One city, two worlds

I continue to find myself in one city with two worlds….

Sitting under the Gazebo sharing conversation with our homeless friend Jim we had no idea of the “transaction” that was happening right in front of us. As the three of us sat huddled around his shopping cart, like a campfire to warm us, a well groomed man, with quarter pounder,fries and coke in hand came and sat with us. At first he said nothing, he just acknowledged us with a head nod. Ten minutes later, after eating his lunch, the hamburger man struke up a conversation with Jim. At that point we realized they knew each other. It wasn’t but moments later that a truck pulled into the gas station and stopped next to the Gazebo. Stepping out of the truck the man acknowledged Jim and the hamburger man. The three of them, leaving my friend and I sitting in the Gazebo starring, walked over to the other side of the shopping cart. Jim began to unload things from the bottom of his cart until he reached a card board box. He set the box down on the ground as the two men rummaged through what appeared to be magazines.

That box, along with a second one, were loaded onto the truck. As Jim was slid a wad of cash, the two men drove off. Jim came back and sat beside us, unveiling the story.

The homeless are great hire for covert work. The men, who run a used book store, had determined that wealthy neighborhoods in our city readily have recycle boxes full of discarded pornographic magazines. For a dollar a magazine the homeless recover them ahead of the recycle truck. Seventy five magazines in all that day. At that price it makes picking up pop cans a lowly job with little pay. The entrepreneurial spirit has brought together two worlds of impoverished people. The homeless and the emotionally famished have found each other in the exchange.

Two unlikely people connected in a story. One city, two worlds.

We stumbled into their lives one Christmas season. There were 40 visually dilapidated mobile homes jammed together next to the beach and lake. After landing there with food hampers at a very timely moment, we became friends with most of the tenants. Society saw them as the elderly on fixed pensions, the drug addicts, the young couples and singles on minimum wage. The societal misfits, the immigrants and those barely holding on to the last rung before falling onto the streets.

Two years into our journey of friendship with this community the city decided to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

The property was sold to the city to create a parking lot for beach access. A place for tourists to park their cars. The tenants were given notice and three years to relocate. Some were neighbors for 25 years. A community was being torn apart rather than people relocated. We spent many an hour with them in that season. Listening, comforting, helping negotiate settlements and praying for them. Their feelings of fear and insecurity we high. Six of us went to the City officials on their behalf. Unsettled, many left in the first year as we helped them relocate. It is just 3 years now. In the first 18 months of their departure I performed 4 funerals for those that died. Most that died was in part due to increased stress. The city got their parking lot.

Two unlikely groups connected in a story. One city, two worlds.

I was driving Mike, from the trailer park, to purchase a wheelchair he discovered in a newspaper add. It took me to an area in the city I had not known existed. A community of picker cabins on the side of an orchard. At first sight I thought I was transported to scenes of Romania. The squalor was evident everywhere.

We bought the wheelchair for $50 from a man with no legs. That community stayed with me.

I went back days later to visit. After several visits I was introduced to a community of 15 – 20 people living together. Immigrants, French Canadians, First nations and Caucasians all living in shared community. Addiction and poverty were their common ground. We have been journeying with them for two years now. Last week they were told they have 10 days to leave. Some have lived there up to 8 years and none less than 3 years. Seeing them weeping and panicked I offered to pray with them. Prayer is easy to offer in those situations. Answers less so. I offered to help and trusted God would show me what he is doing.

Many of them are afraid they will end up on the streets… and die on the streets.

The owners are a family in the city with many holdings. They own restaurants, golf courses, vineyards, orchards. After meeting with them yesterday I was able to understand the public relations nightmare this has become to the owners. A third world community in a city of wealth. Not one shack has running water or bathroom facilities. A shared wash house is overrun with septic problems and addicts rule the community life. Owners caught in story they did not plan to write. We were able to get the picker community an extra month to relocate. They all thanked me and said they will finally sleep. Now the real work begins. Finding them a home. I wonder what God will do?

Two unlikely groups connected in a story. One city, two worlds.

Finding myself in a unfolding story of one city and two worlds.

~ by blueporch on June 19, 2010.

2 Responses to “One city, two worlds”

  1. Funny how God leads us into people’s lives to be a blessing, not a cure, and definitely not their saviour. But clearly your courage and love reveals the God of courage and love – He’s there for all who have eyes to see Him in you. I love the sound of your ministry in Kelowna.

  2. In a city with so much wealth, one wonders how there can be so much poverty right next door – where and how does this “One City, two worlds” get created? And yet as I look back through the scriptures it seems this dichotomy has always existed, and not only in Kelowna, but in cities all over the world. Perhaps it stems from our own hearts. Perhaps the way of healing for ourselves is to reach out to our neighbor who needs help.

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