Chloe Parmentier is in her 3rd year of the Intercultural Studies (ICS) program. She is currently doing her ICS cross-cultural internship in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Chloe works with Jacob’s Well, a faith based community of people who seek mutually transformative friendship with those on the margins of society and who desire to equip others to do the same in their own contexts.
Coming to Vancouver’s Downtown East Side for the first time in 2012 was not by choice or interest. The trip was a requirement for one of my first-year classes at CBC. That first trip I was overcome with a sense of ignorance and had so many questions surrounding what I was seeing and feeling. With little exposure to poverty, drug addiction and prostitution, it was like entering an altogether new and foreign world. I knew from that trip that I would never be the same and that something inside me had awoken – a need to do something, to be someone who cared about suffering and injustice.
Since then, I have lead many more trips to the area and eventually decided to do my internship here in the Downtown East Side at Jacob’s Well. Intellectually, I was educated on certain theologies after having taken two years of courses at Bible College. Emotionally, I knew I cared for the marginalized and wanted to learn more. Yet suddenly, all that I had learned in college was incarnated! Theory took on a face, a story, a heart and life of brokenness, abandonment, grace, betrayal and compassion. Jesus’ love and forgiveness were flung wide beyond the contained boxes I had put them in. My friendship circles expanded beyond what I was used to.
As my relationships with my new friends grew, I began to understand Christ better, whether through stories of healing and profound forgiveness or the inspiration of those who have chosen to love instead of hate.
I have experienced, in glimpses, the hope that transcends even the deepest darkness.
How would I have known this sitting only in a classroom? While there is a time for all things, I believe that this internship has refined me in unique ways, revealing to me that God is very interested in humanity; far more than I am. He is very concerned about our sufferings. The continuous abuse that some people endure does not imply that He has “checked out,” though I admit I have wondered about this at times. In essence, my heart has become rooted, expanding in understanding of what it means to love all people. Humility is a cloak to wear no matter the weather, showing me that if we are not inclusive, how can we be fully loving or kind?
Perhaps more than all these things, I have begun walking down the path of learning that the defining characteristic of Christ-followers is our love for others. It is not “them and me,” it is “us”. We are friends, not strangers. For these discoveries and so much more, I count these 8 months a great blessing by God’s guidance and wisdom.
Where the road goes from here, who am I to say? But I will listen, I will watch and I will follow.