Friday, October 24, 2008

R. A. K. E. Event

This past Tuesday our grade 7 - 12's went out to do what is known as Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere (R.A.K.E.). I try to host at least one of these events a year, more if possible. This year we did three different RAKE events. 1. Went to 220 Viewmount to hand out Carnations to the Residents there (many from our church). 2. Went to a grocery store to hand out water for free. 3. Went to a grocery store to help people with their carts (it was raining) and to put groceries in their cars. It's always an interesting time when we do a RAKE event to have everyone come back and share their stories. As always, the seniors loved the carnations. Brings a smile to their faces when many are finding it hard to get out and move around. The other events bring about different responses from people. Some think there's a catch. Do we want $$. Is this really for free? You don't want anything from me? In a culture that is very leery of the church, always thinking that it wants their money, it's nice to just offer something for nothing and see the reactions. They are many. Some found people were just amazed that someone would do something for them. It made their night. Some were quite skeptical about what was going on, but accepted our offer once they understood we weren't seeking ANYTHING from them. Others, well, they just weren't interested. Once the act is completed, we hand out a small card to people so they will know who to contact if they so desire. Sometimes that actually happens, but it's not very often. We don't do it for that reason. I do it so that we can bring the gospel message to a world that is increasingly bored, untrusting, and not engaged with Christianity and the church. I also do it to get young people out of their small worlds and looking further out to see that many people just don't trust others, and what does that mean for them as they grow up. I hope that God blesses these efforts in some way and that some were genuinely touched by the acts of kindness. Only God knows the results, and that's just fine with about you? As always I welcome your thoughts/comments. Here is a response we received from our RAKE event. A reminder that ministry is about relationships.
Your youth recently delivered a Yellow Carnation to my parents at 220 Viewmount. I want to say a very special Thank you to your youth for this kind gesture. I also want you to know that it has brought so much joy to my 90 year old father. He put it in a glass of water and added a bit of salt to the water. Every morning at breakfast he dips his finger in the water and sprinkles some water on the petals. He cherishes that carnation as new parents view their first born baby. The flower is still as fresh as when it was delivered. You and your youth are a great blessing to the Seniors at Viewmount and I am sure that the other seniors are enjoying their flowers as well.
May God richly bless you, your youth and the beautiful ministry you are carrying out.
I am a recently retired teacher who moved here to look after my parents, so anything to do with young people is of great interest to me. Thank you for such a caring Random Act of Kindness.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Night on the Streets of Ottawa

Ottawa Innercity Ministries (OIM) is a non profit Christian organization devoted to "faithfully embodying Gods love by empowering people who are disadvantaged and homeless to meet their needs and to address and prevent the causes of poverty and homelessness with justice and compassion." Director Ken MacLaren works with dedicated staff people each and every day to engage the disadvantaged on the streets of Ottawa. One way that they do that is to raise the awareness of the social, physical, and emotional issues of the homeless by getting others to see through the eyes of their clients. In addition to asking for street volunteers, OIM holds an event called "One Homeless Night" (OHN). The idea began with 8 year-old David Peter Mainse, son of Reynold and Kathy Mainse who saw a homeless person and was compelled to do something. Within one week of his encounter, he raised over $4000 for three organizations working with Homelessness in his hometown of Hamilton. What came after that was OHN, which is now hosted by many innercity ministry organizations in cities all around North America. The overall vision of OHN is 2-fold: 1. Raise awareness about homelessness in Canada through participation in One Homeless Night and television exposure. 