After travelling for five hours from Hope in our big white creeper vans last Friday (Nov.1), we arrived in my homeland of Vancouver (whoop whoop!). I was quite excited about the familiarity of the surrounding areas, especially because of the constant movement and relocation of Outtatown. Our new home for the next six days was the Ivanhoe Hostel on Main Street, which I can’t say was a very familiar place for me. We all dispersed from the lobby on our own adventures, attempting to discover the gems of Vancouver during our free weekend. Monday was our first day with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Vancouver, who organized and facilitated our week on the Downtown Eastside. After an intense week in Vancouver, we ventured out to Whistler for a retreat weekend. But instead of me typing out my overall impression of the week, Willow and I decided to interview some of our friends to give you different perspectives and a better-rounded overview of our week in Vancity. Waddup?!
Did this past week in Vancouver provoke any emotions? Why?
Jordan: During the Urban plunge there was an exercise where our group had to sit in front of a store for 15 min. The point of the exercise was to sit on the street and observe what happens on Robson Street, a popular shopping area, especially the kinds of people there and what they were doing. I started to feel angry at how the passersby reacted to me sitting there. While I was sitting on the sidewalk people would either give me a pity smile or glance at me and pretend not to have noticed me. I then realized that that’s something that everyone does; I did it myself twenty minutes before when I wasn’t sitting on the sidewalk. This made me feel hypocritical and guilty. It helped me put things into perspective.
Describe something that shocked you.
Brian: When we were walking down East Hastings, a street with a high concentration of homelessness, my group and I saw a clean needle clinic and we decided to go in and check it out to learn more about it. We knocked on the door and they let us in. They were nice people. On-Site is a facility that gives clean needles to drug addicts and, with the supervision of nurses, they can take their drugs that they bought on the street in the building. As we were talking with a staff member, there were dozens of people who came in. It was a really sobering and saddening sight to see all the people who need On-Site services. When you drive down East Hastings, you have no way of knowing who is addicted to drugs or not, but at the clinic, everyone who passed through the doors were addicted to some sort of substance. The staff were very familiar with their patients; they knew them by name. Seeing the people come in put a face to the stats of people being addicted to drugs.
Discuss someone that impacted you.
Desiree: I met Nancy during the learning tour. We walked past her and I felt called to talk to her but I didn’t because I didn’t know if the rest of the group would agree. Even after we had passed her, I was still thinking about her so I talked to my group and we turned around. We approached her and asked if she would like to share lunch with us, introduced ourselves and got to know each other a bit. She was very timid at first, as anybody would be if they were approached by a stranger to share lunch, but as the conversation went on, it was evident that she was experiencing an internal battle where she wanted to open up but couldn’t. The little bits of her story that she shared basically broke my heart. At first glance it might not have seemed as though she needed food but after interacting with her it was evident that she did need it and more importantly, she needed someone to talk to and show her that she is important.
What was the most humbling experience you had?
Anna: I guess I should start at the beginning… The first day of the Urban Plunge, we were told to explore downtown Vancouver, find out some answers to questions we had and then to end the day, find a place to eat because we had no money. When the time came to find some supper, I was feeling kind of anxious and uncomfortable with the idea of going to a soup kitchen. It was hard for me to take the ticket to get in the food lineup because I was scared I would be taking food away from people who actually needed it. At the soup kitchen, I was welcomed by the people running it, but also by the people eating at it. Once sitting down with our food, we were at a table with two other men. The conversation felt natural and we enjoyed each other’s company. I have found that eating food with other people is a great way to find commonality and connections.
How did your experience of Vancouver compare to your experience of the Winnipeg Urban plunge?
Willow: Overall, I found the Vancouver Urban Plunge to be way more challenging. During the Winnipeg Urban Plunge, not only did I get a lot out of the experience, but I felt that I was also able to give back in a meaningful way. Whether this was through volunteering at Siloam Mission or buying lunch for a few people living on the streets, I could see God at work and felt a sense of joy by seeing hope amongst the brokenness. Vancouver, on the other hand, was not like this. I don’t want to sound overly pessimistic, but it was just really hard to see God, or feel hopeful in downtown Vancouver. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t looking hard enough, or in the right places, but walking down East Hastings just saddened me in a way that I don’t really understand. It gave me more of a bleak, empty feeling instead of prompting an emotional response, which is how I usually cope with difficult things. It was a really challenging and less enjoyable experience for me, but Vancouver was definitely more eye-opening than Winnipeg.
It was also very different in the sense that Vancouver is much more culturally diverse. One of the most interesting and enjoyable days of our week was when we went on a Temple Tour throughout the city which included visiting a Mosque, a Sikh Gurdwara and a Buddhist temple. We also ate Ethiopian cuisine, Pho (a Vietnamese dish), Sikh food and south-east Asian food. There were many differences between the two, and I’m glad to have had both experiences.
What was your highlight of the week?
Brian: My bed at Copperdome (retreat centre in Pemberton, near Whistler BC)!
Anna: The Temple Tour!
Desiree: Prayer Stations!
Willow: Exploring the city and dipping my toes in the ocean!
Tim: Seeing Peter and the Moontime Girls in concert!
Elisabeth: Jumping dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium!
Jill: Making food at Chilli Wagon and the chance to go home for the weekend!
Katrina: Reaching the top of the Grouse Grind!
As you can see, we had an eventful, thought-provoking week. Stay tuned for more to come!
Strong Horse and Willowcakes