn Smith
Glenn shares, “We must look back in order to move forward.
For the past 37 years, I have had the immense privilege of sharing and visiting with so many of you across Québec, Canada and the United States. I have told all sorts of stories of how God by His Spirit is partnering with you and our team for the spiritual and social transformation by Jesus Christ of adolescents, their families and their neighbourhoods. And you have told me your stories. I know scores of you who have been praying for Christian Direction for over 50 years! Just this morning, my friend Laura in Vancouver, wrote me,
‘As you officially leave Christian Direction (but not ministry and serving our Lord), I want to thank you for your ministry to us over the years. Jackson and I always loved chatting with you when you called to say hello. We appreciated your personal notes on Christian Direction thank-you notes, especially that you were praying for us and now for me. I was also always glad to hear your presentations and to interact with you in meetings together. May our loving Almighty God bless you and Sandy with special grace and peace at this time.’
Our whole team, under Tim’s superb leadership, is working diligently to adapt our work and continue meeting the vital needs of others during this time. Your generous donations and prayers have never been more vital to our work!
To complete my tenure with the ministry, I would invite you to support these four initiatives that Sandy has described – this will launch these ministries into 2021 with strength and hope in Christ, who is our heritage! Your gift of $50, $100, $250, $500 or what the Lord will lead you to give will allow:
Patricia to have more resources to minister to immigrant mothers in Ville St. Laurent.
Daria on the West Island to mobilize churches for transformative actions this next month.
Khrystelle to have the means to serve youth in the Connections programme, especially with the artistic project, “Tell me the story of my neighbourhood”.
Caroline and Fredielly at Entr’Ados to tackle the growing tensions over race, culture and religion in the high school community.”
Yours for the Kingdom,