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The Resurrection Changes Everything: Stories of New Life From Our Drop-In Neighbours

Saskatoon Site Leader Katelyn shares about the seeds of holistic transformation she is witnessing grow out of the death of winter and the end of our Drop-In Centre. Our God works through death and loss to bring new life into our community. Here are some ways she has seen this in Saskatoon's Westside.

April is a month of miracles! How have I missed this every year? Usually, I disparage April for its hues of brown and varying degrees of soggy and crispy death: A few reluctant piles of stiff dirty ice harbored under trees and shady places. Swirling dust storms pick up months of winter litter, strewing it through yards and parking lots, eventually to be hung up on chain link fences. Death, dust, dirt, wind.  These are the quintessential markers of April in the Prairies. 

But this year, in this season of Eastertide, I‘ve finally adopted different eyes. A few days after Easter Sunday, the snow hadn't even fully melted yet and I was walking through the park to my coworker’s apartment. And there at the community gardens, were some dutiful Nepali elders, poking around at the soil of their garden plots that had just emerged. Surely it was still frozen, too early to plant or even to til. But here they were, hunched over with age or curiosity or both, anticipating already the new life that this seemingly barren soil would host.

Elders gardening in spring
Nepali elders coming to the garden in early spring.

What are they seeing?

I recently returned from Sabbatical. As I re-engage with our community in Saskatoon, I’ve been training my eyes to see little seeds and shoots of new life that took root in my absence. Maybe because of this habit, on a recent walk along the south Saskatchewan River, little miracles kept stopping me dead in my tracks. Crispy grey branches with tiny little buds on them. A butterfly, then two, flitting their way across my path. A robin’s puffy red chest and charming birdsong. And here and there, I swear I saw little tufts of greening grass!

Signs of spring, a crocus
A crocus, one of the first flowers of spring!

April, in season and in soul,  is a difficult time to see new life. It is very easy to focus on death, endings, and and absences. In our community, we recently marked the one-year anniversary of the closure of our beloved Drop-In Centre. Since returning from Sabbatical, I am constantly hearing comments in the community like “ I miss that place,” "Will we open another one?” It’s been a whole year since it closed, and still the community is mourning this special place of gathering and belonging. A place where they contributed their gifts and were celebrated for it. A place where they took ownership and leadership. A place that was truly “ours”, in the collective sense.

This month we hosted a drop-in reunion party to mark the one-year anniversary. We gathered all the previous staff (there were over 20 staff that had been employed there over its years) and the core community members. We were excited to reconnect!  It had many similarities to a high-school reunion, with an intergenerational flare. We spent time catching up: Who’s pregnant? Who’s in prison? Who has a new diagnosis? New jobs? New relationships? New homes? and together we shared memories and celebrated the impact we’d had in the community and on one another.

Neighbours gathering in community hoping for change
The Drop-In reunion one year after it closed.

Bonnielee, a staff who was with us since opening day, shared about how impactful it was for her to  get to use her gifts to care for the community: "even though I didn't think I had anything to give, you guys seemed to think I did and somehow I began to believe that."

“even though I didn’t think I had anything to give, you guys seemed to think I did and somehow I began to believe that.” ~Bonnielee

Since the drop-in closed, she’s been focusing those gifts on caring for her neighbours in her seniors’ apartment building. She’s even advocated to have two of the regular Drop-In members move into her building. They now experience the relief of secure, stable housing. This is an example of Servant Partners' hope for holistic transformation. Neighbours' needs are met in a holistic way, and in the process, the advocate is also being transformed.

Those three neighbours came to the reunion party together. During the sharing time, Reg reminisced with the group about how impactful the art times at the Drop-In center had been. In the days of its closing, around Easter a year ago, he made a final art project of the empty tomb. As he celebrated the sense of new life he’s felt through the Drop-in community that’s continued beyond its closure, he declared emphatically “The resurrection changes everything!”  

Though it was a memorial event of sorts, it was difficult to leave that event feeling sad. The sense of community; belonging; the deepening of faith and prayer; the opportunity to recognize our gifts and share them together; all of these miracles that took place inside the special walls of our Drop-In Center are not wasted! They were seeds planted that have deepened their roots. Though the soil may seem dormant, there are shoots of new life popping up all around!

Easter art, empty tomb, resurrection
Reg's Easter artwork: The Empty Tomb.

"The Resurrection changes everything!" ~Reg

 Since the reunion party, I’ve visited Reg and Bonnielee in their apartment building. I met with them in the bustling common area where a lot of residents mill about, sipping coffee and longing for connection. And the Spirit is stirring something inside of Bonnielee. What if she transplanted her gifts of cultivating community here, among her immediate neighbours?

A group of us also visited a previous Drop-In staff member who is now grappling with a terrifying diagnosis. With prayers and tears, we shared this sacred space together. And the Spirit is stirring something there, a longing for wholeness and restoration, for God’s Kingdom come.

As I am writing this a two day blizzard has completely covered the grass that was greening. Yet I’m still believing in those miracles happening just out of sight, below the surface. This Eastertide, my neighbours are giving me eyes to see the hope for new life all around us. The new life that Jesus brings is holistic, not only for our minds but also for our bodies and souls.

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