This is a testimony of a couple who for many years, were homeless and travelling around Canada, destitute and struggling with addictions and hopelessness, surviving by living in parks, alleyways under tarps, tents, and receiving handouts in community centres and shelters. They lived “welfare cheque to welfare cheque” and often taking advantage of the compassion of passersby. Frances grew up on the East Coast, and as a young girl had gone to Sunday School class and learned about a God who hears prayers and she “gave her life to Jesus.” Throughout her life, even though it was filled with trouble, she had kept in her heart the knowledge that there was a God Who loves. When life became so destitute, she began to silently pray. Her partner, Richard, did not know but Frances began to notice answers to her silent cries to God. For many years, Frances and Richard continued in their mired, aimless lifestyle. In August 2014, they felt compelled to get on a bus and travel to B.C. They had “wintered” there on the streets many times before. But after travelling a long journey, the bus stopped in the wee hours of the morning in Kenora, Ontario. As they looked out the window, something compelled them “to get off the bus” and go look for breakfast. While they had had “plans” to have travelled on further, they took their one “suitcase” with all their belongings and started walking toward town. They were tired and hungry, but since nothing was open yet, they stopped to rest on the steps of the First Presbyterian Church. As they sat wondering what they would do next, two men walked by them. The gentlemen passed by but then they stopped and turned around, back toward the couple on the cement pad. One of the men approached Richard and Frances, introduced himself and asked about them. After a brief introduction, the man offered to pray for them. Frances welcomed it and Richard replied disbelievingly, “Sure, anything — if it could help.” The man prayed over them and then left. Richard didn’t think much of it from there and shortly after, he and Frances walked on toward the “Hings Corner” where a number of homeless people greeted them, and when asked as to where they might get some help or shelter for the evening, they were kindly pointed to the Jubilee Church and told to ask for Pastor Frank. Frances and Richard knocked on the door and from there, were taken in, given a mattress and eventually a home to live in. From there, they gave their lives to Jesus. In their own words, Richard described: “When we knocked on the door at Jubilee in 2014, we were broken people with addiction, mental illness, and our own issues. We were welcomed, understood, cared for and loved. Not judged. Thank You, Jesus, for Pastor Frank and Yvonne. For their compassion and commitment to the less fortunate.”
Richard and Frances’ “turn around” turned into blessings that have spilled over into the community of Kenora for the past 7 1/2 years, thanking God for His mercy and grace, the miracles and love they experienced and giving all the glory to the Father. Richard and Frances decided to marry and in their life of gratitude to God, they began supporting mission teams, raising money not only for missions from Kenora to Africa and Liberia, but also for the Kenora Fellowship Centre and Jubilee Church through the Coldest Night of the Year annual events. They also began a yearly, very generous Christmas hamper drive, started the Sure-Can Volunteers, organized a team to send relief to the Bearskin Lake Community, and began the Facebook group: “Community Connections.”
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Thank you for this wonderful reminder of how far we have strayed from the gospel in the PCC. Was Jesus wrong to say you can’t put new wine in old wineskins? No, but it can become the life saving truth for many when we who are too comfortable begin to risk praying and sharing the new life Christ want to give us with the faces the Lord puts in front of us.