Metro Community, a church in Kelowna, B.C. was among four finalists shortlisted for a business excellence award. Located in the city’s downtown core, Metro Community puts into action God’s heart for people experiencing poverty.
The nomination by the local business community recognized the church’s efforts to meet the needs of people who are frequently homeless, struggling with addictions and involved in prostitution.
“We are focused on ministry every day, not just on Sunday,” says Laurence East, pastor of this community church planted by Willow Park Church eight years ago. Both churches are Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC).
The church did not win the award but was called “Kelowna’s best kept secret” at the awards ceremony in late October. “This nomination is truly a testament to the change we are making in our larger community,” says East.
Through its community resource centre, Metro Central, and partnerships with other agencies, Metro Community connects with about 500 people on a weekly basis.
The church brings together people from all walks of life but the main focus is to witness the transformative power of the gospel in the lives of people who have been marginalized and give them the opportunity to be part of a caring community of believers.
East says one of the most pressing needs in the downtown core of Kelowna is relational poverty.
“People struggling with material poverty and homelessness don’t find most churches a welcoming or safe place,” says East. “We are building a home for those who have no home. We are developing this community home together. By doing this we are helping people discover their God-given dignity.”
To help people find jobs and housing the church is developing social enterprise businesses that give people the skills and confidence to get jobs.
One of the newest social enterprises is partnering with Exporta Wash Systems in Kelowna to provide environmentally friendly laundry services for large items, such as protective clothing for firefighters, sports equipment, soft patio furniture and other residential and commercial items.
“If they drop out of the program or don’t get jobs, it is not a failure,” says East. “Our most important statistic is the woman who dropped out of the program but is still part of our church community. They are not only learning job skills but also experiencing a Christian community.”
Another social enterprise, the Metro Moving Crew, provides affordable moving services to low income families. People gain valuable work experience and build relationships through the social enterprise coffee shop where a cup of high quality coffee is sold for a dollar.
Other services include training programs that help people manage money, meals, counselling and access to clothing and toiletries, computers, telephone, laundry facilities and a fully equipped music room and art room.
“We are a group of people learning to live together,” says East. “If we want to develop a mission heart for the world we have to start at home.”
Gladys Terichow is the staff writer for the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches|