“Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.” ― Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen continue to be two of the most influential people in my life. In 1964 Vanier, as a result of an encounter with a couple of institutionalized men with developmental disabilities, began an organization called L’Arche; community for people with developmental disabilities. Vanier’s conviction was that all people, no matter how different they may be, belong in community and not in institutions. There are L’Arche communities all over the world now, including several here in Toronto. (I highly recommend his book Becoming Human to anyone involved in human services!)
Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author and very famous professor at Harvard University. Upon a chance encounter with Vanier in the mid-1980’s, Nouwen decided to leave behind his fame as a renowned professor, move to the north end of Toronto and live at L’Arche Daybreak. Living in community with people with disabilities changed his life in profound ways; he shared his insights in his many books written while he lived there. Alough Nouwen passed away in 1996, his legacy lives on. (3-4 times a year I take silent retreats where Nouwen once lived; these retreats are rejuvenating and life-giving and they’re available to anyone who wants to go.)
To this day, people with developmental disabilities are marginalized and under-estimated. The Salvation Army refuses to accept this and is trying to respond. Henri Nouwen had this to say about prayer, “To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God.”
Here are some ministries in Toronto you can pray for today:
- Broadview Village exists to support adults with developmental disabilities by providing a Christian life style in community-based residential and day supports
- Residential Program:
- 5 homes & an administrative building on 2.5 acres of land
- 3 homes are located throughout the Toronto area
- 68 Residents
- Plans to build new group home soon
- Broadview Village Enrichment Program (BVEP)
- This day program provides a safe, stimulating and challenging workplace that promotes personal growth
- 67 BVEP program participants
- 140 staff
Booth Packaging and Supportive Services
- Teach and maintain work skills for community inclusion while facilitating holistic support from a Christian perspective for adults with mental health needs and/or developmental disabilities
- Clients begin at the base level, performing simple assembly and packaging tasks along with the optional activities they choose to further their objectives
- Complementary activities offered include Devotions, Bible Study, Fellowships, Board of Education Essential Skills Upgrading and other personal interest activities
- 151 people served
- 10 staff
Let’s keep trying to be The Hand of God in the Heart of the City.
Dion Oxford, Mission Strategist
Creator of everyone in your image,
You showed us through Jesus that you came especially for people who were blind, lame and slower to learn,
You stopped and spent time with people who were cast aside by society due to their illnesses and/or unconventional behaviours.
Continue to use people who are different than us to teach us more about you and about ourselves.
Give us the strength and the wisdom to see you in everyone that we meet,
Especially today those who are developmentally disabled.