2. Raise funding, through pledges gained by participants and donations by individuals and companies. I had heard about OHN from a youth leader in Kanata. Our church has some who volunteer with OIM and I liked the idea of having young people learning about the issues of the homeless from a very personal level. The result was that 15 of our youth and adults journeyed to downtown Ottawa this past Friday, October 17th to participate in OIM's OHN. We began our time in the Salvation Army church, with Ken and Jason sharing with us some issues of those on the streets of Ottawa. From that time I could tell that those at OIM care deeply about those they minister to. The issues of poverty and those on the streets are complex and difficult to watch at times, but OIM is dedicated to addressing, engaging, and seeking to ease the causes of homelessness. They desire to bring dignity, honor, and blessing to those who are often forgotten in our society. Forgotten even by the church. After our talk, and instructions on street safety, we were sent out onto the streets to walk from 8:15 pm - 12:15 am. Each group (we had three different groups) was given a route to walk, and a scenario to work from (i.e. I was Jason who as 23 years old and on the streets because my parents didn't want me around any longer). We were only able to take with us those things that fit into either a back pack, or a garbage bag, and $1.50 cash. Everyone but Ken brought a back pack so he ended up using a garbage bag. That proved to be a significant thing for him as he felt first hand the feeling of being invisible on the streets of Ottawa. After our time he commented on the fact that people would not move out of the way for him to walk by, but expected him to move out of the way for them. He was genuinely seen as a homeless person. You should ask him about his experiences some time. Now, I can only share from our group's experience. I went out with Hannah, Rachel, and Janine. We walked the wrong way at first (eh Janine). Janine, our person in "charge" didn't read the directions right... BUT, it was all good. She figured it out eventually. She wouldn't let me see the directions AT ALL that night. I was ok with that. : ) As we travelled there were many things we observed. 1. Bank street has many, many restaurants and bars that cater to a certain class of society. 2. The Homeless on the streets are not noticed by many people. 3. Lots of people are walking alone, but glued to their cell phones. 4. There is fear as you walk on the streets of Ottawa. Fear of each other. Fear of making contact with people you don't know. 5. Everyone is going somewhere on a Friday night in Ottawa. The vast majority are looking for a good time. As our group walked, retracing our steps back to our original starting point, Rachel purchased a back of chips with her $1.50. She was hungry. After consuming them, she got very thirsty because of the high salt content. It was then that she realized that maybe the purchase of those chips wasn't the best thing to have done. Now she had no water with which to quench her thirst. We walked to Elgin Street and as we walked we noticed a homeless person sitting on the street. Now, we were told specifically not to engage the homeless, but if they engaged us in conversation we were allowed to dialogue together. That's just what Warren did with us. A jovial older native Canadian. We spent about 20 minutes with him. The conversation covered such things as politics, health care, firefighting up North (what he said his job was), his injured leg that he hoped to have operated on soon, his gift for singing, etc. He struck us all as a very intelligent person. He knew alot about many different things. He had no possessions with him, so we wondered if he owned anything, or was living anywhere. The smell of alcohol was certainly present, as was his brown LCBO bag situated to his right. We ended up giving him some of our change and it was hard to break away from him. What struck me the most were his closing comments to us, and this is not new to me, but hit me once again. He simply thanked us for stopping and taking the time to talk to him. For giving him dignity in a situation in which not many people were doing that. We could have spent our entire 4 hours with him, I think. We moved on, and just 100 feet up the street there was a female aboriginal person sitting on the street. Legs folded in, shoulders slumped over as she sat, face expressionless and eyes focused on the concrete she had made home for the night. There was a small paper cup directly in front of her. We noticed her, but did not engage her as she clearly didn't want to have anyone talking with her. What we noticed though was the fact that, aside from our walking slowly past her and paying her some small homage to her presence on that street, everyone else moved on in life as if she wasn't even there. I didn't see anyone look down, slow down, or stoop down to acknowledge this woman. A stark contrast from Warren and sobering for us to watch. Who knows the story of this woman? The tragedy of her life? Her thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. Who knows? We know God knows, but we are his agents here on earth. Let's not forget that. A point not lost on our group. We continued on and Rachel was getting thirstier, so we stopped at a McDonald's and Hannah and Rachel went in and ordered two cups of water. They received them. I thought that if they were really dressed like homeless people, would they actually be served? Not sure. We moved on and eventually sat down at a place where several picnic tables were located. No one around, but a place where any homeless person might stop to rest after walking and walking. We had the time, so we just sat and talked. It helped us to see that many homeless people have time, and they pass it often just