The Name Of Love

By Gil Clelland

Love has a name.

We were out on an educational walk in our city’s core learning about poverty. Six SERVE students and I were engaged in a good conversation, trying to understand how people can end up on the streets and what we can do to respond. And then we saw him.

He sat there alone. People walked by. Perhaps they did not notice him. Perhaps they did not want to notice him. Grey, weathered clothing blended into the grey, weathered sidewalk. An empty hat opened expectantly to offerings from passers-by. A cardboard sign – “Any help will do.”

I knelt down to speak to him. The youth gathered with me. He looked at us all, and his hauntingly empty eyes met mine. “New to the city?” I asked.

“Just passin’ through…off to Toronto…soon, I hope”

“My name is Gil. Good to meet you,” I said, and I offered my hand.

“Yeah…” No hand returned.

I withdrew my hand and sat down. The youth knelt in close. We talked for a bit. Small talk was tough. I tried. Dave, a 14-year-old youth from a small farming community tried to share a bit. This man did not respond much. Sometimes, trust is hard to build for someone who has seen so much. After a few minutes, we got up to leave. We excused ourselves and turned away.

“I’m Ken…” I turned back. His hand was out. I shook his hand, caught his eyes and a moment of connection occurred. Ken felt safe enough with us to share his name. He looked at each one of the young people. In order, he shook their hands. “Thanks for stopping to say hello.”

We walked on for some time after that in silence. We each knew that we had just experienced something sacred. Then I reflected about the homeless memorial in Toronto. Thousands of people are listed there. People who have died on the streets. By far, the most common name among those dead is John Doe. John Doe is the name the city gives to people when they don’t know their real name. In other words, many of those people named and listed as John Doe died alone. They didn’t even have their name. And that is the biggest problem with homelessness. People are home-less. They do not have all the things we think of when we think of home. Sometimes, not even their name.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbours as ourselves. The question I ask is, “How can we love our neighbours if we don’t know their name?” It is only when we get to know people by their name, by their story, seeing them as truly human, that we can begin to love them.

At SERVE, we try to break those barriers. We try to get to know others by their name. At SERVE, we get to hear their stories. We share our stories. We sit for a while. It may be tough. Small talk may seem wooden and uninspired for a while, but we learn to keep trying.

Love begins with “hello.”

Gil is the speaker at London, ON SERVE as well as the pastor of Sanctuary London.

This is an excerpt from the Fall 2017 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE.

Hamilton Victory Gardens and SERVE

The following is an article from our Spring 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

Hamilton Victory Gardens and SERVE

by John Bijl

Youth Ministries Coordinator

Meadowlands Fellowship Church

Hamilton, ON

2015’s SERVE theme was The Other 51, but Hamilton SERVE has been stressing that principle for the last six years. Hamilton SERVE is not just a one-week work project. It is a culmination of 51 other weeks of working together, and Host Team members of Hamilton SERVE have created a symbiotic relationship with the two organizations they serve that lasts throughout the year.

One of the organizations is Hamilton Victory Gardens. It acquires vacant land from municipal governments, churches, schools and old age homes and builds vegetable gardens. All the gardens are built by using raised beds. The raised beds are built right on top of the existing land, so no work needs to be done to the land before they get started.

Getting volunteers to plant or weed or harvest is not a problem, but the physical building of the beds is extremely hard and difficult work to do. Through our partnership with Hamilton Victory Gardens, they have done year long planning to have most of their beds built by the groups that come to Hamilton SERVE. They preplan to have all the necessary materials ready for the week. They also spend a lot of time planning where gardens should go, all while keeping Hamilton SERVE in mind.

The week after Hamilton SERVE was done building beds, the Fruitland special needs SERVE came in and planted the gardens we built.

The produce that is harvested from the beds we build supplies multiple food banks with fresh produce—fresh produce that they would normally not receive. One of those organizations, The Living Rock, in turn uses the produce to teach street youth a trade such as being a chef or working in restaurant kitchens, which use their product to feed other street youth.

Our relationship with Hamilton Victory Gardens is not just one week, and the work we do affects the work of many other organizations in the Hamilton community.

Our relationships with the two organizations we serve have become so much more than a week of SERVE. This became truly evident to us at the end of SERVE in 2015. We were debriefing and discussing how tired we were when the biblical principle of the Sabbath was brought up by one of our host team members. We had just completed our 6th year of hosting Hamilton Serve and the idea of taking a one-year sabbatical was a very enticing idea, but the more we thought about it, the more we came to the conclusion that we can not take a sabbatical. We have two organizations that count on us. They plan for us. They need us, and it feels good to be needed.

Hamilton SERVE will continue as long as the Lord wants it to, but as long as we continue to work during the other 51 weeks with the Good Shepherd Centre and Hamilton Victory Gardens, no sabbaticals will be taken. Creating these meaningful and reciprocal relationships has helped make Hamilton SERVE very successful, and it has also enabled two amazing organizations to do the work that God has called them to do. We encourage all Host Teams to not just find places to work for one week, but to create meaningful and lasting relationships with organizations in your community. When you have those relationships, you will truly see and feel the full power of SERVE. In Hamilton, SERVE is not just one week, it is 52 weeks of being God’s hands and feet. May God bless you in your Kingdom work in your community.

To connect with Hamilton SERVE, click here to view their Facebook page.

To connect with Fruitland Special Needs SERVE, click here to view their Facebook page.