Building Community in the Messiness
Chris Yu [MDiv 2004] moved into a disadvantaged neighbourhood in the heart of Toronto where there were “cycles of poverty and poor choices” and “no community spaces and places for people to go,” as he noted. Renting a storefront space, he went to work to find out what the needs were and began an afterschool program and a drop-in centre for resumé support. “With the younger generation, we have the opportunity to break the cycle, give them a new hope, give them Christ and show them there’re opportunities in terms of schooling and a place they can feel safe and loved.”
The ministry focuses on everyday life. The doors are open all week for people to visit, pray, grab a coffee, or print off their homework or resumé. At the beginning, no flyers were sent out, there was no Sunday service and no offering was taken up. “We didn’t want to establish ourselves as a Sunday church. In a community as tight knit as ours, that wouldn’t be enough,” says Chris. “By not having a service at the beginning, we forced ourselves to build relationships every day.”
Many people from the community have gone from being indifferent towards God to actually coming to Christ. “We’re encountering a generation that has no Christian background. This is a great opportunity but also a huge challenge,” says Chris. “It’s a hard neighbourhood. People live messy and inconsistent lives, so their discipleship walk is going to look like that, too,” says Chris. “To truly walk with someone means even if they stumble, you have to stumble down with them. When they get back up, you celebrate, and then you walk again. But the gospel is being preached, people are worshipping God and we are a community.”
After two years, the community came to Chris and asked for a Sunday service. Today there are over 70 people who attend the Mercy City Church worship services.