By Naomi Van De Visch (Communications Coordinator)
Hi, I am Naomi; wife and mother and TCM employee.
I was first introduced to TCM as a summer intern in 1998. I remember touring the Willowtree community that first summer: a young girl called out of a window of a 2nd story apartment to find out who we were, a young boy asked me to give him my watch, I saw the paint peeling off the fences and the well-used basketball court and felt something deep down inside that said “This is home”.
That summer, I broke up fights, I ran down the street after a child who took off after being picked on, I shared the gospel 40 times in 40 different ways, I acted as co-director and was completely in over my head and…I fell in love with the kids and the community. I had a deep sense of purpose – this is where I was called to be.
I served at Willowree as a summer intern and kids club (now Kids In Community) volunteer and Youth Extreme leader for 3 years. In 2001 I was hired to work as a full-time Community Missionary (now Outreach Worker). My husband and I took the role of a “Missionary” seriously and we moved to the neighbourhood (well as close as possible because we could not live in Toronto Community Housing). I loved the community and could dedicate my time and emotional energy to serving this beautiful but broken community with the love of God.
In June 2006, our first child entered the world. I spent a year of maternity leave learning what it meant to be a mom, giving myself whole-hearted to this little child. All my emotional energy and mental space was devoted to this brand new little life: what do I feed him? How long is he supposed to sleep? Do I wake? Is he ok? What cloth diapers should I buy?
I returned to work in July 2007 part-time and found myself split between loving the children and families in Willowtree and loving my family. The children in Willowtree demanded my full attention and energy and I returned home to my husband and a young boy who both needed me to be at my best. After our second child, the TCM office was looking for an Administrator who could do it all (administration, volunteer management, communications, etc.). I devised a plan: I knew a wonderful administrator and I loved writing to my supporters and being creative, so why don’t we job share? The ED liked the idea and we were hired.
I have been working as Communications Coordinator at TCM for over 4 years and feel like I am learning and growing and contributing to the mission of TCM but at the end of the day I still have energy to give to my family.
This journey has redefined for me what it means to be a “Missionary”. I no longer work on the front lines at TCM serving kids and families in neigbhourhoods impacted by poverty, but two of our kids go to a “Model Inner-City School” and I am a co-chair of the parent council. I no longer knock on doors in Willowtree to visit moms and shut-ins, but last Christmas my kids and I baked cookies and delivered them to our neighbours. I no longer oversee programs and volunteers, but I attend programs with my 1 year old and meet other moms who are lonely and seeking hope. We no longer live in the community near Willowtree, but we now offer our house as a safe community for international students who are far from home.
In many ways, my job as a Community Missionary was the perfect training ground for me to become the Missional Mom that God is calling me to be.