Chuck Harper: Chaplain and Advocate for the Homeless in Vernon
Chuck Harper’s friend was found, dead, behind a gas station dumpster in Vernon a couple of years ago. He had been homeless; no one knew the cause of death, and few seemed to care.
“There was nothing made of it. It was like he never existed,” Chuck recalls.
It happened a few years after Chuck started the North Okanagan Community Chaplaincy (NOCC). Amid grieving his friend’s death, the experience underscored again an acute need in the community. Every year, a startling number of homeless people die in Vernon, and the town struggles to understand the issue of homelessness.
“There’s a lot of misinformation and a lack of understanding,” Chuck says. When a homeless person dies, it’s hard for their friends to find out what really happened. They often don’t know if they died from exposure, murder, poor health, a drug overdose, or some other cause. People come to Chuck for information that he often doesn’t have.
The BC Coroner’s Service heard about his work and reached out to see if they could collaborate to learn more about the deaths. Since then, Chuck’s developed a good relationship with them, and now when someone is missing or has passed away, he can get accurate information to share with
the community. He’s also working with the Coroner’s Office to get better statistics on homeless deaths and the challenges facing this community.
“It’s often said that opioids are the problem, but in fact the leading cause of death among homeless people is compromised health, including malnutrition,” he says. “The second leading cause is cancer.”
Having this information allows Chuck to help in educating and advocating on behalf of the homeless. Chuck shares this information with the agencies he collaborates with so that front-line response is better targeted to real needs. He also uses the information to tell the whole story of homelessness.
“This person who died is not just some nameless, homeless bum. It’s a person of value who had a life and had fallen on hard times,” he says.
“If there were fatalities at an intersection, and 14 people died at that location, you can guarantee that something would be done about it,” Chuck says. “Yet our guys and gals are dying, largely from preventable issues. And it doesn’t appear to be important enough.”
At the heart of his work is the love of Christ. “For me, the bottom line is that people are dying without knowing Jesus,” he says.
Chuck spent time on the streets in Vernon as a teen, has lived a life of addiction and experienced firsthand how CBWC churches’ shared the love of Christ to the “least of these.” He encountered the transforming love of Christ at First Baptist Calgary’s Burning Bush coffeehouse years ago, and was able to turn his life around. “I don’t know where I’d be if the Burning Bush hadn’t been there,” he says. Later he helped found the Mustard Seed, and in 2013 he started the North Okanagan Community Chaplaincy to fill a gap in Vernon.
A big part of his work is spending time with people going through hard times, giving them friendship, mentorship and support. He also does a lot of speaking to small groups to educate people about issues related to homelessness, and advocates on behalf of the homeless. In 2016 he started a monthly street church at First Baptist Vernon. The church service and meal gets about 70-80 people out each month, with the support of seven local churches and two dozen volunteers. They’re working towards becoming a regular, weekly church plant.
“I think our denomination does well at looking after our less fortunate, and we need to keep on keeping on. Too many people are dying without knowing the love of Jesus.”
Moving On: Sherry Bennett & Majd AlAjji
Sherry Bennett energized intergenerational ministry at CBWC churches
Over the last 12 years, Sherry Bennett has been a key advocate and resource for our churches in their ministries to reach children and families for Christ. Whether a church has 5 or 500 children in their congregation, she endeavoured to offer ideas to provide a meaningful ministry through inter-generational engagement. She became trained in safe practice policies and assisted many of our churches in establishing workable guides and policies for responsible risk management. She led workshops both with Carey and on location in churches, answered numerous email queries, researched curriculums, and the list goes on.
Sherry finished her role as the Children and Families (CFam) Coordinator at the end of June in order to take on a teaching position in Kelowna. We are so grateful for the years of service Sherry has given and we know that she will continue to offer support and encouragement as she is able, though no longer in an official capacity.
Thank you, Sherry for serving us so well and faithfully!
Children and Families Ministry Going Forward
In order to continue to resource our churches, Sherry has helped to line up leaders from our churches who could offer you workshops on a variety of topics listed below. If you would like to host a workshop in your church, the CBWC can help with travel costs so a presenter can come to you and in-service your leaders. Contact Faye Reynolds (email@example.com) to book a workshop or training event. Faye will also be your primary contact for other questions or needs and she will endeavor to point you to the best source. A brochure with a fuller description of these workshops will be available on our CBWC website later this summer.
