My wife, Chrissy, and I came to Montreal, Quebec, as Mission Canada workers, and started studying with a French Training program (FIT4M – see https://fit4m.ca). We were immersed in our language training and partnering in church ministry when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With everything shutting down, we immediately tried to figure out what we should do. Jesus opened a door right away, and we were able to help start an emergency food bank called Innovation Assistance on St. Catherine’s Street in downtown Montreal. The food bank’s launch was a collaborative effort between Evangel Church, Innovation Youth, and Concordia University. It has been a privilege to serve people in our community who are struggling during the pandemic.
I love the work that we do at Innovation Assistance. We not only get to feed people who are physically hungry, but we do our best to feed their souls as well. Every day that we’re open for our clients (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), I have the opportunity to speak life into those who come through our doors. This is my community. I’ve met Suresh, a student from India, who has helped us to set up a system for portioning food, and who is open to spiritual discussions. I’ve met Akbar, one of our clients who also happily volunteers and serves other clients as well. I’ve met Farhad, who has struggled with loneliness—so he stays and chats after getting his food. I’ve met Demitri, who lost his job because of an injury, and I’ve been able to pray with him. These are people I’m privileged to call my friends, and I feel blessed that God has put them in my life.
Then there’s Sarah, an international student. One day when she came in, she was telling me that she won a competition for a project she had done in university. As she told me her good news, I felt my heart swelling up with pride like a proud father. Sarah is close in age to my daughters. I told her how I felt, and she began to get emotional. Then she told me that her dad had passed many years ago and that being in Canada without family made her happy to have someone like me (a “dad” figure) be proud of her. That day opened the door to many discussions with my new “adopted daughter.”
Davis is an unemployed older gentleman who has been very discouraged. Recently, as Davis came in near closing time to pick up his food, I could tell there were deeper things going on that were troubling him. I asked him to grab a seat, and we talked. We talked about what was going on in the world overall, and then … he just opened up.
Davis said, “It feels like life is just beating me down.” He shared about how he’s never had to use a food bank before and that he just couldn’t get a job. He felt like nothing was working out in life. Then he asked the question, “Did I do something wrong? Is God upset with me?”
I then had the opportunity to speak words of encouragement and life to him. I shared how God has given me hope in troubled times. We all face difficulties, but Jesus walks with us through them. We ended our time with a word of prayer and he left with a joy and peace that he said weren’t there before. This is only the beginning of our friendship and his spiritual journey.
This pandemic has been hard for everybody, but it’s also opened a lot of doors. There wouldn’t have been a food bank in our downtown area; I would not have met all of the people I work with and serve; and I would not have been able to have these conversations—and many others—if not for the pandemic. Each day is a blessing and an opportunity if we allow God’s Spirit to lead us. I’m grateful for the privilege to be a part of what He’s doing.
(Names have been changed for confidentiality)
Cal Krahn is a Mission Canada worker in Quebec with 30 years of ministry experience. They try to live lives based on the example of Jesus.
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