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In 2005, God surprised me when I was called to begin working with homeless men in Edmonton. On my second interview at the shelter, I was confronted with a very pungent smell of urine, vomit, listerine, alcohol, drugs, etc… and it was in that moment that God spoke to my heart and said, “Ejay, this is the smell of people I love, now go love them!”
This journey then led me to move to the youth shelter next door where 90% of my clients were addicted to Methamphetamines. These were the formative years for me in street ministry as the Lord began to show me new things about the scriptures, life and grace and most of all, loving people. But despite this incredible ministry in Edmonton, I knew in my heart I wanted to do ministry in Toronto. After a couple of interesting turns, I was invited by Church in the Beach to join the staff in 2007 and it was there that I returned to do ministry in Toronto. I later found a case manager position with a City funded shelter, but I knew that this shelter limited me in ministry as I could not speak of Christ to the youth. I later took a position with Yonge Street Mission in 2008 as a Street Youth worker to join an already seasoned drop-in team to minister to the hardest to reach youth in the city. This was where I honed my skills as a pastor at Church in the City and a Street worker with Yonge Street Mission. The opportunities were endless as I was part of Cornerstone Urban Church where we served community meals to 400-500 people every Saturday, ran a youth ministry in the heart of St. Lawrence, ministered to homeless youth, drug addicts, drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps, etc… Most of all, I did not merely speak of Christ as a hope in their life, but I was able to tangibly help them by being an advocate for them in court, assisting them in getting jobs, help them find housing, etc… I was able to work as a pastor, missionary, and a social worker. These were the skills I presented to Mission’s Canada when I spoke to them about wanting to be involved with our fellowship’s urban strategy to reach the cities.
Now I am part of Mission Canada to see what God has in store next. The past 15 years of street ministry has been an incredible journey, but I am praying and dreaming to see how God will mix these two worlds in my life and for the church. The reality is, despite the great ministry I’ve been able to do, there still exists two tensions: The Church and Social Work. This reality has existed for a long time, but recently I have noticed that the church at large is beginning to ask some interesting questions about justice, and serving the poor. To which I believe being a catalyst for missionally minded urban leaders who will invest in the downtown core might bring us to see some exciting possibilities. So my main goals are: 1. Create awareness for the realities of downtown ministry 2. Recruit and train other Urban workers 3. Begin a downtown movement/expression of ministry that will not only birth churches, but tangible social initiatives that meets an unmet need in the city.
- I’m praying for partners who will journey with me to see what God has in store for the city.
- I’m praying that faith communities would support me and allow me to share my vision to reach Toronto’s urban core.
- Future Urban leaders who want to also invest their lives into reaching people in Toronto.
Urban missionary serving in Toronto, Canada, and minister with PAOC.
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