Sharing hope, peace, love and joy this Advent season
ADVENT … It means “coming”, and it’s the period before Christmas, in anticipation for the birth of Jesus – Emmanuel – God who came to dwell in the neighbourhood among us. This Advent season, NightShift will share with you a daily picture, from December 1-25, giving a window into the life of our ministry, and a glimpse of Jesus in the ‘hood.
Merry Christmas from all of us at NightShift. 2020 has been difficult for all of us. In the midst of the physical distancing and the uncertainty, I am overwhelmed by your love and support for people on the street, experiencing homelessness, poverty, addiction, and mental illness. Thank you, each and every one of you. You have all made my Christmas very special and reminded me that this season is not about the biggest and the best – but about the humble and the honourable. For 17 years, NightShift has been about people, and the hope that we find in Jesus. It will always be about that. Thank you for being a part of the story. xoxo – Mac
We love this guy. George has become a friend to many of our volunteers over the last few years. Most nights, he’s a key member of our Surrey serving teams at NightShift, arriving before the hot meal outreach to sweep and clean our serving lot. He also helps many street friends with mobility issues, often guiding them to the serving area, or bringing the hot meal to them. Most importantly, George shares a message of hope wherever he goes. George has been clean and sober for almost 10 years, and he says prayer, shared experience and good food are key to helping people struggling on the street with addiction take steps toward recovery. “I help people by sharing the experiences I went through,” George says. “I like to share the story and tell the truth, because now I have a different life.” Merry Christmas George!
Meet Daisy, NightShift’s greeter, snack supervisor and chief tail wagger. Daisy technically lives with Evelyn, NightShift’s Outreach Coordinator, but the staff all like to think she belongs to us. Daisy greets everyone who comes to the door – donor, volunteer, staff, friend in need – with unconditional love, and a deep hope for treats and pats. Perhaps you’ve wondered why many people struggling with homelessness have dogs? The answers are simple: companionship, accountability, mental health benefits, safety, purpose and love. Don’t we all want that? P.S. Daisy wants you to know she is a good girl, and that time she ate an entire loaf of bread in the outreach area was an unfortunate accident. She’s very sorry.
Covid-19 changed everything. At NightShift, the pandemic meant we had to start serving at a distance from our back door. No longer could we gather as a neighbourhood group, shake hands, give high fives or have long face to face conversations. Thursday night volunteer Ric says the restrictions are heartbreaking. “It just kicks me in the shins. Our friends on the street know us, they count on us, and they look for loving, familiar faces. Can you imagine being out there right now? It’s more important than ever to keep serving.” A huge NightShift air hug to Ric, and to all our volunteers who are serving through this pandemic, and bringing their whole hearts in sharing unconditional love, hope and purpose with people struggling on the streets.
Just being present in people’s lives can be a great gift. And this NightShift serving team understands that! Meet team Clay Construction: Candice, Jessica, Brianna, Patrick and Jeanette, who have been serving people in need in the NightShift neighbourhood since 2015. “I serve at NightShift to have friendship and fellowship with our street friends,” shares Jeanette. “We all have a gift to give. If I can be there, and be the ‘present’ for somebody else, my life is complete.” What a good word this Christmas 2020! Thank you to this team of faithfuls, for serving hot meals, and being present in the lives of our friends on the street.
After 15 years lost in addiction, and struggling with homelessness, David will spend this Christmas clean, sober and excited about his future. David embraced freedom from addiction through a recovery program called RE:ACT that operates weekdays at NightShift. Much of David’s pain related to the deaths of beloved family members, and childhood abuse. He says there were painful feelings he never addressed, instead using alcohol and drugs. With RE:ACT’s help in dealing with painful emotions, David has come to feel something else – joy and self-worth. “I finally feel really proud of myself. I feel light and happy and hopeful. I like that feeling,” says David. “Addiction held me back for so long, but I can finally break free and move on, and build a better life. My friends and family are amazed at where my life is at.”
Beep, beep! NightShift’s brand new Mobile Outreach Unit (MOU) is ready to roll out in January 2021, bringing professional nursing and counselling care to people in need on the streets in Surrey and Langley. NightShift’s Mobile Outreach Unit Manager Brianna is pictured here, sitting inside the newly fabricated MOU. “We’ll provide access to a physician, crisis counselling, basic nursing and outreach services for our friends on the street,” shares Brianna. “Our goal is to address and fill the gaps to these essential care services that our street friends desperately need.”
