By Grace Boneschansker
It all started in 1982 when George, my husband, was first hired by the Toronto City Mission (TCM ) as a summer intern and then full time as a boy's director, in the fall. He led after-school Bible clubs in various parts of the city, a floor hockey program in the evening, canoe trips in the summer, and generally drove Don Patterson, the executive director at the time, crazy throughout the year. George's fondest memories occurred during his first summer there, when he learned the joy of performing puppet shows. There are still about 70 puppets in the house and about 40 original puppet scripts. He says, "The spirit is still willing but the arms are weak".
To this day, George is involved in children's ministry such as directing our church's plays and still loves interacting with the Sunday School kids in our church.
For me, it’s all about relationship building. Once you develop a relationship with someone, you have the opportunity to speak into that person's life. I love that philosophy that Toronto City Mission (TCM) lives by. Both of our daughters had the opportunity to work with TCM and develop those types of relationships.
Shannon, our eldest, was a summer intern in 2002. She shares with me a story of tutoring a young boy named Robbie*. "Robbie was smart but not always keen on schoolwork, and I suppose the rote nature of spelling may not have been his cup of tea. But over time, it was a joy to watch Robbie steadily improve and get better grades... as well as find out more about his world. The last I heard he was completing an aerospace engineering program at university."
Lastly our youngest, Jennifer describes her most memorable moment. As a summer intern in 2009 and Outreach Worker from 2010 - 2012, she led a lively after school program for children. One individual proved to be quite the handful. She recalls, "Despite the challenges of working with Stan*, I began to develop a close relationship with him. I discovered that he felt trapped in his perceived identity as the 'bad kid.' He really just wanted to be loved."
In a creative object lesson, she illustrated God's grace by taping pieces of paper with different sins written on them to an intern. She then explained to the children how we have all done wrong. Sometimes we feel like we are trapped and even though we want to do good things, we just can't. She starts to take off all of those labels that were taped to the intern and explains that because of the cross, God can take all those sins away from us. The only thing we need to do is be willing to let him.
"I remember Stan's face light up as I said the words. 'So, you don't have to do good things on your own?', he asked me, in complete surprise. " He continued, 'I don't need to keep on doing bad things?" For the first time in his life, Stan understood what God's grace really means.
The impact that TCM has on children will then influence their families, their communities, and perhaps the entire city and beyond. That's why I support TCM, where the dividends are far greater than financial. It's an investment in transformed lives.
There's an old African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child”, this exemplifies TCM's outreach to children and families. I think of all the parents, TCM staff, volunteers, and supporters (both financially and prayerfully) that are all involved in some way to build into these children's lives positive and biblical values that will serve them well in the years to come. With this support, I believe we can break the cycle of poverty by engaging our communities impacted by poverty through programs that educate, support and encourage them to do their best, where God is at the centre.
*Names have been changed to protect their identity.