Twenty years ago, when we “opened our doors to the homeless” through Inn From the Cold, we opened our hearts as well. While we no longer host a bi-weekly inn in our church hall, we do support an annual Sunday dinner for those unable to provide for themselves. We raise the funds, recruit a small army of volunteers, and serve several hundred meals as part of the weekly Feed the Hungry Dinner program hosted by St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral. So last Sunday forty-three volunteers from St. Stephen’s helped feed 315 guests, supported by the $2500 we raised for the meal.
A middle-aged Calgary man was relieved finally to find work in the city, though it would require a daily commute by public transit. He used his savings to pay the deposit and first month’s rent for an apartment only to discover it did not leave him sufficient funds for bus tickets, and it would be month until his first pay day. No social service could help him because he now had an address. But one local agency referred him to us. We were able to purchase him a book of bus tickets, and off he went to his new job.
Back in June a beloved member of our congregation received the devastating news that her mother had died back home in South Africa. Her mother had not been well, so she had already saved up and bought a ticket to return to South Africa later in the season. But the airline would not change the date of that ticket, even on compassionate grounds. With help from a generous parishioner we bought her a new ticket home. She was able to be reunited with the members of her family, and to attend the funeral, and say her farewells to her mother.
A recent refugee from Sierra Leone, a single mother with three young children, eventually found paid work, but it was not enough to pay the deposit on an apartment for her family. She received some funding from Inn From the Cold, but it was still not enough to cover the cost of the deposit, so they referred her to us. We were able to provide the balance of the deposit. She brought her children to the church to thank us, an elegant woman of faith and courage, gracious even in adverse circumstances, and then they left for their new home.
Last summer we were contacted by a social worker at the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic. One of her terminal patients wanted to die at home, back in the Maritimes. His symptoms prevented him from flying so his wife was prepared to drive him across the country. But there would have to many overnights and rest stops along the way, something they couldn’t afford. No other agency could provide for such a need. So, in a tearful meeting with the wife, we gave them enough preloaded VISA cards to start the long cross-country journey. Several months later he died at home.
Recently we received a donation to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund. That isn’t unusual … except when we consider the donor. Two years ago we helped Billy, who we knew from one of the recovery groups at St. Stephen’s, to return to Canada from Hungary. He had moved there to be with his girlfriend but, without access to the medication he needs for his mental health, he was suffering a major mental breakdown. Now, strong and stabilized, and with a new plan to be reunited with his sweetheart, Billy has returned to us the favour—the receiver having become the giver.
Early in the summer, a young woman graduated from high school in the BC Interior, left her home, and came to Calgary to meet her online boyfriend. They had never met in person. A month later she showed up on the doorstep of the Mustard Seed abused, destitute and badly shaken. The Mustard Seed appealed to us for help. Through the Rector’s Discretionary Fund we bought her a bus ticket home, accompanying her right to the steps of the bus. It was a hard lesson learned, but with our help she could begin picking up the pieces and starting over.
This week John Ngeth Deng is returning to his village of Alian in the South Sudan to be reunited with his family and to continue his work of equipping the local primary school with paper, books, and pencils. John is an active member of St. Stephen’s, but also a priest in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan who leads a Sunday afternoon congregation here in Calgary. It will be a difficult journey for John due to political instability in the region. He will go with our prayers and with a grant drawn from the “Outreach—Beyond” and “Rector’s Discretionary” Funds.