The snow is only meant, created and commanded to fall. The rain is only meant, created, commanded to pour down. You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely. What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created? What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes? -Shauna Niequist from "Present over Perfect"
When I returned to Kitchener, it was now within days of having to go back to Toronto, to face my new reality. I was struck with deep anxiety and fear. What would these new findings mean? What would the implications for me, for my kids and youth, for my families, for my community? How would they be cared for and loved? How would what had started be able to continue if I was no longer there? These questions plagued me until the Spirit led me back to the very beginning of my time away: Silence. Letting go.
"How do we let go? How do we let go of position, title, power, circumstances, relationships? In silence. In stillness. It's in these moments we are able to say, 'God you are God. You've got this. I am not in charge'."- Pete Scazzero
It all came around full circle. To truly embrace a life surrendered, submitted and conformed to Christ, I needed to embrace silence. Stillness. Quiet. I needed to let go in order to let God, as the old adage testifies. My kids, my youth, my families, my ministry, they were never mine. They have always been in the hands of the Lord. He never needed me; He simply chose to use me as His vessel, as His tool for His kingdom's sake. He has always been the One in control, not me. He has always been the One sovereign over my life, not me. What a realization!
Ch.4: Waiting for the New
"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19 (Photo from ravine in my Jane and Finch neighborhood)
Upon arriving back in Toronto, I met with our Executive Director at UrbanPromise Toronto (UPT). My testimony was met with resounding support, love and care. I recognized that God was doing a new thing, even in the hearts of those in leadership at UPT. Throughout the course of this past year, we, as an organization, have spent a great deal of time re-organizing, re-imagining and recalibrating. The result has been a clearer vision: "To see a generation of young leaders from Toronto Community Housing loving Christ and serving their community." What was realized through this process of re-visioning was that Camp Freedom, our Jane and Finch location where I am placed, has truly reached that vision! There is an incredible generation of young people that are engaged in the local church, Christian Centre Church (CCC) and are passionately pursing Christ and desire to make Him known in the community. As such, the leadership recognized that it was time for us to move out of this specific location, to pass the baton, allowing space for the young leaders within the community and church body to rise up and take over! As a result, this would then free UPT to continue pursuing other Toronto Community Housing locations in the city who are in need of Christ, and programs such as ours (as currently we are only in 3 out of over 140 TCHC communities in Toronto).
As the leadership had learned to let go, God was allowing their hearts to be open to God-orchestrated changes and plans. For me, I have now been given complete freedom to remain in a supportive role at UrbanPromise acting as the direct line of support between CCC and the children, youth and families. I will have the privilege of making introductions, sharing resources, conducting trainings and mentorship of leaders who are visioning the next steps for the church and community. I will continue being on staff with UPT throughout the course of this year until the end of August, at which time I hope to then start Teacher's College.
It is with mixed emotions I learn to let go. I love this community, with all its mess and beauty. I love the little humans in all their hurts and pains, joys and hilarities. I love the youth with their drama and depth. I love the mamas with their sorrows and strengths. The thought of leaving nearly takes my breath away. Yet, I can fully breathe knowing that as I let out my breath, somehow, I release each child, youth and mama to the Lord knowing they are His. Fully His, and not mine. I also can let go knowing that He is at work, that He is doing a NEW thing in the hearts of each of the leaders, of the congregation of CCC and in the community as a whole!
Ch.5: Living in the Hope of Him
My precious Little Big Man who lost his big brother due to gun violence in our community. "Keep the Dream Alive" has become the mantra of our community as "Caheem the Dream" was only a boy, losing his life at the age of 17.
Within days of communicating with CCC about the changes and transition, I discovered that we lost a dear young man to the gun. Seventeen years young, Caheem "Clayshawn Montieth" Ramsuchit was murdered during the day on November 19, 2016. His siblings and family, who are near and dear to my heart and have been a part of program for several years were left behind in the mess of his passing. With the news of his death, I was overwhelmed with grief and confusion. How could this happen right as we are leaving this community? Did we hear wrong? Is this a sign we should stay and continue on doing what we have been doing? I was baffled and bewildered, angry and heart-broken.
I got quiet and still before the Lord. I listened. I watched. I waited. And He showed up in the midst of the madness of the loss of Caheem. He revealed Himself through the Prodigal Young Man who's heart has turned back to Christ and to the lives of the children. He made Himself known through Basketball Boys who are tired of seeing their friends senselessly murdered and want to show the next generation of young boys that it does not have to be this way. He declared Himself through Word Man as he shared his powerful spoken word piece of hope for the future. He showed up in Passionate Young Woman who is firey and passionate about raising up the next generation of women with dignity, grace and love. Over and over, in the silence, He made His presence known that He was, in fact, doing a new thing, of springing up hope in the darkness. That it would not have to come from UPT, but would come from within the community, within the heart of the youth themselves!
As I now live in the reality of all of these things, I invite you as partners in prayer and support to continue journeying with me as I choose to let go, as I choose to trust in His sovereign plans and faithful goodness. I ask that you would keep praying. I would ask that you consider supporting me financially through this time as I seek to finish well in this community.* I also ask that you too step into silence, into letting go and letting God. There is great richness in receiving Christ when we let go.