* Biblical Storytelling — Amanda Hecht, pastor in Wakaw, SK
* Volunteer Recruitment — Bree Young, Children & Family Director, Summerland, B.C.
* How to Go from a Great Children’s Ministry to a Phases Ministry — Bree & Lee Young, Summerland, B.C.
* Why Family Ministry? — Bree Young, Summerland, B.C.
* Generations Worshiping, Learning & Serving Together — Sherry Bennett, Kelowna, B.C.
* Creative Worship — Joan Dosso, Minister of Music, Emmanuel, Victoria, B.C.
* Parenting and Partnering with Impact — Sherry Bennett, Kelowna, B.C.
* Developing Mission Minded Family — Sherry Bennett, Kelowna, B.C.
* Teaching for Transformation — Sherry Bennett, Kelowna, B.C.
* Growing Your Children’s Ministry — Natasha Ewaskow, Children and Family director, Cranbrook, B.C.
* Intergenerational Church Ministry — Natasha Ewaskow, Cranbrook, B.C.
* Inviting and Supporting Volunteers — Natasha Ewaskow, Cranbrook, B.C.
Majd AlAjji invested incredible energy into CBWC’s refugee sponsorship ministry
If you are a church that has been involved with refugee sponsorship, then you are well aware of Majd AlAjji and the wonderful expertise and support he has offered our churches in navigating the many requirements and complications of sponsoring refugees. Majd’s attention to detail, his tenacity, his compassion for families coming to Canada, his desire for our churches to be safe landing places for refugees and his fluency in Arabic have all been incredible gifts to the CBWC.
We’re so grateful for the time he spent with the CBWC, but unfortunately for us, Majd has accepted a full time position with the Canadian Bible Society, where he’ll focus on reaching ethnic churches in the prairies. This is a great move for Majd and his wife Angel, and we celebrate this opportunity for them, though it is a huge loss to us. The CBWC will continue to be a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) and assist our churches with private sponsorships or blended visa applications. Faye Reynolds will now be your contact person to assist with applications and process. firstname.lastname@example.org
CBWC Ministry Priorities
Thanks for joining us for Assembly 2018
We had 69 churches with more than 190 participants registered to take part in the 2018 Online Assembly. An invitation was put out to CBWC churches to submit photos or videos that would be defined by the #wearecbwc hashtag. This was compiled and shown at the start of our meeting to celebrate the beautiful diversity of our church family, united in one purpose.
- “Hearing from Rob was the highlight for me and made coming worthwhile. I was very glad to hear the follow up from the prayer initiative. But the others were good too and the business is important.”
- A highlight from one of the churches that gathered at Westview Baptist was “being with delegates from other Calgary churches.”
- “I appreciated the updates from Rob, Victor, Colin and Jason. It provided an opportunity for my church to see some of the people they never see.”
We continue to work towards a seamless online presentation, and got many helpful suggestions to help improve the online experience in future years. Thank you to everyone who participated and we look forward to welcoming you in person next year at the Gathering 2019 in High River, AB!
The Gathering 2019
High River Baptist Church, High River, Alberta,
May 23 – 25, 2019 https://cbwc.ca/events/#assembly
Events Coming Up
Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference: Nov 5-8, 2018 in Banff, AB. Get more info & register here.
BCY Pastors’ Retreat: July 5-6, 2018 in Victoria, BC. Click here for more info.
BCY Assembly: July 6-7, 2018 in Victoria, BC. Click here for more info.
Alberta Women in Focus Retreat: October 12-14, 2018 Canmore, AB. Click here for more info.
The Gathering 2019: May 23-25, 2019, High River, AB. Click here for more info.
Copyright © 2018 Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, All rights reserved.
Making Connections is the Monthly Newsletter of the CBWC. The senior editor is Zoë Ducklow, who works under the executive editorial direction of Rob Ogilvie and the Communications & Stewardship committee. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email Zoë at email@example.com.