Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Showers Saga 29: Volunteer Day

No doubt about it: The Lord's Rain has provided countless opportunities for people to get involved. When we first started work on the project last December, we approached a rather wealthy Christian businessman to underwrite the whole thing. We were turned down flat. But as it's turned out, that was probably the best thing that could have happened to the project.

Why? Because it forced us to rely on God, and He brought together the various people and groups we have needed to make it happen, giving them an opportunity to share in the work -- and to share in the blessing.

There have been the churches, which have donated clothing, sent in money and -- in the case of The Oasis -- organized a work party to build the sub-floor and frames; individuals who have given small, one-off donations or regular contributions or the occasional major cash donation; people who live on the DTES, who have become reliable volunteers, helping oversee the operation, make coffee, clean up and spend time chatting with the people who come in (an important component of this ministry); reporters who have been touched by the effort and done stories, which have, in turn, touched their readers, viewers or listeners; and there are many other ways that God has brought these people and groups into the project, so they can all call it "their own". But the bottom line is, they may all have missed out on the blessing had that businessman whipped out his checkbook and covered the whole cost.

His organization did tell us that they were praying for us. As I've written before, prayer is the most effective weapon we have, so even in that regard, he and his organization own a piece of The Lord's Rain.

Yesterday -- Wednesday -- we welcomed the latest group to grab a piece of the action: a group of volunteers from the accounting firm of KPMG. Every year (if I understand this correctly), they hold a "Community Matters" week, where employees may sign up to volunteer in teams with community activities. I had already made contact with one of their number, Jim Bennett, who goes to First Baptist and had heard of us. Initially, he and a group of friends from the church were looking for a way to help and had been kicking around ideas, but nothing got started. He did, however, start gathering underwear and socks (always in great demand) and other items and then, contacted me to see if we could use some help during their volunteer week.

Let me think ...

Over the past several months, we have been blessed by many people and organizations with used clothing. We don't have a clothing program yet, but about two months ago, as I stuffed my car** with a second load of clothing from Garden Village Apostolic Church (the second-oldest ACOP church in Vancouver, after Gospel Mission!), I realized the Lord was dragging us, kicking and screaming, up to The Next Level. It was time to organize the clothes and start handing them out. By the end of September, donated clothing had taken over my living room (to the point where Peaches had a hard time getting to her tree), my home office and my office at the church.

Or, to have the correct attitude in this, I am GRATEFUL TO GOD for providing me with a second bedroom (home office), large-enough living room and an office at the church, where I could store these donations! When I took the apartment 2-1/2 years ago, I had no idea it would be needed for that, but He knew what was coming down the pike!*

Anyway, to make a long story short***, a team of KPMG volunteers descended on The Lord's Rain yesterday morning. Job One was to get the clothes organized. We got a lot of Rubbermaid-style storage bins -- some were donated by a friend of mine at work, others were purchased -- and a group of the volunteers, plus Sandy, Janet, Danilo and Brad from The Lord's Rain, went to work sorting the clothes and loading them up.
"There's some really good stuff here," Janet said at one point. Praise God! I've never understood the "Junk For Jesus - Crap For Christ" mentality, and neither has God:

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.

And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the ame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.

-- Malachi 1:7-8

So receiving "really good stuff" is a blessing all around: for those who receive it, for those who give it, and for us, who are the distributors.

"Look, Drew," Sandy said just before lunch time. "You can see the floor in your office!"

Downstairs, another group of volunteers painted the place. Painting has been a bete noire with us. The job was started, with the primer applied and a first coat; but the first coat never really did get all the way up to the ceiling (the walls are a good 15' high) and for one reason or another, painting "dates" had to be postponed. By the time the day was over, there were three coats of paint and they'd laid down primer on the wooden steps to the showers area.

And the kitchen was cleaned! Personally, I wouldn't know a clean kitchen if someone pointed at it and said, "That is a clean kitchen!" So I let Janet instruct them. Her instructons were beautiful. "You're all women: you know what to do!"

Oh, yeah: there was also a bag lunch, provided by KPMG**** and brought in by A Catered Affair.

And so the Lord's Rain and Gospel Mission and the people we serve benefit from this very intense day. I can't see the floor in my office again, but this time, it's because it's covered by neatly organized plastic bins. It's another example of God's timing and His plan at work: the right people came in to do the job, right at a time when we needed the job to be done. Any earlier, and we wouldn't have had anything for them to do -- any later, and it would have been so deep into the cold and rainy season that passes for a Vancouver winter that we would have been telling people, "No -- sorry", when they asked for clothes; people probably would have given up asking.

And now, just in God's time (which is always on time), let the clothing exchange begin!

*Another reason why the idea "think globally - act locally" is a non-starter: we can only see the impact of things we do at the time and within the filter of our current needs; God knows globally, so when we're obedient, it sometimes looks like we're doing something odd or illogical, but He reveals to us eventually what His plan is.

**The story of How I Got My Car is well chronicled in my book, A Very Convenient Truth - real hope in the face of environmental fears, as an illustration of what happens when you let the Lord determine, and then provide for, your needs according to His riches in glory.

***Too late!

****Intriguing side-story: KMPG is the accounting firm that audits TransLink, and some of the volunteers work seven floors above me at Metrotower II in Burnaby. The fellow who is in charge of TransLink's books is Archie Johnston, with whom I played basketball and football and road hockey (outside of high school) and against whom I played basketball in high school (I was at Hillside - he went to West Van). Archie also introduced me to The Alternative, which was a Saturday night youth group at West Van United. It was my first exposure to Christians of my age and social circle. One of the songs we sang was "I Been Redeemed (By The Blood O' The Lamb)" -- a song I now sing with the congregation at Gospel Mission on Saturday nights. What goes around - comes around.

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