It’s a serving match made in heaven! Recovery Church has joined NightShift to serve a hot meal and hope to people in need in Langley. Recovery Church is for people in recovery or seeking freedom from addiction, where folks enjoy community, worship, fellowship and serving the Lord together. “We were looking for an opportunity to impact our community in a practical way. We wanted to partner with NightShift, who is proven in making a difference,” shares Pastor Joel Reimer. “If we say we love our community and people who are homeless, we have to do something about it.” Pictured is Pastor Joel and food prep coordinator Shawn. Thanks so much you guys! You are impacting lives.
It was so good to see our friend Amira today! Over a year ago, she began asking for prayer at NightShift’s evening outreach meal to get clean and get custody of her kids back. This year, Amira is still clean. It’s been a difficult road with some bumps along the way, but she is committed to stay the course, and remain with her children. While Amira feels stress over providing for her kids, she is thankful to spend Christmas with her kids and her parents. And she is thankful for the friendship at NightShift. “You guys gave me hope. You always say, ‘Keep up the good work, we’re here for you no matter what.’” We love you Amira!
Chef Derrick Racz has been joyfully sharing his culinary skills with NightShift’s special holiday meals for the last few years, some years single-handedly carving 14 turkeys! His cheffing background has had him cooking on VIA Rail, Vancouver hotels and restaurants. But his real passion is creating a hot meal for people struggling on the streets. “I was homeless and addicted myself at one time. When I got clean, I made it a priority to give back in any way I could. I love putting a good meal in people’s bellies,” he shares. Derrick’s life changed through prayer and surrender to God. “I felt the desire to use leave my body. I thought, ‘wow maybe there is something to this Jesus.’” NightShift will serve a hot turkey dinner and gifts this about 250 people in need this year in Langley and Surrey.
This massive donation of winter items honours the lives of NightShift supporters, Sandi and Paul Tetrault, who died in a car accident last year. Sandi was a volunteer foot care nurse at NightShift. Last week, the Tetrault’s eldest son, Justin, and girlfriend, Melissa Enno, dropped off a truckload of items for people in need: 120 pairs of socks; 133 pairs of runners; 72 pairs of boots; 188 winter accessories; 76 items of clothing; jackets and blankets. “Paul and Sandi were passionate about NightShift,” shares Melissa. “Most people don’t think twice about buying a new jacket, but for someone on the street, getting a jacket is the best thing to happen to them in winter.” Thank you Melissa and Justin, and all who donated items to warm the body — and the heart.
Meet some of our fabulous Friday night team, serving a hot meal and hope in Surrey – Rod, Mac, Hugh, Cindy and Ruth. Team leader Rod (front right) has been serving at NightShift since 2013. Rod shares 3 reasons he serves at NightShift:
1. “I began to see how much God loved me, and that love compels me to love others.”
2. “Because Jesus is there.”
3. “The Bible tells us to do what pleases God. At NightShift, I feel God’s pleasure.”
Helping vulnerable people on the street strikes a chord deep in Jacki’s heart. Jacki’s daughter Chelsea struggled with addiction and homelessness. Tragically, her life was cut short in 2012. Through the grieving process, Jacki became determined to share the love in her heart with other people struggling like Chelsea was. “At NightShift, my heart is full,” shares Jacki. “It’s about connecting, one human to another.” Holiday meals, like NightShift’s upcoming Christmas Dinner, are especially important to Jacki. “I love the holiday meals with our street friends. It’s very important to give back and to see the joy on our street friends’ faces. One girl calls me ‘Mom’. They are like my extended family.” There, in the midst of grief and loss, is the power of love, flowing from a mother’s heart.
Some people see a human need, and act to fill it. That’s how it is for friends Taran and Gagan. They visited NightShift this week, bringing a donation of 80 new blankets for people struggling to stay warm on the street. Taran, a professional truck driver, says he still has a hard time getting used to cold Canadian winters, even five years after immigrating from Punjab, India. When he noticed people struggling with homelessness in the cold, he knew he wanted to help, and his friend Gagan soon joined him. “We decided to donate the blankets to NightShift, because you are already helping people on the street,” shares Gagan. Warmest thanks, guys!
Care can happen anywhere. NightShift has been providing street level nursing and counselling care to friends in need in the neighbourhood since 2010. Registered Nurse Frieda Snijder has been volunteering with NightShift for the last six years on our Care Bus, and soon will serve on board our new Mobile Outreach Unit. “I try to connect not only on a physical level, but a spiritual level. Just to walk alongside the person, even for a short period of time, exactly where they are at,” shares Frieda. “This is what Jesus’ gospel is about: taking care of the sick, the poor and the needy.”
