Beauty from ashes

by NightShift

Sometimes, beauty grows from the ashes of pain and tragedy. Breathtaking, inspiring beauty like that found in Bonnie, a woman who has become a friend to staff and volunteers at NightShift Street Ministries. Finding light in the darkness that once surrounded her life, Bonnie wants to connect with other people who are struggling with some of life’s most difficult situations – like homelessness and addiction.

Studies show that most people who use illicit drugs started using them between the ages of 18 and 25. For Bonnie, illicit drug use and addiction came later in life.

When her 40s, with her two kids grown up, Bonnie followed her husband to Metro Vancouver from Thunder Bay, Ontario, when he promised Bonnie he wouldn’t hurt her anymore. It was a promise he didn’t keep.  After enduring emotional and physical abuse for years, the man Bonnie was married to beat her so badly she was unrecognizable. Her former husband got three years in jail – but Bonnie was left alone, without resources, counselling or compassion.

“I wouldn’t tell people I was being beaten at first, because I was so ashamed,” says Bonnie today, 14 years later. “I always ended up with abusive men. My Dad was very abusive, so I guess I just accepted that as part of life.”

Bonnie says she gradually took a wrong turn in life – becoming addicted to drugs to cope with her inner pain, and eventually becoming homeless. Although she had grown up with an adoptive family who went to church, Bonnie felt abandoned, and began to question her faith in a loving God. “I was starting to think that God had washed his hands of me, or that maybe it was all just a big plot to keep me in line.”

Then, this summer, Bonnie had a profound experience while standing outside the downtown Surrey homeless shelter she is staying at. She felt a tangible presence of love surround her. “I just started thanking Jesus,” Bonnie remembers. “I knew I was being called to serve God and other people.”

For Bonnie, serving others doesn’t mean waiting until she finds a better place in life. It means sharing the hope in her heart with those who are struggling like she is. Bonnie often attends the evening meal outreaches at NightShift. When she is there, she not only eats the meal with others who are struggling, she offers them words of encouragement before joining the nightly prayer circle.

“I have been praying for God to please help the homeless and those who are suffering,” shared Bonnie recently with NightShift Founder and President, MaryAnne Connor. “You have to keep your faith alive and you have to give back. I want to be more involved with young people. Some of them never had a chance at life. The other night, two NightShift volunteers thanked me. One of them pulled me aside and said, ‘God loves you so much and you have such a great purpose.’”

Bonnie first became connected with NightShift when Outreach and DayShift Coordinator, Evelyn Schellenberg, began helping her with paperwork to get her birth certificate, and compensation for being a victim of the “60s Scoop” that took First Nations children from their families in the 1960s. “She’s such a nice lady and very easy to talk to. I was drawn to her,” says Bonnie.

While she still sleeps in a homeless shelter, Bonnie holds onto hope. She is nurturing a relationship with her children and grandchildren, while encouraging others who are homeless and struggling with addiction to find their own value. “Just because people are sick in addiction doesn’t mean they’re a thief or a bad person.”

From the ashes, beauty rises. Please join NightShift as we pray and care for beautiful Bonnie – and her many friends who need our help.

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