By Pastor Rhoda Klein Miller
“Can I give you a hug?” Hearing these words I immediately regretted not being the first to pose the question. Humbled by the invitation I wrapped my arms around Shawna-Marie, the program manager for New Beginnings. She came to the church to collect the 96 Christmas care bags we assembled for her clients. Indigenous individuals who have been unsheltered or at risk for homelessness have a temporary place to call home in the three-story buildings on Heather Street just a block from OAC. The studio units provide supportive housing managed by Lu’ma Native Housing Society. “Lu’ma” is a Coast Salish word that means ‘new start’. The complex also provides health and wellness services with 24/7 on site staff. Since they opened their doors in January of 2019, I have been checking in with staff on a quarterly basis to see if there are any current needs we can assist with. With a lean operating budget their requests have often been for basic supplies, a shoe rack for a new occupant, bedding, towels, socks and this summer I cleared out the church supply cupboards to support their art therapy and cultural craft program. Now thanks to the generous efforts of a few OACers, every occupant received a bag this week with something warm to warm their feet, their stomachs and hearts. Slippers, socks, gloves, lotion, tea, hot cocoa, candy, journals and a “Wellness Wallet” containing encouragement from Native Glow tracts. Shawna informed me late last week they lost a participant who took their own life and the whole community was feeling the weight of this tragedy. Our tokens of care couldn’t have come at a better time. Please continue to keep our neighbors in prayer that they might trust our love and compassion is a genuine reflection of our Creator’s heart.