SASKATOON, SK, CANADA
The city of Saskatoon, centred in the sprawling prairies of Treaty 6 Territory, boasts a beautiful river that flows through the heart of the city. A delight of the region, the river has also become an unfortunate symbol of the deeply ingrained divide in our city. Living on the “east side” or the “west side” has an immediate association for any Saskatoon local. The east side connotes wealth, hope, and prosperity. Meanwhile, the west side is a community that disproportionately experiences poverty and is too often feared, overlooked or pitied. Though we are dubbed the City of Bridges, deeper healing is needed to reconcile the race and class divide in our city.
The good news is that true to God’s heart, hope for this transformation is stirring from the margins. A movement committed to pursuing shalom in a space that is often overlooked is growing in the west side of Saskatoon.
The west side of Saskatoon is home to a diverse, resilient community. First Nations families moving off reserve and into the city make up about 40 % of the neighbourhood. Newcomers to Canada arriving as immigrants and refugees also contribute to our growing diversity. While coming from different contexts, these populations share a common hope of establishing a new life for their family to flourish. Yet the story of fear and division remains deeply ingrained here.
Our growing Servant Partners team lives in various homes in the Meadowgreen, Pleasant Hill and Riversdale neighbourhoods. We live here intentionally to share life with our neighbours and work together for the wellbeing and reconciliation of our community . As we pioneer this new site, we are learning what is important to our community and are responding accordingly! In the vibrant apartment complex we live in, we come alongside other tenants to care for one another and nurture advocacy. We partner with community associations and gather neighbours to engage in community safety and flourishing. We work with newcomer and Indigenous youth to lead efforts of reconciliation and to bridge their communities. We encourage Jesus-centered communities as a space to root our hope and joy while engaging in holistic discipleship.
Through presence and listening we continue to learn of many unfulfilled longings in the community. As we grow, we hope to see new initiatives catalyzed for employment, food security, housing advocacy, and community safety. We are eager to welcome new teammates with a courageous heart for reconciliation and a humble learning posture to work together with neighbours to fill these gaps. Together with our neighbours, we long to see more spaces for us all to encounter healing and transformation, and contribute together towards the holistic wellbeing of our community.
We also host interns and short-term visitors who are interested in being trained in long-term ministry in an urban poor context. If you are interested in joining our team you can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more on the internship site page.
The Karen people are an indigenous group from the southeastern country of Burma (formerly Myanmar) near the Thai border. They have been victims of ethnic cleansing for more than 50 years. In 2008 many Karen came to Saskatoon from Thai refugee camps. The parents and older Karen had already been displaced once, when they fled from the army burning down their villages to the refugee camps along the border of Thailand. Many younger Karen were born and raised in the camps. Until coming to Saskatoon, this was the only life they knew.
Since arriving in Saskatoon the Karen have formed a community group to maintain the practice of Karen language, culture, and tradition, and to share that with everyone in Saskatoon. They build a sense of cultural identity through programs like Karen language classes, culture camp and elder storytelling. They share the beauty of their resilient community with Saskatoon through hosting community programs like guitar, traditional sports, Karen dancing and cultural celebrations. For more information visit Saskatoon Karen Community on facebook.
The Servant Partners staff team has come alongside encouraging and developing local leaders in the Karen community since 2018. You can read stories about the youth hustle team on our blog!
Photo by Steve Kim @iamstevekim