Columbia Bible College desires to equip graduates who are Christ-centered, Kingdom-focused and world-impacting. We have made it a priority for all students to participate in Urban Mission Dynamics (UMD) in the Downtown East Side (DTES) of Vancouver, where students are exposed to the broader Kingdom work in the city.
Many of us have grown up with friends who have similar interests, incomes, and values. It is tempting to gravitate towards those that are similar to us. Jesus chose to spend time with people who were just like him, like his brother James. Yet, he did not stop there. Jesus chose disciples who had different political views (Matthew and Simon), he sought out a Samaritan woman, and he forgave the criminal who hung beside him on the cross. He did not avoid social outcasts, misfits, rebels, women, children, religious leaders, and politicians. He engaged in the full world around him, he noticed all people, and cared for them.
Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is for everyone. It is not limited to ‘those like us.’
This UMD weekend encourages each CBC student to explore what it means to follow Jesus in all areas of the Kingdom of God. It exposes personal biases, fears and assumptions. It challenges them to rethink the work that God is doing in broken places and in people who are hurting. Student teams serve alongside long term organizations who are committed to see Jesus’ kingdom come, and to love the people who the world has deemed outcasts.
In small groups led by experienced leaders, students to get to know one another, engage with their surroundings, and interact with people, churches and organizations in the city. Some students sort food donations, clean apartment buildings, landscape, serve coffee and soup, bake bread, learn about addiction, pray for one another and the people they meet and attend various styles of church. They learn through observation and experience.
The purpose of this short-term exposure is not to make the student the expert, or to assume we can ‘fix’ the problems of the DTES. Rather, all of these activities allow for students to be engaged in the work that is already occurring, and to see the benefit of these programs. Our students adopt a posture of humility as they learn about complex issues like gentrification, homelessness, addiction and foster care. UMD is only a small taste of the Kingdom of God in the DTES – a sampling of many ministries, people and stories.
Through UMD, many CBC students have been prompted to God’s call to urban ministry. A number of our interns and alumni work with organizations in the DTES as chaplains, community workers and program directors. We have seen how the heart of the Father moves His children to action and we are encouraged.
Written by Kate Reid, Intercultural Studies Associate