Friday, October 30, 2009
We still have one meeting left, which will happen today with Jim Beverly, a well-known authority on world religions. We've met with all the others earlier in the week, and everything was great. Two of the organizations we met with were focused on poverty and caring for the economically poor. Another was focused on art and artists, asking: how can art play a bigger role in our Christian faith and vice-versa? The last one we met with was focused on homosexuals, asking: amidst the wide spectrum of Christian opinions on homosexuality, how can we offer those dealing with it a safe-haven for discussion, counseling, and understanding? Of course, this has offered all of us, individually and collectively, an abundance of fodder for thought and discussion. For me, it's been nice to meet with these organizations a second time because I'm not swept off my feet with each new place we visit. Last year, these people were so insightful, compassionate, and dedicated to their causes, after each meeting I was convinced their respective cause and perspectives on that cause were the only things that mattered. This year, having become "a bit less vague to myself", I'm more certain of my personal goals. Nonetheless, this year's visit to Toronto has still had a significant impact on a few beliefs of mine; specifically, what Geoff Ryan at 614 Salvation Army shared about our undeniable call as Christians to identify with the poor. Geoff, his wife, and their 3 or 4 kids live in Regent Park, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Canada because of the poverty and gangs that are present there. He has chosen to live in this neighborhood because he believes there's no other way to have a significant impact on it. So, his kids go to school there at a sub-par inner city school, and when there's a shooting or a fire in the middle of the night and everybody is outside, he and his family are outside, too--immersed in all the action of the neighborhood, living side-by-side with these people. Of course, the difference is that he and his wife have chosen to live there, the others have never had a choice. He explains that Christ had all the choices in the world, he was God!, but he chose to humble himself and become one of us, and absorb the sins of the "neighborhood". This is how Geoff theologically explains his calling to the inner city, and it's a passionate one. Just one example here of some of the amazing things we've come across this week. We pray that amidst all the info-influx, we are able to personally take steps towards making these ideas and concepts concrete realities in our own lives. Thanks for reading.
Posted by Denny Flanagan at 7:36 AM
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Tomorrow we leave for a week-long trip to Toronto with our school. Altogether there will be 11 of us (six students, four staff, and one baby) on the trip. Fortunately, we've made some great connections through friends to be able to stay at some nice houses while we're there. I (Denny) have taken on the responsibility of planning what we'll be doing and who we'll be visiting during the week. Last year while I was a student we went to Toronto, and this year will be very similar. We'll be meeting with Yonge Street Mission (http://www.ysm.ca/), a ministry in downtown Toronto working with the poor, and John Franklin, the executive director of Imago Arts (http://www.imago-arts.on.ca), an organization that exists to "to engage in promoting artistry of high caliber that will be both enriching and carry positive influence on the Canadian cultural landscape". We'll also be meeting with Geoff Ryan from the Salvation Army along with his Ignite interns (http://www.614network.com/regentpark/) to learn more about the intensive, amazing things he and his team are doing in an area of Toronto torn apart by gang-violence and poverty. That same day we'll travel out to Mississauga to meet with Wendy Gritter (http://www.btgproject.blogspot.com/) from New Direction, an organization doing some amazing things related to the homosexuality issues within the church. I encourage anyone to check out her blog, very interesting stuff all the time. Lastly, we're meeting with our friend Andrea's father, James A. Beverly, who happens to be a significant authority on world religions within the evangelical Christian milieu. In fact, he recently finished a book, Nelson's Illustrated Guide to World Religions, which Hans Kung (a world-renowned Catholic theologian) has given his illustrious commendation to. I wrote him to ask if he would meet with us humble YWAMers and he replied saying only because his daughter said he should. I appreciated his honesty! We'll meet with him on Friday to discuss how we as Christians can gain new perspectives on other religions and learn to live side-by-side with people of other faiths in our immigrant-rich context. Amidst all of that, we'll find time to do some sight-seeing and walking around the big city of Toronto. It's the biggest in Canada, with roughly 4.5 million inhabitants. A staggering statistic we heard this week is that 47% of people living in Toronto were born outside of Canada. That's a lot of immigration! So, we're looking forward to an engaging, motivating week. When we return, we'll be looking forward to a bit of a calmer November than October. Lauren has finished and passed her French course, so we're getting better with the language obstacle every day. It's really exciting once you get over that hump, language-wise. So, when we return, we'll be able to really get settled in for the long haul and continue this wonderful journey we're on together. Our funding is really tight, but we know we're where we're supposed to be. We'll write again soon. Check out the links I listed above if you're interested; all the organizations are really interesting to learn about. Love ya!
Posted by Denny Flanagan at 10:05 AM
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Well, we're about finished with the first two weeks of our school, and, of course, it's been a whirlwind of activity. Lauren is almost finished with her six-week French course and has really benefited from it. Next week we're in for a great week of teaching on urban missiology. The week after that we're headed to Toronto to meet with a few great ministries out there. By the time we return, we'll be ready to settle into more of a routine, getting involved in both of our volunteering responsibilities and continuing to run the school. This morning it was 30 degrees outside. There were actually a few flakes of snow falling from the sky! It's October 15th! Despite the prematurely freezing weather, we're doing great! Enjoying the excitement of being on our own and learning our rhythms as a family once again. I (Denny) have my second Montreal gig on November 13th, so am beginning to practice/prepare for that. Of course, there's much more to tell you, but we must be patient. Thanks for following!
Posted by Denny Flanagan at 2:57 PM