A Gift to Celebrate

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What makes Christmas? Could it be the lights? The gifts? Perhaps the wonderful songs we love to sing? Maybe the opportunities to gather together with friends and family? Or perhaps it is the joys of giving and receiving gifts.

The wise old man said, …..“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

We often get so excited about all the glitter and glow of Christmastime, that we get distracted to seek and look for the star of Jesus! When Christ was born, light shone brightly into a dark world. Christ brought a light that would shine to the furthest corners of the world! Although Jesus was born into a carpentry family, He brought and offered the greatest riches we could possibly know. He offered us the gift of eternal life!

One Christmas a man decided to try an experiment in gift giving. He went to the bank and withdrew 100 dollar bills. He then went to a busy street corner and started holding up money to people passing by. Most people sped up and walked by him fearing that he may have been a tad off kilter. Some simply laughed and mocked. Then two young delivery boys came by. They were tired, hungry and cold from a hard days work. They excitedly approached the man holding the dollar bills. After each boy took a few dollars, one of the boys asked, “now what do you want us to do to earn this money?” Not one thing the man replied. Just have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

This is precisely the gift that God offers each of us. He longs for us to accept the gift of Jesus from His outstretched hands. We are not asked to earn and work for this life transforming gift. We only need to accept and believe.

As we accept the gift of Jesus, our duty is to show that the Christmas spirit is seen as an appropriate reflection of the greatest gift that anyone could hope for. Our responsibly is to celebrate God’s gift to us!

We celebrate because Christ came to save us from our sins. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). God sent Christ to save us from our sins. He did not send Christ for a select few, but for everyone! Further the bible teaches that “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

It is celebratory to understand that Christ came to provide light in an otherwise dark world! When we come to know Him and believe in Him we not only have light but we also have hope. Christ promises to be the light that will lead us through both the tough and good parts of our lives. Finally, Isaiah shares “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). So we celebrate Jesus, as He is our Wonderful Counselor, Our Mighty God, Our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace!

This Christmas season, do delight in the glitter, lights, gifts, music, and gatherings with friends and family. However, may we also be blessed to reflect deeply on the greatest gift anyone could receive. And as we do so, may we truly celebrate the gift of Jesus!

From your friends at Toronto City Mission, we wish you a peaceful, joyful, and celebratory Christmas!

Merry Christmas friends!

Hope through Education: Role Model Moms Testimonies

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Teaching at Role Model Moms is a privilege that I am lucky to have.  Every day I get to come to work and walk alongside a group of strong, intelligent, and motivated women who continuously inspire me. I have put together a few different perspectives, ranging from the staff to the students, to share a bit more about what Role Model Moms is like.  I hope this gives some perspective and insight to the impact that this small but powerful program has on the women we get to serve.

From some of our current students

“I feel great.  Looking forward to completing the program, so I can get started on future studies.  This course has met and exceeded my expectations. I am very grateful to have come”

“I’ve learned a great deal and everyone is pleasant, and the teacher teaches and explains everything very well.”

“(I feel) positive and uplifted to go forth in life”

I feel that the Role Model Moms is a wonderful program with great teachers and amazing tutors. This course is what I expected because I am learning things that I never learned and understood.
— Current RMM Student

“I am looking forward to furthering my education in the medical field.  The GED program here at RMM has been my first step in that direction.”

(In response to what obstacles are making it hard for you to get your GED):

“MATH! I despise integers but I am slowly getting the hang of it”

“Nothing is standing in my way to achieve my dreams”

From one of our Graduates

What motivated you to register for the RMM Program?

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Graduate from the RMM Program

Motivation came from my son and wanting to make a better future for my family.

What were your expectations from the program?

I expected that the program would help me find the right path to achieve my goals.  I plan on attending post secondary and getting a better career. I found that school was challenging and exciting at the same time.  The reason it was challenging was because I had left school many years ago. Now as an adult it is exciting because I can say I have gone back to school to get my diploma.

How did you find out about the program?

I was attending TDSB Essential Skills upgrading program.  My teacher there referred me to Role Model Moms because I had told her I wanted to attend college.  She recommended I get my GED high school equivalency in order attend post secondary.

Describe your first day:

I didn’t know what to expect.  I found the classroom to be a welcoming and friendly environment.  Class was motivational. The class was comfortable and it didn’t feel awkward at all.  The classroom was a mature setting. The students had similar backgrounds and perspectives.  

Why did you choose to continue in the class?

Determination.  I always remember a quote from my primary school teacher “ you try, try, until you succeed.” I knew if I didn’t try, I couldn’t succeed

What would you like to see changed if there was anything that could be different?

I wish there were more resources for the teacher.  Access to computers and internet would be helpful for assisting students in finding resources and doing work.  

What area are you considering studying?

Culinary and business management.  I always wanted to start my own business and have ideas for the future.  

Do you feel you have built positive relationships with other students or staff?

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Yes.  I learned many years ago working in the hotel that you need to be able to work with a variety of different personalities.  RMM is an opportunity to work with many different types of people.

Would you recommend this program and if so why?

Of course! It is a second chance at life.  A chance to be independent. Back home without high school I had a job.  They needed a skillful person and I had the skills. Here it is different- you need your high school equivalency for any job. This program has a positive effect on the mothers who attend.  The staff are non judgemental, sincere, and encouraging. This is a non profit organization and it’s more dedicated to providing that wow service to mothers of any age. I’m living proof that hard work and dedication pays off!

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No More Shame

About a month ago some of the youth from Willowtree and I were talking about church and our experiences. What was interesting was that most of the youth identified church as a place that made them feel bad about themselves more often than it made them feel good about themselves. Reflecting further on my conversation with them, this was something that really saddened me. I don't think that we should be leaving church feeling bad about ourselves. It was sad because our churches sometimes focus more on how our sins disconnect us from God, rather than on how we can grow in relationship with that same God–who above all else wants to connect with us.

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Church can AND SHOULD certainly be a place that we share sorrow or pain with one another.
But it should also be a place where we can share joy and recognize God's presence in one another's lives.

I think that it is really important to listen to the insight and honesty of our youth and reflect on what we are teaching and sharing in our churches. Part of the problem in terms of youth attending and being connected with churches might be a result of a failure in truly presenting who God is. When we look at Jesus interactions–whether with the woman at the well or the women caught in adultery, or with Peter after he had denied knowing Jesus three times–a constant theme seems to be that God delights in eliminating shame from people, not giving it to them. Are our churches presenting a God before whom we are never good enough? Or are they helping us to be reconciled to a God who created us in his own image and who wants to take away our shame?