Two years ago, Blythwood Road Baptist Church began supporting the Nutrition Program at Flemington Public School in Lawrence Heights – an underserviced neighbourhood in Toronto. This program provides breakfast and lunch for students at the school who might otherwise go without. When the church began to think about how we might get more involved in the neighbourhood, we considered running a free one week day camp from the school, which would include snacks and lunch.
In order to run the camp, Blythwood needed a team to help us. We thought that if we could find a team interested in partnering with us, the camp could happen. Walter McIntrye, from CBOQ, put us in touch with Southeast Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and before long 30 members of the church agreed to come for the camp July 23-27.
Three days before our guests from Tennessee were due to arrive, an unsettling murder occurred right in the schoolyard of Flemington Public School – the very place where our camp was to take place. When I went to the neighbourhood later that day, the community was understandably in shock. We had planned to host a launch party for the camp on Sunday, July 22, across the street from the school, which would include a bouncing castle, music, face-painting, popcorn and sno-cones. We wondered if we should go ahead with it, given what had happened. Each community leader I spoke with advised us to have the launch party. As one Metro Housing manager put it, “People need to know that good things happen in Lawrence Heights.”
We went ahead with the launch party and with the camp. The week has been such a blessing to many – campers, parents, the mission team, and the people of Blythwood. We had 50 children from Lawrence Heights and the surrounding area attend the camp each day. As one child put it – “This is like a party!” Six members of the Murfreesboro mission team also served at the Oasis Dufferin Community Centre.
Good news is being proclaimed in word and deed in our city and we have seen hope displace fear in the faces of these children. It is our prayer that seeds are being sown that will bear much fruit, and that all involved will learn something about what it means to bring the good news of Christ and the reign of God wherever it is that we find ourselves.