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Apr23ThuLearning to see Jesus in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. April 23, 2015 by Nicole Brindle
A few weeks before my 14th birthday, I threw a party when my mother was out. It didn't create the friendships I was hoping for, but I did get a lot of people to come. I lost count at 50. It was like a scene right out of a movie—loud music, people all over the house, high-school seniors doing drugs I hadn't even heard about. To top it off, someone knocked my mom's ceramic golden retriever figurine off the shelf and it shattered.
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I managed to clean the house before my mom got back and thought I had gotten away with everything, until a concerned neighbour called. My mom, who was raising me on her own, had already noticed I was in trouble. My punishment was to attend the new youth group at the corps we sometimes attended. At the time, I thought it was the worst punishment ever!
But Friday nights turned into Sunday mornings and Sunday mornings turned into several days a week. I went to music camp and youth councils. I had many opportunities to give my life to Christ and I wanted to be a Christian, but even though I was learning about God, I still didn't believe in him. I kept searching and waiting.
In January 2000, my youth pastor was invited to be the worship leader at a conference. I tagged along, wanting a fun weekend away, but I got so much more. The first thing we did was called “pray the Bible.” I felt a little out of place, so I found a spot at the back of the room to observe. I noticed the enthusiasm and conviction in the room and I was overcome by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then came the moment.
As people were praying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12 ESV), it hit me. I realized the Lamb is worthy and he is worthy of my life. In that moment, I experienced salvation through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
That was 15 years ago. Since then, I have been on a journey of faith and living it out in Christian community. After high school, I moved to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to attend The War College for discipleship and evangelism training. When I arrived, I was insecure, wearing many masks to hide deeply rooted pain. The War College provided a place for me to experience healing and deliverance. And in the midst of my own healing, I got to play a part in ushering others toward freedom.
Not only is God here … he has plans, hope and a future for my neighbours and for this neighbourhood
The War College is located in a neighbourhood notorious for poverty, homelessness, drugs and prostitution, but I quickly began to see beauty here. As I met people who were addicted, lonely or prostituted, I began to see Jesus.
One constant theme in my journey of faith has been the kingdom value of commitment. I have no plans to ever leave the Downtown Eastside. Is it all butterflies and rainbows? No. In fact, most days are hard and sometimes I wonder if God will ever breathe life into this place. But when I pray and I'm in the presence of the Lord, I'm convinced that not only is he here, but that he has plans, hope and a future for my neighbours and for this neighbourhood.
My life is full of mission and adventure and I get to live out this adventure in Christian community, with an eclectic group of kingdom-minded people. Our life together is organic, messy and incarnational. I absolutely love what I do and the people I get to do it with.
Nicole Brindle is the director of discipleship at The War College in Vancouver. You can connect with her at Nicole@thewarcollege.com or on Twitter, Instagram or Vine @nicolebrindle.