It has been another year of challenges and of learning to adapt. The staff of our partner organizations are tired, they have faced times of challenge and discouragement and continue to seek ways they can continue to meet complex needs of the vulnerable in Central Alberta.
In our relationship with schools we are told that next school year should see us able to be back as reading buddies, special event supporters and breakfast program servers. School administrators, educators and social workers report a tough year of increased emotional distress amongst students. One social worker who accesses food and clothing from CrossRoads for students in her school says “I know God has put me here for a reason and this gives me strength to continue but over the past years I have put up walls around my heart to protect myself from the pain in the lives of children that I cannot change.” The donations that you leave in the donation bins here at the church impact the school social workers with hope as it provides them resources to meet the needs of their families.
Local School Story
A social worker requested some food and clothing for a student who was in need; an all too familiar story of sad circumstances that had led to a young teen fending for herself and her basic needs. She also needed a backpack if possible, to store her belongings in. A few days after the items were picked up from the church, I received a message from the school social worker. “Thank you to CrossRoads donors for the great quality clothing and food for this student. This student was so surprised when she saw the backpack because it has her first name initial on it.”
At some point over the last year someone donated a backpack with a sparkly letter attached to it. Maybe it was company branding? Maybe a Mom attached it so her child’s backpack wouldn’t get lost in the school? I don’t know the human cause for that sparkly initial to be attached to a plain black backpack but God knew that a young girl would one day receive it as a special gift with her name on it.
We can often go about our days seeing only the tasks and surface experiences and not consider the things that God is doing behind the scenes. Local Initiatives allow us a window to see where God is working through our partners and through us as we support them. He is here in our community at work – calling people to Himself by name.
Pregnancy Care Centre
This past year has seen focus on Pregnancy Care satellite centres. The Rocky Centre relocated to a larger space last fall. A property was purchased in Olds and staff moved into the space in January. November saw the opening of the Stettler Centre. Ensuring that our satellite centres have a physical location that meets the community’s needs is important to me, and we are well on our way to achieving this!
At the new Olds location, which is a home converted to commercial property, there are dreams of renovating the space and opening a Maternity Home in that city. In the months to come, there will be meetings with community members to learn about the needs in Olds and area for a maternity home program.
Hope Mission has poured themselves into children and their families this year through modified in person and online events and has sensed a strong hunger for connection that has grown due to COVID. They are thrilled that in September they will be resuming in person Kids in Action and Explorers Club for kids from grade 1 through 8. They will be meeting for games, social connection and a healthy meal. Their ministry of food support has expanded greatly over this past year through drive by community dinners and monthly frozen meals. Being able to meet in person for meals will be something to celebrate in the year ahead as they bless families of kids in their programs.
As they look back they praise God that they were able to resume Kids In Action in one school this spring for the first time since March, 2020, and that they were able to take 21 students on an overnight camping trip where they heard about Jesus’ love for them around a campfire.
Two Hope Mission Stories
• One mother shared that her daughter, Eve (not her real name), struggles with anxiety. Before signing up for Hope Mission’s after school programs, she would scream and cry when they would need to go into the grocery store. She would even panic when a stranger would walk on the opposite side of the street. But now, she comes running to our front doors with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step without saying goodbye to her mom.
• Recently two young brothers in our after school program shared that their cat had to be put down, and they had said their last goodbye’s just before walking into our program. In tears, they shared their feelings with trusted staff. They both asked if our staff could pray with them in such an emotional moment. This story was encouraging for our staff to see how the kids don’t only trust our team, but they also trust God.
The Dragonfly Centre which is part of Outreach Centre provides age appropriate therapy for children and youth who are experiencing trauma from domestic violence, suicide and homelessness providing opportunity to heal and develop healthy skills and behaviours.
In the 2021 calendar year they received 196 referrals for therapy services with long waitlists every month of over 80 clients. The Dragonfly Centre is looking at collaboration with other agencies and ways to find new funding in order to provide the services needed for young people needing healing and hope.
Julietta’s Place, also part of Outreach, is a safe housing unit for women and children who have left a domestic violence situation. This summer, watch for ways you can support the courageous moms who are staying here as they work towards a healthier future for themselves and their children.
So, while we can find ourselves wondering and questioning all of the things that have changed over the last two years and the things we have missed out on, we can take heart – God is still very much at work. He’s right here in our time and space. He’s right here in our community extending grace, love and bringing hope through our local partners.