“As a multi-cultural Christian outreach and community centre, The Lighthouse demonstrates God’s love by offering unconditional hospitality, by sharing our resources and by helping people in need.
We offer an atmosphere of respect, dignity and security in order to address spiritual, emotional and physical needs, all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
– The Lighthouse’s Mission Statement
As an intern at The Lighthouse over the past four months, I have witnessed first-hand the above mission statement in action as the staff and volunteers at the centre work together to embody the love of the gospel message. They are in essence the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth to many marginalized patrons in the downtown area as well as new comers to Canada particularly from China, Vietnam and Spanish-speaking regions of the world. It has been an exciting journey partnering with The Lighthouse for this season!
During this time I have had the privilege of observing some of what happens on a weekly basis with the Vietnamese programming and Food Bank operations. I was able to see the mutual respect between clients and staff as groups met to plan for catering events and discuss parenting skills. These groups met the concrete needs of clients in a safe and nurturing environment where they could discover the love and compassion of Jesus. Additionally, in my experience with the Food Bank operations, I was able to see the relational approach to ministry and individual attention and care given to each person who came through the doors. I could see the spirit behind Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 verses 35 and 40 at work through The Lighthouse ministries: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” indeed, Jesus goes on to say – just “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Beyond these experiences, my main focus was to assist Rita Wong in the various facets of the Chinese ministry in Scarborough. This involved the implementation of English classes, the dancercise program and special outings such as apple picking and TTC tours. As a Canadian born Caucasian, this has truly been a cross-cultural experience for me! I have learned so much and have only seen a snap-shot of all Rita is involved in as she also ministers in Markham to a group of Chinese women, as well as to a group of children and their families in Scarborough particularly during the summer months. Beyond these groups there are individuals in these regions who seek the aid and care of The Lighthouse through Rita, and she continues to be involved in programming offered through the downtown centre. For example, during early spring she aids clients with their income tax returns – a service which many benefit from and would have difficulty with otherwise. Though much of Rita’s ministry takes place outside of The Lighthouse centre, it still very much embodies the mission of the centre by fostering community and offering hospitality to new comers from China who have settled in the Scarborough and Markham areas.
One of the Chinese ministries which I would like to highlight is the ESL program which occurs weekly out of a Chinese church in Scarborough. Of the ministries I have been a part of, I have had the most opportunity to enjoy friendship with these students who are about 60 in total. The majority of these students are seniors who find fellowship, community and hospitality through this ministry. The English teachers are all believers who integrate lessons of faith with lessons of grammar. The environment of love, care and compassion exemplifies the gospel message and once a month the Mandarin church hosts a worship service and meal after the classes to share the gospel with the students. This approach is both relational and culturally relevant with the tight-knit community environment fostering a safe place to explore the gospel. One of my favourite lessons was one in which Rita urged me to teach the past tense using the Christmas story found in Matthew. The students were engaged and interested in knowing the meaning behind Christmas. Beyond class time, special outings such as TTC tours provided opportunity to meet students’ needs while also providing a small-group context in which to deepen friendships.
Fewer things are more worthwhile than this, to be an instrument of God’s peace and hope in a world that does not know the love of the Father. According to Rita, approximately 80% of the students and 50 % of the dancercise class are not followers of Jesus – yet each week these programs provide opportunity to discover more about who God is and experience his love first-hand. I have been blessed and enriched by the time I have spent with Rita and the Chinese clients who have taught me more about community, sharing, hospitality and looking out for one another. I am grateful for this experience and pray that God would continue to bless the ministry of The Lighthouse through the care and support of donors like you. I also invite you as a reader to join in the vision and mission of The Lighthouse by getting involved and volunteering – you will be glad you did! Thank you for taking the time to read more about how God is at work in and through The Lighthouse,
May God bless and keep you!
Student Intern Fall 2014