The historic Ottawa neighbourhood of Vanier, where Marion and I make our home with our daughter Bethany, has a reputation as a dark place. Over the past forty or so years, Vanier has been written off by many as a depressed area, the abode of undesireables and unfortunates, the home of crime, prostitution and drug addiction. And so, when Marion and I moved to Vanier a little over five years ago, we got some raised eyebrows. When I tell people at work that I live in Vanier, they often look a bit shocked, as if to say “Who in their right mind would live there?”.
Most caricatures contain at least some truth, and it is true enough that Vanier has had its share of problems. Yet Vanier also has many wonderful features, not least of which is its rich diversity of languages and cultures – French, English, Inuit, Portuguese, and many others. Our neighbours, for the most part, are ordinary folk who have the usual desires shared by people everywhere, and want to live peaceable lives in a safe community.
Still, it would be naive to deny the existence of darkness in Vanier. As I walk through the streets on my way to work, there are places where evil is almost palpable. Yet the truth is that there is darkness everywhere. It’s just a little more obvious in some places than in others. The pain and despair that are hard to ignore in some corners of Vanier are simply a reflection of the brokenness of our human condition. A thick blanket of darkness covers the earth. This darkness takes many forms. Murder, poverty, corruption, war, pollution, illness, abortion, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, prostitution, drug addiction, marriage and family breakdown, racism, genocide, persecution of religious minorities – the list goes on.
The common reaction to places that seem darker than most is to avoid them. But Jesus had a different approach. The world was also a dark place two thousand years ago. Into this dark world Jesus came, and in the midst of this dark world Jesus calls his people to live as bright shining lights that herald the coming dawn.
Over the past few months I’ve been blogging about my vision for a House of Prayer in Vanier. That vision is now one step closer to becoming a reality. Marion and I have met a wonderful praying couple who have opened their home as a birthing place for this new venture. We are less than two weeks away from our first potluck meal and sharing time. This gathering is open to anyone who wants to be part of birthing a House of Prayer in Vanier, or just wants to hear more and learn what it’s all about. I am excited about the opportunity to be part of seeing God knit together people from various backgrounds into a community of praying friends who want to be a reflection of His light here in this part of the world He loves.
It’s been said that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. Jesus calls his people to be like a city of light set on a hilltop, shining brightly for the world to see. That is our dream for the Vanier House of Prayer. If you want to know more, and you’re in the area, come and find out what it’s all about. If you can’t come, please pray for us. God bless you.
Date : Saturday January 26, 2013
Time : 7:00 pm
Bring : Food or drink to share. We will start with a potluck meal.
Place : 200 Levis Avenue, Vanier (Ottawa), Ontario
Hosts : Matthew and Simone Hadwen
RSVP : Please reply to this post if you are planning to come – especially if you haven’t already spoken to me about this.