Hamilton Service Learning Trip 2015 Allows Students to See City Realities
“We fix bikes as a way of partnering with God in His redemptive process; we are making beautiful new things out of old, ugly bikes,” Andrew explained.
New Hope Bikes is a co-op program on the east end of Main St. that takes old bikes and fixes them, partnering with young people from the neighbourhood and teaching them how to restore bikes well. The Hamilton Service Learning Trip team visited the bike shop on the Tuesday of reading week, and we learned about what God is doing through the ministry there.
New Hope Bikes hosts Bible studies for the youth involved in the program, teaches the youth basic repair skills, and restores old bikes for clients at an affordable price.
It makes things new; it is redemptive.
While we were there, I watched staff members and youth that are so in love with the work they do. I saw them truly delighting, not simply in any finished product, but in the process itself. They loved tightening spokes on wheels and shining chrome and adjusting handlebars. They didn't mind that it was messy work; in fact, they seemed to like that.
We saw a lot of messiness on the trip: dirty apartments with awful living conditions, people without homes at the soup truck, and youth with mental illness at the Living Rock just to name a few. Hamilton isn't a bright and shining city a lot of the time. It's gritty and loud. It's very real – it doesn't hide its messiness.
But like old bikes at New Hope, there's a process we got to see, too. There are so many people working, praying, advocating, longing, and acting towards something better. Something redemptive. We saw God making things new through a food bank, an affordable housing unit, a unified church body, and a lot of hard, messy work. Any member of our team can attest to the fact that there are many, many individuals in our city delighting in Christ's long and slow process of redemption. And we get to take part in it all and delight in it.
One theme that I noticed throughout the Hamilton Service Learning Trip is that there is power in community. We visited multiple organizations in downtown Hamilton that are shining the light of Christ in the communities where they are placed.
These organizations treat the people that they serve with dignity and respect. For example, Indwell provides quality affordable housing at a price that individuals on the Ontario Disability Support Program can afford. There are many other apartments in Hamilton that are poor quality and individuals are paying more for. Indwell also has opportunities for the tenants to interact with each other through activities such as cooking classes in their community kitchen. The staff also makes themselves available to the tenants so the tenants are able to voice any concerns that they have. I did my social work placement at the Wentworth location at Indwell last semester, and I felt very welcome there. When we visited the Perkins Center on this trip, I still felt that welcoming atmosphere even though I was at a different location.
I also had an opportunity to volunteer at 541 Eatery and Exchange on the trip. I mostly helped with cleaning the cafe and stocking supplies. The staff there was very helpful if I had questions, and I did not feel afraid to ask them questions because they were very approachable and friendly. They made conversation with me and made me feel like I was part of the team even though I was only there for a few hours. I have also been to 541 multiple times as a customer or as a churchgoer with the group that meets there on Sunday afternoons. Through being part of this community, I have realized that anyone is welcome. They are welcome regardless of their social class, religion, age, or any other aspects of themselves that could possibly create barriers between them and other people.
MoveIn is also another organization that is great for creating community. The point of this movement is for Christians to intentionally place themselves in communities that are experiencing poverty or other social issues. In Hamilton, there are multiple Christians who are living in apartments in the poor parts of Hamilton. They get to know their neighbours through doing things such as inviting them over for meals or Bible studies or praying for them. On the trip we talked to someone who was a part of MoveIn, and I was inspired by how he intentionally interacted with those who may not necessarily receive much attention otherwise. MoveIn has encouraged me to be more intentional within my Redeemer community.
I was also encouraged by the community atmosphere that was created within the team on this trip. We learned about Hamilton together, but we also laughed and cried together. We were there for each other through our happy times and our struggles. This trip has shown me that there is lots of hope in Hamilton and that we can also further advance God’s kingdom when we are working together.