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And Who Is My Neighbour?
Toronto City Mission workers believe relationships are important.  Staff members rent apartments in the neighbourhood they want to reach and live among them.

In pockets of poor communities across the city, staff from Toronto City Mission take the command to “love thy neighbour” quite literally. They move in next door.

Steve Chu

For nine years, Mission staff have left material, social, and spiritual comforts to take up residence in low-income communities such as: Jane-Finch, Malvern, and St. James Town.

“It’s about living life with people,” says Steve Chu, Director of Ministry. “We try not to focus so much on programs, but more on relationships.”

Two staff members rent or purchase accommodation where possible, in each community and bring services and assistance to the residents, instead of the other way around. By doing this, they hope to demonstrate God’s love to the neighbourhood.

For example, in St. James Town and Malvern, the Toronto City Mission is helping single mothers, children, and families by simply being there. Helping children and youth with homework, going on shopping trips with mothers, mentoring a parent over lunch, reading to children, and community Bible studies are just some of the ways they reach out.

A typical day in the Jane-Finch community for staff member, Jil Koller, starts with an early morning walk, personal errands, and then running a general education development (GED) program for 10 to 12 women seeking a high school diploma.

Jil gets to know these women very well, and celebrates their joys and sorrows inside and out of class—whether through personal conversations, phone calls, or invitations to visit people in their homes.

“The feedback from the community is that it’s great to have people be available to talk to,” says Chu. “Staff have become friends and neighbours.”

Tutoring and after-school programs have also been very beneficial for parents and their children, as they gain renewed confidence in their academic abilities. The Mission aims to grow strong community leaders, reduce drop-out rates, and help children and youth continue on towards a higher education.

“Our motto is giving so others can give,” says Chu. “We want to give to these communities so they can, in turn, give to each other.”

The Toronto City Mission staff raise 25 to 100 percent of their salaries and are supported through individuals, churches, corporations, and companies.

The Mission also offers year-long internships for young people who want to grow in Christian character, develop leadership skills, and minister to the city’s urban poor.

For more information, visit Toronto City Mission’s website.

Melissa Yue is a Toronto-based freelance writer. 

Originally published on the Maranatha News website, June 15, 2008.




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