The Downtown Eastside

Categories: Student Stories, Uncategorized


By Jordan Shaw (’10)

The gift of mercy and grace has often been transformed into the obligation and institution of charity. In Matthew 25:31 and following we are told that the defining mark of those who follow Christ is the act of extending care to
the stranger, the weak, and the poor. Because we have given the job of charity to the government and to aid organizations, we as Christians now feel very little need to deal with anyone outside of our social class. Yes, we may
still give money, or perhaps volunteer to give out coffee in the park once in a while, but even this we do at arm’s length, unable to look the marginalized in the eyes and tell them that we love them, simply because Jesus loves
them. We do a disservice to our fellow human beings, to ourselves, and to our churches by creating distance from personal interaction with the marginalized. The church that forgets what it means to suffer is the church that ceases to be an effective witness for Christ.

Not all of us have the ability to leave our homes and move into the slums. But, despite the fact that not all of us know what it feels like to be homeless and forgotten, we all understand what it means to be lonely. We all understand what it means to be unloved. We all have the ability to sit closer to that smelly guy on the bus. Every one of us can reach out across the divide of economy and culture, not to offer a hand up, but just to offer a hand. We all have the ability to engage in small acts of radical love in our local contexts. Being Christ-like doesn’t always mean moving into the slums. But to be Christ-like does mean to open our eyes and our hearts and engage in some way with those that the world considers worthless.

Jordan Shaw graduated in 2010 with a BA in Intercultural Studies. Jordan was one of the first ICS students to experience an internship in North America, and spent a year living in slum hotels in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. Currently employed by the Salvation Army as a resident support worker for people recovering from addiction, Jordan and his wife Carlye now live in the DTES full time. You can connect with Jordan online at

This piece originally appeared in the Columbia Contact Fall 2013. Sign up for the mailing list or view the most recent issue online.