Here at Union Gospel Mission, we’re used to celebrating lots of different kinds of love. Every day, we see the care between parents and children, the affection between friends and coworkers, the camaraderie between community members — and, every once in a while, we get to highlight romantic love! UGM couple Cody and Andrea were generous enough to sit down with us and share their story, how their relationship has evolved over the years, and what brought them to the Downtown Eastside.
Finding God, finding each other
For Cody and Andrea, love came early. “We met when we were 18, and we started dating when we were 19,” says Cody of their relationship. “God gave us clarity, even as 19-year-olds, that we’d found our spouse.” Their first date was a concert; on their second, they went snowboarding. “I’ve never gone again since that day,” Andrea laughs.
The pair met in Red Deer, Alberta, and in some ways, they were different: Andrea grew up in a Christian home, the youngest of four siblings, while Cody was raised in the middle of a large blended family and came to faith in his teens. (As he tells it, he wandered into church looking for a relationship and walked out with Jesus.) But they shared a love for God and a love for others. And as they began their careers and started their family, God was planting seeds for the future.
Trusting God with life’s big pivots
In the first years of their marriage, Cody worked in construction, while Andrea was at home with their three children. They eventually moved to Camrose, where Cody took up a position as an instructor at a technical college — a job he loved. When three of the senior faculty retired, he saw his opportunity to stay for the long haul: and then a strange thing happened. He began to sense God pointing him in another direction.
“I felt God asking me, now that I had achieved my dream, was I willing to hold it with an open hand?” he says. “As that question grew louder, I felt compelled to see what else might be out there.” His new path began to take shape: he would work in industry and go to seminary. And then a second surprise landed: the COVID-19 pandemic.
With industry shuttered and a job change no longer a great option, the couple decided to stay put. But their plans were interrupted again — this time by a phone call. “I had an old friend call me who at the time was the housing manager here at UGM,” recounts Cody. “And he said, ‘Hey, I don't know if this is a thing. But God's put you on my heart to let you know about this Maintenance Manager job.’” Cody’s initial reaction was a strong no, but he felt God challenging him to learn more. After several weeks of prayer with Andrea, his attitude had completely shifted: he was now worried he wouldn’t get the job.
It won’t come as a spoiler to learn that Cody was offered the position, which meant the family had to pack up for a move to the West Coast. But how did Andrea feel about a life change of this magnitude?
“I always had peace about it, which I’m really grateful for,” she says. “But I really struggled at the first job that I got here in Vancouver.” Andrea picked up work in her field as a medical office assistant, but the new role wasn’t a great fit. Several months into their life in Vancouver, she began to wonder if there might be a position at UGM for her, too. She applied for the Housing Administration role for The Sanctuary Transitional Housing Program. “I felt all of a sudden like, ‘Okay, God, you do have a plan. I did not expect this, but I think that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.’”
Building more than one family in Vancouver
Cody and Andrea have felt God’s provision as they’ve acclimatized to the West Coast and a city that is sometimes rumoured to be unfriendly. Their children have grown in how they understand God and how they love other people. Cody leads a team of 20 staff in keeping UGM’s six buildings in good working order, and Andrea now works as Housing Supervisor, where her role includes more individual case management. “I’ve found people at UGM have a desire to work together, to combine strengths, to build each other up, to encourage each other,” says Andrea. “It's like ‘Your successes are my successes.’ I really care about the people I work with.”
UGM community members, too, have been a source of encouragement to both Cody and Andrea. “It’s been really special to build these different layers of friendships in the community,” says Cody, who has gotten to know Men’s Recovery participants in a deeper way through leading bi-weekly morning meditations. “You have those mountaintop moments with these men and you also have those moments where you grieve. You live it in a different way, when it's like, ‘Oh, this is my brother that is struggling.’ And so it's been a stretching thing for me, to journey with people from all different walks of life.”
“With the women in our program, I get this opportunity to be a part of their everyday lives,” says Andrea. “I hear some of their struggles, some of their history, what their hopes are, their dreams and goals. They always want to share things to celebrate, and it makes me feel so honoured that they want to celebrate with me. And so I just really take in those moments.”
After many years of trusting God and each other, Cody and Andrea are committed to being sources of encouragement, help, and care in their community. Their love is a beautiful example of what God can do with willing hearts — and an openness to jump into the unknown.
Feeling your heart drawn towards the UGM community? Check out our available job openings and apply!
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