sitting around. We moved on and prayed at a couple of places in the downtown area. We stopped at a candy store and Rachel and Hannah went in to look, and to get warm. We walked to the Rideau Mall and found an indoor food court that was closed, but there were people just sitting around, so we stopped too, to rest and warm up. Hannah continued to offer us the back pack full of food she brought along. She would be fine for one night, but if she had to continue this for another day, she would have been out of food and then had to experience life as it really was for those with no home and no income. We noticed many people of different ethnic backgrounds just sitting at tables and socializing there. Interesting to watch. We walked out and continued on around the Byward market. We soon met up with Crazy Dave, as he is known, on a street corner. He's a man who writes poems and was offering them for sale. Hannah wanted to buy one, so we asked how much they were. His response made me chuckle, "Whatever you think they are worth + a $2 gratuity fee!" A man with dignity and respect for himself, and still an entrepreneur. We noticed a book with his picture on it. When asked about it, we discovered it was a book about himself. We weren't sure who published the book, or if he received any of the profits. Curious to say the least. As we made our way back to the church, we continued to walk along Bank street. The night life was still moving fast. We soon passed some blood on the street, and police and an ambulance coming to take care of someone who we think got beaten up in a bar. Once back at the church we reflected for a bit on our experiences. Interesting to hear people's thoughts. My kids were getting VERY tired. At 1 AM we began what is called "In out of the cold". That's when churches open their doors on very cold nights to allow homeless people to sleep so they don't freeze. Boys in the basement, girls upstairs. The rules are simple. Lights go out about 10 minutes after you get downstairs. If anyone talks or disturbs anyone else, you are out on the street again. We all made our ways to our various living quarters and set up our beds on the floors. Let me tell you that I discovered that I have pencil sharp hips on a hard, cold, tile floor. Can't say I slept much that night. We were awoken at 7:00 am and we had 10 minutes to pack up our stuff, and then, we were simply placed back on the street. So ended out One Homeless Night experience. Sure was an eye opener for all of us. Many of us would now go back to our homes, take a hot shower, maybe gets some breakfast and sit down to read the paper or watch some TV and/or do homework. The Homeless............they just keep walking.......... Here are some pics of the night.
The group coming in to begin their evening.
Leaders prepare by getting the route we will travel, while others wait.
Here Sam, Shawn, Makusi, and Megan await instructions. Notice the backpacks. They contain all we will be using for our time on the streets.
Our group takes a short break by some picnic tables. Hannah is getting her grocery back pack full of stuff out for us to share.
That water after the chips. Thanks MacDonald's.
Another stop to rest and warm up. Notice the popcorn and juice....all courtesy of Hannah.
Reading the poem from Crazy Dave.
VERY TIRED after walking for four hours.
Ken's group using their $1.50 at the end of the evening. The Esso clerk thought Ken (Left, back) was actually a homeless person.
Micheal bedding down for the night on the cold, tile floor. No floor mat.
Christopher at the beginning of his sleep time.
Christopher in the morning. He slept ok, but not long enough.
Ken managed to borrow an air mattress. One of the lucky ones. : ) So ends our time with OIM. An experience everyone should be part of at some point. If you want to know more, go to or contact Ottawa Inner City Ministries at or 613-237-6031 or email them at You'll be stretched and challenged for sure !!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

ETM night - October 7 08

So, last night we held another ETM night. A typical evening runs like this. Arrive at 7 pm. Get noisy as we play some Foosball, air hockey, pool, or just talk. Gather together on the leather couches (if you are lucky to get one) and announcements and opening prayer. Then a game or two, and then a Bible lesson. Then we top them up with some sugar JUST before they are released back to their parents. : ) All of it ends by 8:30 pm. Here are some pics of last nights evening.
Bethany and Sam and Shawn introduced the group to a game we call WHACK! Basically, you sit in a circle and someone holds a rolled up paper and we call names. As the names are called the person in the middle has to try to WHACK the person named before they call someone else. Here they are demonstrating with my son. This proved to be quite a popular game, though it isn't a great way to make newcomers feel welcome when you are giving them bruises on their Keelan?
Here brother Ben attacks Sister Hannah. One of the few times he gets to do this WITHOUT getting into trouble. Ben enjoyed it IMMENSELY : )
My son can be the mischievous type, so here David holds him while Hannah LETS HIM HAVE IT.
