Growing up in Surrey, my parents instilled in our family a deep compassion and awareness of the homeless in our community. One of my first encounters with the homeless community in Whalley (a town within Surrey) was on Christmas Eve a few years ago. It was cold, and my parents armed us with plenty care packages and plenty more hot chocolate. We drove to a street that was lined tents. My family of 8 piled out of our car to meet the people of Whalley with some Christmas hope. My first conversation was with a middle aged woman and it went like this:
“Merry Christmas Eve! Would you like a care package?”
“… It’s Christmas Eve?” her shaky voice whispered.
My heart broke. I was stunned that she didn’t know it was Christmas Eve. My year basically revolves around the Christmas season, yet this woman was not even aware of it.
My compassion for the community of Whalley continued to grow when I had a co-op with the B.C. Lions. The organization is based one street away from tent city. For three months I drove into work past the tents. Each day the sharp, cold air hit face and the rain wet my hair I was reminded of those enduring the elements that fall so abruptly offered while I was warm, inside with a cup of tea in hand. Why was I swimming in excess while these people didn’t have basic shelter? I felt restless.
A few weeks ago, I met a girl that works with an organization called NightShift Ministries. NightShift is dedicated to serving the impoverished in Whalley each night, 365 days a year. I had heard about them before, but as this staff member shared more about the organization, I was drawn to their vision. On their website, NightShift says that their “utmost goal is to treat street friends with respect and dignity, regardless of individual circumstances.” Captivated by what they stood for, I made the decision to start volunteering.
So, I am in the beginning of the volunteer process with NightShift. Join me as I tell stories from the street: who the people behind the NightShift’s vision are, and who the people in front of the NightShift’s vision are.