Heading into the Vancouver Urban Plunge, I was quite nervous. Being from a small town of 700 people, wandering the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside scared me a lot and I was anxious about the week. My leader, Rachel, prayed for me and encouraged me to go in with an open mind, knowing that God went with me. She encouraged me to see the people of the Downtown Eastside as fellow children of God. Like many other times this semester, I had to realize that every single person we come in contact with has a story, and we should not come to any conclusion about them without understanding their background. I went to bed that night feeling much more optimistic about the week, but still a bit nervous.
On Monday we were in small groups and participated in a “learning tour” to gain a better understanding of the city. We spent the morning walking around and my group met Lou, a middle-aged man who was currently experiencing homelessness. Lou touched our hearts very deeply as he openly shared part of his story with us. He also made us think with his perspective. Lou was particularly upset about how people immediately think that he is abusing drugs because he is Aboriginal and presently on the streets. He told us over and over again to not assume anything about anyone without knowing who they are, a concept we have been learning a lot about this year with Outtatown.
Another thing Lou spoke about that really made us think was about the mission organizations throughout Vancouver. Most of the places where he was able to stay had bed bugs and no one else would want to stay there. Why would he? It was really interesting to gain that new perspective, while also keeping in mind that some organizations do offer great things. Though most of what Lou had to say to us was negative, he impacted my life and made me want to be part of creating change in this corruptive cycle.
Those four days we spent in the Downtown Eastside talking with many people and hearing their stories totally opened my eyes and changed my perspective of that area. Most people there LOVE to talk with you and hear about your family, where you come from, where you've been, where you are going, and anything else you are willing to tell them. Most of the people there care a lot about you and would protect you from harm.
That week, I saw the people of the Downtown Eastside as beloved children of God who are made in His image, just like me and the rest of my team. It was a blessing to be amongst a group of people who challenged me to face my fears and who continually encouraged me while I did that.
– Tana Thiessen, Guatemala student, 2017-18