After working off the game, we sat down and laughed ourselves silly with a Christian comedy video. Packed a good message too.
More of the group having fun. All in all a good night. See you all in two weeks......where we will R.A.K.E.

ETM First Night

Ah, Another year of ETM has begun. This year I am blessed to have Bethany, Sam, Shawn, Ken, and Janine helping me out with the group of 16 grade 7 - 9's. A good group really, but FULL OF ENERGY let me tell you.
Here Bethany is explaining a game to the group. Looks like Jacob doesn't want to play?
Some more of the group, listening. You can't hear the noise on the picture, can you?
Ben, sticking his foot in my mouth......yuck!
Someone must have been playing with the bean bag chairs again because the flash was picking up all the dust in the room. Here you can see Ken whispering to Janine..., "Are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?"
Here is Bethany explaining again....hey Sam and Shawn, what you are YOU doing........
Just before the end of the night. Everyone looks tone deaf..... We look forward to a GREAT year together of fun, faith, and fellowship. Bring it on!!!!!

Early Teen Ministry Camping - October 2008

Greetings all. So, from October 2 - 5, our Early Teen Ministry group, comprised of grade 7 - 9's travelled to Lac Philippe Park and camped out for the weekend together. Ah, camping. Wikapedia defines camping as follows: The participants, known as campers, get away from urban areas, their home region or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or more nights, usually at a campsite. Camping may involve the use of a tent, a primitive structure, or no shelter at all. Now, I love camping. Just upgraded my tent trailer actually so that our family, and when I go with youth groups, can enjoy camping. Now, camping in October for some may seem to be a stretch. I had a mom ask me, as she dropped off her daughter, "So, why is it that you do this sort of thing anyway? Why camping in OCTOBER and not JULY?" I know this person likes warm camping days, and quite honestly, most people are already gone for the summer (just try getting a common date to go Calvin Camping in the summer, eh!!). Besides, I'm always up for a challenge, and, providing it's not going to rain, October camping can be LOTS of fun. And FUN is exactly what we had this past weekend. 19 of us headed out into the cold and enjoyed a great weekend together. Thanks Annette, Cecile, Nancy, Bethany, and Norman for coming along and helping. Now, continue reading and you'll find a pictoral narrative of our weekend together. I hope you enjoy it, and no, the names have NOT been changed to protect the guilty. : ) We began our time together as a group unpacking and setting up the site. It was a nice big group camp site with a fire pit away from the tents, which was nice. Here you see Bethany taking the wood provided by Lac Philippe and transforming it into a small fire, which eventually became a big fire. : ) She didn't even use any "fire starter help".
Here you see several of our group trying to huddle around the fire to stay warm. We enjoyed +2 Celsius for both nights.
What would a campout be without some good old fashioned junk food. Though I ask them to bring their own, I did provided pop, hot dogs, and then finally smoorz (Graham crackers with chocolate - or nutella in our case- and a roasted marshmallow.) Yummy.
Here you see Bethany's friend, Kimberly, trying to prepare a smoorz with mittens on. Doesn't work to well.
As we settled into the coolness of the evening, with the heat of the fire lapping at our faces, Annette showed off her talent of story telling. I remember this from last year's camping. The stories haven't changed much, and still have the same level of non-truth to them.
By 11 pm, everyone was ready for bed. We all proceeded to do our unique bed time rituals and then to crawl into our tents and prepare for the cold night ahead. Some brought along toques, and dry socks and warm sleeping bags and stayed rather warm. Others didn't fare so well. I confess that I'm an avid fan of sleeping OFF THE GROUND at all times, so I bring my tent trailer along. Christopher, being my son and all, gets to sleep in it too, along with one friend. Here you can see David and Chris getting cozy together.
After an short sleep (someone kept me awake much of the night with the loudest snoring I've heard in a long time : ) ) we awoke to a crisp fall day. Just how cold was it you ask? Take a look at Annette. She refused to come out of her hat for several hours. She really liked cooking though, as it kept her hands warm.
Rossy came with us already with a cold. This weekend didn't help that much, eh Rossy? Get well soon.
