In the third week of February, a group of university students from Ottawa, Kingston and Waterloo traveled to Toronto to visit with and learn from the community of Sanctuary Toronto.
These students were all brought together through their involvement in The Mission Immersion Project, one of the Navigators’ national programs.
“Mission is what makes our walk with God an adventure,” says Jeremy Horne, one of the Mission Immersion co-founders. “God has called us to engage in mission wherever we are through relationships that transform others. We are not called to live out our faith passively, but to live it out actively through loving and serving others.”
This weekend experience brought Mission Immersion participants together with the staff and community of Sanctuary Toronto, an organization that seeks to become “a healthy, welcoming community in which people who are poor and excluded are particularly valued…an expression of the good news embodied in Jesus Christ.” They bring together unexpected cross-sections of society: the homeless and the entrepreneur, the middle-aged, middle-class and the squeegee kid, the university student and the person hardened from a life lived on the streets.
Two of the participants from the weekend are Emma Barrett and Zach McIver, two students from Ottawa and Kingston respectively.
“One of my most vivid memories of the weekend at Sanctuary was our first night there,” Emma writes. “We arrived during a Night @ Grace’s, a Sanctuary community concert. It was a time of celebration. We joined them for the music and dancing, and had the chance to experience their community. The next evening we got the chance to hear from Tracy, a woman from the community. She shared with us her story and what Sanctuary has done for her, and how much the community means to her. Hearing from Tracy helped me realize how meaningful it is for us, who have more than we need, to love and serve people who are experiencing rejection and oppression.”
Zach writes one of his most significant memories from the weekend was an exercise in Union Station, led by Sanctuary staff member Greg Cook. “He had us all line up side by side in one of the hallways. He read off a list of factors that influence the amount of power we have in our lives, such as ethnicity, gender, age, mental health, religion, etc. If we were not part of the most powerful demographics we had to take a step back. This simulated how people in these demographics are already working a few steps behind everyone else. It was interesting to note that even those of us at the back of our group still started miles ahead of a large portion of the population.”
For everyone on the trip, the weekend at Sanctuary was a chance to challenge their perspective.
Emma says of her experience at Sanctuary: “[it] helped change my perspective and challenged me to think more practically about Jesus’ teachings about loving and serving those who are oppressed. We were able to experience and learn from people who are committed to loving and being present with people who experience oppression on a daily basis. I was reminded of one of the most important things in life – loving others.”
Blessed are the helpless
In his reflections on the weekend, Zach writes how he was reminded of the counter-cultural message of the gospel through Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
In life, Zach writes, “the more power and influence you have, the more you are valued. If you have something to give and offer back, people care about you. The most important are those with the most and the most to offer, the least important have the least and the least to offer.”
Reflecting on the above passage, Zach says he has trouble wrapping his head around how those with the least are the most important. “It goes against every other system I’ve seen in this world. I tend to think I have the most to offer those who live oppressed and disadvantaged lives, but really, they have something far more valuable to offer me: a glimpse into the kingdom of God.”
How does this experience tie into the Navigator mission?
“From my experience, the Navigators are about making disciples – helping people both discover Jesus and learn to follow Him,” Emma writes. “A disciple can be described as one who not only learns from Jesus, but also follows Jesus’ teaching.”
Training disciples to make disciples is the focal point of the Navigator mission. While it has the potential to transform lives and communities, there needs to be opportunities for action. Emma writes, “This experience at Sanctuary allowed us to explore how we can practically live out Jesus’ teaching as we see tangible ways of engaging in God’s mission for the world.”
Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible, and for your ongoing support to train up new generations of disciplemakers who actively seek good for those they live near and interact with. We look forward to sharing more of these stories with you as they unfold.