Sometimes we see the very best of humanity in the most desperate of places. I was at the shelter watching as a team member was talking gently with a nervous resident, listening kindly and encouraging them to go to the hospital for their severe frostbite. The resident was nervous and hesitant to go.
Another resident came over and offered to go with him to the hospital so he didn’t have to be alone.
The one sick man said to the other, “Man I don’t want you to waste your day with me.” To which the other responded by grabbing his shoulder, looking him in the eyes and saying, “You’re my friend. I care about you. I would rather waste my day with you than not have you here anymore.”
We all cried as they left together, two desperate souls, supporting each other in holy friendship.
It’s moments like this that I see the imprint of the divine on the human soul. It is in friendship, family and community that we find wholeness, healing and a life worth living. I believe that each of us was made by love to be loved. We crave it as much as we crave water, and having it is as essential to life as air.
At Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, our aim is to provide a community where people can be made whole. This is not a one-way street, and it’s not a service we provide. It’s an ideology we subscribe to. Because it’s not “us” healing “them”—at that moment, bearing witness to that beautiful friendship in suffering, I too am made whole.
For the love of all,
My name is Luke and I’m 41 years old. I’ve experienced homelessness firsthand, as well as addiction, violence, trauma, abuse, mental health issues and deep demoralization. I’ve also seen how your generosity is a lifeline for people who are down and out in our city.
The difficulties in my life stem back to severe trauma in my early childhood. I was so young, and I turned to alcohol when I was 13 to ease my pain.
By the end of high school, I had developed a problem—a big one.
Entering college, I drank more… I didn’t even attend my graduation.
Over the next few years, I was hanging out with the wrong people. Dozens of times, I was hospitalized due to drinking, violence and drug use. My struggle with addiction got so bad, I couldn’t hold a job down. I was homeless, living in my car with nowhere to go because I’d burned every bridge in my life.
My health was disintegrating at an alarming rate.
At just 25 years old, I was going into liver failure (thankfully, I recovered). Dozens of times, I experienced alcoholic seizures and severe withdrawal. I found myself in nightmarish situations. Like being stabbed, cut, beaten and tortured. My bones have been broken, and multiple times I’ve had to be put in medically-induced comas.
I have a trail of ruined relationships. There was a point when I was feeling so low, I asked myself, “Why continue?” I tried to take my own life.
Fortunately, I’m still here. And I’m telling you this because recovery is possible.
After six addiction treatments, I achieved sobriety and returned to school to become an Addiction Social Worker.
Thanks to donors like you, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission gave me something priceless: purpose. They allowed me to do my practicum as a Resident Support Worker, working directly with our shelter residents on the frontline.
This was a pivotal moment in my life—I found my passion for helping others.
I’ve been clean and sober for eight years now. I take care of myself, and I’m living my passion. Last year, I moved into a caseworker role where I apply my education and experience to empower others experiencing homelessness and addiction. For the first time in my life, I love my job.
“Compassionate people like YOU are the reason I am able to come to work and guide others toward healing and wholeness. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to fight this fight and fulfill my dreams.” — Luke
Our beloved Outreach Manager, JoAnne McKenzie, is set to retire in June.
From managing staff and budgets to providing training and performing casework on the streets—JoAnne’s role was multi-faceted. She’s impacted so many by serving and connecting with people on the streets and providing them with support, whether it’s filling out birth certificate applications, getting them on assistance, or performing other tasks.
“When working with clients who are struggling with addiction or other challenges, I remember that they are each a blessing in my life and have taught me valuable lessons about resilience, compassion and the human spirit. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve my community and make a difference,” JoAnne said.
In retirement, she plans to continue giving back to the community through volunteering, perhaps spending some time in our kitchen! She’s looking forward to making a positive impact after retiring from full-time work.
We’re so grateful for her many years of wonderful service. Thank you for everything, JoAnne!