Megan seems to have an issue with letting shelter poles get in her way.
We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of real Bacon and eggs. Here Leah is the master baconator. mmmmm, everything tastes better when you are camping. Especially the coffee, right Bethany, Annette, Norman, and Cecile?
It took a while, but eventually Bethany (left) and Kimberly decided to get up.
Oops. I didn't get much sleep last night, as you can tell. I have my ugly on!!
Nancy came along and this was her first camping experience. She came to learn, and learn she did. She had a great time, and I like her fashion choice for camping. Very modern PJ like.
Here Norman and Nancy are using solar power to warm themselves up as they eat breakfast. When the sun was out, it was VERY nice. When it went away, it was just nice.
Cecile, a friend of Annette's came along with us too. It was very nice to have her along. She worked hard, interacted well with the group and sure LOVED the flavoured coffee that was served. Here she's cleaning my camp stove. Thanks Cecile.
After breakfast, while some cleaned up, others retired to the warm fire to well, warm up. I did notice that everyone here was sucking on a loli pop, and I DIDN'T GET ONE. : (
Not really sure what's going on here, but FoFo and her friend Shannon have their eyes closed for a reason. Care to let us all know what you are doing here?????
This gives you a bit of an idea of the nice large site we had.
After breakfast, we drove into the park a bit, parked our vehicles, and prepared for a 3km hike to the caves. Some had placed bathing suits on, in the hopes of going into the caves. As I took this picture, my one thought that couldn't escape me was to say to these guys "Um, that's not the caves eh guys. You'll never fit in there!!" (tee, hee)
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's a hiking we did go. The trees were beautiful. Something that was lost on some of the group.
After our 3km hike, we arrived at the cave. It consists of two parts. The first is fairly easy, and you only get your feet wet for the most part. Here you see a hole in the cave where I could get some pics.
Here Hannah (L), Leah (M), and Katherine (R) come out of the first half of the cave. Very proud of themselves. Only somewhat wet here, and yes, the water was COLD!!!!
You need to traverse some rocks to get to the second half of the cave. That half is much darker, deeper, and wetter, as some discovered.....
This is the hole that you come out of at the end of the cave.
David, like me, didn't go in the caves. BUT, he did want to see them from a different vantage point than I did. Interesting David, very interesting.
After hearing them talk for about 10 minutes IN the cave, and telling of how there extremities were slowly becoming numb, Christ0pher finally popped out of the cave. I think his face says it all, really, don't you?
The same goes for Ben here. Brrrrrrr
Megan did the whole cave. I was quite surprised about that. I'm learning more and more about this quiet, shy girl, who's not so quiet and shy any longer.
Leah and Shannon came out looking rather Blue, but satisfied they had conqured their fears.
This is just such a nice picture of Nancy. Hmmm, at times I can take some pretty good pictures, eh John? (I know that will elicite a comment from him somewhere, sometime) : )
FoFo (aka, Fontana) had enough of walking. She rested while the others caved. Most of the group had a GREAT time in the caves. I can't say I'd ever do them, seeing as I don't like cold water, dark caves, oh, and did I mention the COLD WATER part?????????
After the caves it was another 3 Km walk to warm up, and then a hot shower for some to warm up even more. Then a hot lunch of soup.....mmmm good. After lunch we took some time to recreate. Here David and Chris play some horseshoes together as they wait for lunch to be served.
Megan shows off her strength as she carries our water jug. They aren't light you know.
Ah, and then there was Jacob, aka, Harmonica Man! He never went anywhere without it. Pretty good player too. Wouldn't let ANYONE else play it though, eh Annette....and boy, did we try : )
This picture I just had to capture and comment on. My son....doing work.....a site to behold. : )
Katherine and Jacob enjoying a kodak moment.
Now, some would say that leaders are either loved, or they are hated. I like to think that the crowd doesn't always appreciate the stress and strain of being a leader and all the planning and delegating that must go on to be a successful leader. Hmmmm, doesn't look like this group was happy with it's leader about something, and surrounded him....maybe he delegated something just once too often, or maybe he delegate enough....yeah, that must have been it.....
