In the Fraser Valley, the Mobile Mission is Lowering Barriers and Offering Unconditional Care
A lot of existing services and neighbourhood programs depend on people coming indoors—into buildings, workshops, and recovery groups. But what about people who don’t feel ready to come in? For Outreach Workers and colleagues Ed and Shelley, that’s why it’s so important that the Mobile Mission goes out.
“The Mobile Mission is about building relationships with people over time,” says Ed. “We come with no expectations. We come with no agenda or anything other than to love people where they're at.”
Founded on practicality and offering emergency support, the Mobile Mission is, at its core, an Outreach Centre on wheels, bringing hope and needed supplies to people experiencing homelessness, poverty, and addiction. The Fraser Valley Mobile Mission is one of two UGM rescue vans in circulation—the other serving Metro Vancouver—and is equipped with everything that can help with survival, from clothing, sandwiches, and meals, to blankets and toiletries. The van goes out up to six days a week, rotating its route between Mission, Abbotsford, and Langley.
“We start the day with prayer,” says Shelley. “We just open ourselves to God’s leading—He drives our van.” She adds, laughing, “Jesus take the wheel!”
Through active listening and careful attention, Ed and Shelley have established a Mobile Mission schedule that has enough flexibility to connect with people who have often lost routine in their lives. “We will see people who are maybe in a doorway, on a bench, or under a bridge, and we’ll simply ask if there's anything that we can assist them with,” explains Ed. “What we hear time and time again is that the food is great, but what matters more is that we take the time to listen. It's about having a conversation and finding out what their struggles actually are.”
For many people navigating homelessness and poverty, the obstacles they face have only increased over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with inflation, has made an overwhelming situation worse for people with limited incomes.
“It’s a very uncertain world. People are struggling with the cost of groceries, gas,” says Shelley. “A lot of seniors are being displaced, as they can't afford where they’re living. And of course, there's generational poverty, which is systemic, and a cycle that's hard to get out of. When people don’t feel they can deal with their life circumstances, the hopelessness can lead to mental health struggles and addiction.”
It’s these systemic hurdles that keep Ed and Shelley doing more with the Mobile Mission than simply giving out meals. “We take community members to look at housing, we take them to doctor's appointments and hospital visits, we drop them off at probation offices—all of those things,” says Ed. The team also offers tax help, ID recovery, and assistance with navigating the Ministry of Social Development.
The Mobile Mission takes the long approach to building relationships and providing care. It can take years before people feel ready to take their next step. “We knew a woman and her boyfriend, both of whom struggled with addiction,” says Shelley. “We supported them wherever they were, brought hampers of food, and just really spent time with them. Fast forward a year and a half: we were in Abbotsford and lo and behold, there they were.”
After an altercation where her boyfriend ran off, the woman connected with the Mobile Mission and was ready to make some changes. Ed and Shelley accompanied her to her camp to collect her things, and were able to find her a room at a shelter in Richmond. From there, she went through stabilization at St. Paul’s Hospital and then into recovery at UGM. “We were at the right place at the right time; another instance of listening to God’s leading,” Shelley recounts. “Now, she has hopes. She's an artist, and she's looking at, ‘Hey, where do I go from here? And what does God have in store for me?’”
Both with their own unique stories of how God has lifted them out of addiction, Ed and Shelley find great meaning in supporting others experiencing similar valleys. It’s this reciprocity and non-judgemental approach that makes community members glad to see the Mobile Mission.
“People love that we come around. We tell them ‘We love you, God loves you, just exactly where you're at, no expectations of change,’” says Ed. “When appropriate, we share a bit of our stories. We get to say, ‘Yeah, I know what it's like to be there. And you know, it's not always going to be this way. There’s hope.’”
Your 2022 Mobile Mission Impact So Far
As Shelley says, “We couldn't do this without the amazing generosity of our donors. Everything we have comes from donors. It comes in, and it goes out.” Take a look at how your support has provided hope in the Fraser Valley this year.*
- Items of clothing given: 394
- Sleeping bags, tents, and blankets given: 200
- Rides given: 51
- Total number of people reached: 4,072
Another way you can support the Mobile Mission is through prayer. “Prayer changes things,” says Ed. “It really makes a difference. Without your prayers, this wouldn't be the same ministry.”