Lori has been working with Inner City Youth Alive for the past 17 years in the Bridge Drop-in Program. The Bridge provides a safe and fun environment for kids and teenagers to connect with caring adults, learn and grow in faith, and develop leadership skills. Dan, Lori and Finley continue to navigate work and home life in the North End of Winnipeg, walking in faith through their journey in ministry.
I had a few last places to drop off craft packages and groceries before heading home on a snowy night the week before Christmas. The back alley deliveries to this one particular house near the Balmoral Hotel had become all too familiar over the course of 2020. I didn’t think twice about its location or surroundings as I pulled up and hopped out of my van. As I loaded my arms with boxes of food, envelopes of stickers and other materials, I noticed a man sifting through the garbage bins a few houses down. This wasn’t an unusual sight for the neighborhood and I continued to collect what I needed and make my way to the door. After a brief, distant visit with some very excited but clearly Covid-fatigued young girls, I made my way back to the alley and saw the same man directly across from my vehicle, rummaging for cans and other treasures. Realizing that I had a food hamper leftover in my vehicle, I approached the man and asked, “Excuse me, if I gave you a box of food, do you have a place and the means to cook it?” The man looked at me confused but was happy to engage in conversation. He asked to see what I had and I opened my back hatch. His eye widened. The man introduced himself as Joe and told me that he would love to accept the box, but he was on bike and he stayed with his friend in the North End. I offered to drive the groceries to the address and he quickly used my phone to inform his roommate of the arrangement. Joe’s repetitious speech was filling with excitement as he explained to the woman on the other end what was going on. We chatted for a while longer, mostly him reminding me over and over again where the address was, which door to knock on, and who to ask for. I assured him that I knew where to go and promised to be there shortly. He rode off on his bike as fast as he could in the messy snow conditions. I drove to one last house before catching up to him on the street leading to his place. Joe thanked me over and over again as he kindly unloaded the boxes from my vehicle while I supervised his bike. The woman at the door had a look of shock and gratitude as he marched inside. We spoke a few more words, this time about what I do for work and how close his place was to ICYA. He knew of the building and promised to wave at me the next time he rode by. As I turned towards my vehicle Joe called out, “This is our lucky day! How could we be so blessed to receive all this?” I wished him a Merry Christmas and headed home.
My work as the Bridge Drop-in Director at Inner City Youth Alive has been altered in many ways over the course of the pandemic. I still connect with staff, support programs, and provide guidance and direction in our teen and children’s ministries, but I’ve also spent considerably more time knocking on doors and getting into the heart of the community. Connecting with parents and grandparents from six feet away has been a unique blessing during the challenges of this past year. The pandemic has hit all of us; affecting those on the margins especially hard. But it’s also brought us together. When the ICYA team checks in on a family and asks how they’re doing, we’re often asked the same questions in return. The concern goes both ways. While the desire to return to our regular programming is great, we’re continuing to see God at work in Winnipeg’s North End.
Colossians 3:12-14. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Lori & Dan Neufeld
Inner City Youth Alive