I’ve been working at Riverside Mission for close to two years now, one year part time while I finished my college degree, and one year full time while I plunk away at my master’s degree. When I meet new people around Moose Jaw and area, they sometimes ask what I do for a living. When I tell them that I work at Riverside Mission, I either get a response like: “Oh? What is Riverside Mission?” or perhaps, “Oh yeah! That’s the soup kitchen downtown!” It’s a rare occurrence when I meet someone who knows about everything that we do. So this blog post will talk about one of my lesser known duties here at Riverside Mission, which is overseeing the MATH program, and how it has deeply affected my ministerial outlook.
The MATH program is an acronym which stands for Male Adult Transitional Housing; which is a nine month program that invites men who are struggling with either alcohol and drug addictions to make positive steps in the direction of living a substance-free lifestyle. This is done by providing them housing and having them participate in many different programs and meetings. Working with the guys in the MATH program is one of my favourite responsibilities here at Riverside Mission. I get to meet with the MATH program guys on a weekly basis, encourage them on their walk in life, and get to know them better by listening to their story from as far back as they will allow me to hear. Quite often we try to stigmatize people who struggle with addictions, and while I fully believe it is one’s own actions that get them into addictions, it is fallacious to think we can paint an accurate picture of everyone in a certain demographic using the same judgmental brush. The more people I meet through this program, the more I understand how wonderfully unique humanity is, and how generic or uniform solutions to life’s problems will never be fully adequate. God has shown me over the years that to truly walk with someone, you have to try to understand their personal worldview, which requires an arsenal of different and unique brushes to paint that picture.
Another thing I love about the MATH program is that God has sufficiently and thoroughly equipped me to meet with these guys on a weekly basis. Anyone who knows me knows that I have struggled with drug addictions for almost a twenty year period in my life. Now, it might sound scandalous to say that God has equipped me for such a service by the many years of rebellious actions that I have done, but I would like to bring up what is in Genesis chapter 50. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). As you already may know, this was Joseph’s response to his brothers in regard to their actions of selling Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites. However, because of the evil actions of Joseph’s brothers, Joseph, through God’s favour, established himself in Egypt. This was a move that would enable the nation of Israel to grow strong for the next few hundred years.
Now, we can play the “what if” game all day long – “what if Joseph did not get sold (something we would see as being much more humane), what would God’s plan for Israel look like then? Did God really have to allow such evil in his divine plan?” I tend to not play the “what if” game very much anymore in terms of finding answers, because that is something only God can truly know. Instead, I try to deal with what has actually happened, and build understanding based upon what God has revealed through paths that have been taken (quite often by human free will). “What if I had not walked an extremely rebellious path for so many years, would I have been just as thoroughly equipped to do this specific ministry?” This is a question that I rarely ponder anymore, because I cling to Gen 50:20 on an almost daily basis – what I had once meant for evil, God now uses for his good, and for this I am extremely grateful. I would encourage anyone reading this to look and reflect on what God has done in your life. The Body of Christ is wonderfully diverse, which is a good thing, because the people to whom we minister are just as diverse. You may not realize it right now (or perhaps you do), but God is preparing you for good works with almost every step you take. My exhortation to you is to find what God has prepared you for, and embrace it with every fibre of your being.