Our evening outreach begins with a hot meal. It’s nourishing for the body and good for the soul when we break bread together – or cookies in this case. NightShift’s Warehouse and Facilities Manager, Darren, had Christmas come early this year when this brand new gas oven and range was delivered, thanks to The Brick and Park Ridge Homes. Darren loves cheffing in the kitchen, creating meals and treats for our community. He prepares daily lunches for folks in the recovery program RE:ACT, and often preps meals for our evening outreach to our friends in need in the neighbourhood.
“Selah Spa Days” are a special way for us to connect with women in the NightShift neighbourhood. The ladies enjoy a day of pampering, with hair stylists, make-up artists, and nail technicians. “’Selah’ is a Hebrew word for ‘pause’ or ‘interlude’, which is meaningful because Selah Spa Day provides a nurturing pause from the difficulties of these women’s lives,” shares Evelyn, NightShift’s Outreach and Women’s Programming Coordinator. “Seeing the smiles on their faces is just amazing.” NightShift looks forward to resuming Selah Spa Days in 2021, when we can again provide in-person love and care to our women friends.
Did you know that NightShift Street Ministries began in a winter storm? It was during a blizzard in 2004 when our Founder and President, MaryAnne Connor (Mac), was called to help people on the street make it through the frigid temperatures. That was almost 17 years ago! And with the help of countless volunteers, NightShift has been serving hot meals and providing dry clothing ever since. This photo is from a 2019 snowstorm, and when we see these smiling friends, Wes, Marcia and Jackie, huddle together, we see God’s light, still shining brightly at NightShift.
Volunteer team work makes the NightShift dream work. Clockwise from front, meet Mark, Robin, Ray, Carey and Heather, who serve together as a team from Centra Windows. Team leader, Ray, says when he was in the Navy, he learned the importance of teamwork. “I learned you rely on everybody to survive,” Ray shares. “To survive yourself, you must be prepared to help the next person.” That’s what we love about our volunteer teams, like Centra. Coming together, prepared to help the next person – it’s a beautiful thing.
Our dear friend Wanda first came to NightShift about seven years ago, struggling with homelessness. NightShift quickly became a place she could count on for a hot meal and people to connect with. “NightShift was a God-send,” shares Wanda. “There were times that meal was the only meal I had in a day. At NightShift, I’ve never been told ‘no, we can’t help you’.” Today, Wanda has a home! She still looks forward to our special Christmas get-together when we serve a hot turkey dinner with all the trimmings, gifts, and of course, hope. “I look forward to the good food, friendly faces and having people to talk to.” And we look forward to seeing you, Wanda!
It’s an honour to be joined by our friends on the street in a prayer of thanks before the hot meal at NightShift. We don’t require our guests to pray to God, or even believe that He is real. We know that might be difficult for some folks, struggling with homelessness, poverty, addiction and mental illness. So our hearts are blown away, and humbled when we see the heads of our street friends bowed in prayer, as volunteer leaders say grace before the meal. We are reminded in these moments what a grateful heart looks like, from those who have so little.
We were delighted when Joel and Lauryn showed up this summer to film NightShift’s story of serving people in the midst of a pandemic. Joel, a Summit Pacific student, and Lauryn, a Simon Fraser student, brought care and sensitivity to filming at NightShift. “We wanted to come alongside NightShift to share what you’re doing to help your community during the pandemic,” Joel shared. Thanks you two, for helping us share our pandemic story! It’s already historic!
We love hearing the cool stories behind people’s generous gifts to NightShift. Michael (pictured) and his friend, Cole, are the “Beer Brothers” – just a couple of regular guys who enjoy the flavours of local craft beer. During one of their sipping sessions, they wondered how they might turn their passion for connecting over a brew into a fundraiser for vulnerable people in need. So they set up an account with local bottle depots, and asked their friends to donate their return on empties to NightShift. “We just wanted to come up with a way to give to people who are struggling and really need connection themselves,” shared Michael, when he dropped off a donation of over $800 (plus loaves of bread) to Mac. Way to go guys. Connecting is so important!
We love it when serving at NightShift is a family thing. Here, Kees Van Rhee and kids, Liam and Nadia, serve hope and a hot meal (cooked by Mom, Natasja,) to people in need in Langley. “Along with the meal, we serve hope and some friendly words,” says Kees. “We really just acknowledge to people that we are all human, and we all need to take care of each other.” That’s what NightShift is all about – sharing hope and taking care of each other. Thank you Van Rhee family, for doing this together.
Here, Darren, our Warehouse and Facilities Manager (and jack of all ministry trades), is about to teach our Administrative Assistant, Summer, and our Events Assistant, Katrina, how to properly administer naloxone, a drug that can save the lives of people experiencing an overdose. We do this training because we believe everybody deserves a second chance (and a third and a fourth…). At NightShift, we hold on to hope for people, even when they can’t hold onto it for themselves.