By Shannon Youell
“Our culture decides that if something is imperfect, unpopular, or on the edge of expiry it is worthless and therefore discarded. Fortunately for us all, Jesus does not take this view. He chooses the weak and imperfect people, cleans them up, and shows their true value.”
I have to admit, this is the most unique pick-up line I have ever heard. And it comes from one of our pastors! It came from Aaron Dyck, lead pastor of Gateway Baptist Church (GBC) in Victoria, BC, when I asked him what he says to the people who come to Gateway’s neighbourhood market when they ask why the church is giving away bags and bags of fresh produce and groceries every week….with no strings attached!
Gateway’s Neighbourhood Market is a partnered initiative with Living Edge Ministries (the other ministry job held by our own First Baptist Victoria Pastor, Neil van Heerden). Partners also include several local grocers, the Mustard Seed and other organizations. At this weekly market, Living Edge Ministries provides Gateway with fresh food that is imperfect, not selling well, or near their “best before” date. Single moms, seniors, or anyone who has a need is welcome to come to the Tuesday evening market and pick up these groceries for free, including fresh produce, staple food items and occasionally treats depending on what the sponsors have provided.
When I first heard that GBC had decided to hold a neighbourhood market, I was a bit confused. GBC is situated in what appears to be a middle to upper economic area of Victoria. Aaron explained that as their team was praying to see where God was at work, they exegeted the area they were in and realized that just across the highway from them, the economic community shifted. It was to this community that God seemed to be urging Gateway to get to know.
Here is the danger when we are serious about asking God where He is already at work….He will show us! A visiting Nigerian pastor once told me that when we pray and listen, God gives us a key. If we take that key and just open the door in front of us, we will see God working and inviting us to join Him.
This is what Gateway is doing.
Giving out groceries offers help, but what of hope? Volunteers and staff are on hand to chat over coffee, ask questions, offer Bibles to adults and children and talk about the Gateway community and ways to connect. And this is where the pick-up line comes in. We live in a world where people are discarded, broken, forgotten or ignored based on various criteria, where we struggle for worth and value; and when, as one young woman demonstrated, the kindness of a stranger offers hope straight to the heart, tears well up and barriers come down, opening up opportunities for relationships to develop.
Here the neighbourhood becomes introduced to people of faith, who have genuine care and concern for the people they dwell among. Here we find a community of faith learning what being invested and embedded in that community can look like.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray and then to go into communities bringing God’s Shalom. To discover the felt needs, see where God is at work, become relationally engaged and reveal the Kingdom of God among them. (Luke 10:1-9).
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:29).
PS: Just today I learned that Emmanuel Baptist Church in Victoria has also partnered with Living Edge Ministries in offering a Neighbourhood Market where they are situated, across from the University of Victoria. Praise God!