Life at the Edge
How Living Edge Community is sharing food for the body and hope for the heart in Victoria, B.C.
Did you know that one of our projects, Living Edge Community in Victoria, B.C. helps provide food and hope to thousands of people across their city every month? We caught up with Rev. Neil Van Heerden, who began the project, to learn more about how they are feeding and reaching their community.
How did it begin? What sparked the idea and vision for it?
LIVING EDGE COMMUNITY developed out of assessed need in the immediate Victoria community. Pastor Neil Van Heerden realized many children in the poorer communities experienced a lack of connection and activity which meant they would get up to no good. A hockey program was started weeknights which soon grew into a weekly dinner at which childcare and games was offered. The other need amongst the marginalized was access to food especially fresh, nutritious groceries.
Pastor Van Heerden started visiting the community door-to-door and offering groceries to those in need. This soon grew, and volunteers started to gather around the project. At that stage food was often purchased by church volunteers, necessitating the need to source suppliers and more affordable avenues for food. The first farmer’s-style market was opened in the Quadra area which proved to be a more practical way of getting groceries to a larger complement of people.
From these humble beginnings the NEIGHBOURHOOD MARKETS are now partnered with seven churches throughout greater Victoria, serving 5000 people a month. Some of the major elements needed were reliable food suppliers and a strong, committed base of volunteers.
What was the biggest challenge?
In the beginning the biggest challenges were funding; regular, reliable suppliers and volunteers, as well as people wanting to hijack the vision.
What are some of the impacts you have you seen?
Many people’s lives are completely changed: Immigrants, working families, the elderly, those on disability and others are seeing a regular reduction in their food costs – some as much as $300/ month. This has improved their lives overall and made it easy for volunteers to begin to speak into their lives and support them in their spiritual journey.
At our various partnership churches people are being exposed to the church for the first time or again and the interaction is a powerful and positive one. Many have said the outreach has reminded them of the authentic role of the church, which it seems, has been lost for many over the years…
Volunteers lives are also changed as their focus shifts from their own problems and areas of lack to others.
What’s your hope for the future of this ministry?
The hope is to effectively empower and train local parishes throughout Canada to reach their immediate communities in practical ways and in so doing demonstrate the love of God.
The outreach model is un-matched for its capacity to create and foster community, build relationships and facilitate an ease by which congregation members can encourage people to find out more about the church. It’s an easy way to connect with your immediate community and become the salt and light in your neighbourhood.
How can we pray for you?
We are at a crucial stage of next steps and growth to take this mission to the next level. We need people to partner with the vision financially to enlarge our resources and manpower to handle existing neighbourhood market partnerships as well as new markets, including the chain of supply and support that goes with that.
What would your advice be to other churches thinking of taking on a similar type of ministry?
This is a viable and effective way to reach your immediate community and not only supply a valuable need for working families, single parents, students and the elderly, but with this model ANIC are committed to helping parishes throughout Canada become more missional.
For more information about Living Edge or to help support their work please go to their website: www.livingedge.ngo
Are you part of an ANiC parish doing a unique project or ministry that might make for a good story? Email us about it!