No...that wasn't it. They bonked me, when I suggested that one : )
And then, just as I was about to offer the group an olive branch of reconcilation, .....somoene... I don't know who.....decided it was time to add some more CO2 to the atmosphere. Whew, it was brutal.......
So, after lunch, we recreated. We played soccer. Here Makusi and I guard the net.
Seems like I must have been a pretty good soccer player because Leah couldn't keep up with me unless she was being piggy backed by me. Man is she HEAVY!!!!
Makusi did a great job of defending the net. The boys won (of course).
Bethan is an avid soccer player (yes, Bethany, I admit it, soccer is a real sport!!). Here she tries to take the ball away from me. I held her off for quite a while......
But alas.....she eventually left me to rot on the ground. No mercy.
Looks like Caleb is trying to trip Bethany here. Play fair boys.
Here you can see Hannah is not impressed with the boys, the score, the way we are playing, and she's lecturing the group on proper sportsmanship. Well, that's at least what I HOPE she is doing in this picture. : )
Now, Annette. Don't get on her wrong side in a competitive game of soccer. She's a powerhouse. A pretty good goalie too.
A couple of the group decided soccer just wasn't in the cards for them. They preferred to sit by the fire and poke at it to coax it back to life.
After a brief rest, we played some volleyball. Here Katerine shows us her great serving skills.
Hey, who's that in the tree with his HARMONICA. Made for some nice music to play volleyball by.
Poor Megan. Broke a nail while playing.
More volleyball. Looks like these two are going to high five each other.
During our rest time, Annette decide it was time to pray. Though, I don't know WHAT she was doing using a watch, and doing elbow pushups at the same time. Very hard to concetrate in prayer if you ask me....but maybe you should ask HER : )
David simply had enough. He decided to fall asleep right in the middle of the cold grass.
Now, just in case you think that we were always active and busy, let me show you some pictures that are quite solemn in nature as we gave some down time for the group.
Kimberly warming up.
Jacob wondering where his Harmonica has gone.....
Nancy, well, snooring maybe?
Bethany and Kimberly doing what high school students do best. We must have tired them right out.
For those who wanted to, there were many moments to stop and simply drink in the beauty of the gatineau hills.
I think Chris took this pic. Very nice.
Some of the group decided to "Take a hike" and here are some pics from that little excursion
Jacob found his harmonica back case you were in suspense or anything.
This is just a freaky picture of Bethany walking. How'd you do that Chris???
The group stopping to drink in the beauty of God's creation.
After the hike, it was supper time. Kraft Dinner. Chris' specialty. He became head chef during this meal. Turned out ok once again. Good Job Son.
Mmmmm....enjoying supper. Notice Bethany. sorry about that Bethany. : )
Cecile used any method she could to stay warm. Here the stove heating the coffee water proved just too good to pass up.
As darkness decended upon us once again, and the chill filled the air, we migrated once again to the camp fire. Here we once again got to know each other better through a Q & A time, and then we heard another story from our Jaw Dropper book. Some really neat parables told in modern day stories. They loved them.......well most people did....seems Nancy decided it was time to catch up on her reading.....(just kidding).
Here Bethany and Kimberly are trying to stay warm by capturing the heat of the fire in their sleeping bags and then wrapping it around them really quickly. Did it work?
After another cold night of listening to snooring, and a racoon going through our pots and pans for half the night, it was breakfast time again. Pancakes this time around. Hannah and Leah wanted to help make them. Now, you need to know that Hannah's dad allegedly makes VERY good pancakes. After watching Hannah make hers, I could see that she has had a very good teacher. They were GREAT. However, you do have to work on her flipping technique John. Quite scarry!!!
Leah didn't fair as well. Partly due to the frying pan she used.
After breakfast it was time for a brief church service.......
and then, sadly, already time to clean up again. It seems that some things do get lost even in such a short time as two days. Here Annette wonders out loud who these lovely cardboard socks belong too......nobody claimed them.....interesting.
And alas, it was time to connect the trailers, pack up, and leave. All in all a wonderful time together. I hope everyone who came had fun, got to know each other better and enjoyed God's wonderful creation. We'll do it again next year.