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People

Songs of Hope

There’s a festive atmosphere at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Centre every Thursday evening. The BBQs are going and long tables are set up to serve a full meal, complete with pie for dessert. As they wait for the meal to begin with a prayer of grace, people who are lined up (socially distanced) are having conversations, sharing a laugh or two. Over all of this is the sound of music played by two men, John and Daniel.

Daniel sings and plays guitar while John accompanies on violin

The two have known one another for several years. Last year, John came to live with Daniel’s family through a Home Share arrangement with Communitas Supportive Care Society. They’ve been making music together for years, first at Circle of Friends and now, at MCC’s weekly BBQ. This event has grown since it began in 2014 to include a meal, hot showers, gently used clothing, and other services to people who are street entrenched. For Daniel and John, it’s an opportunity to use their musical gifts for encouragement.

“Our goal is to bring hope through our music,” Daniel says.

John agrees. “It’s very meaningful to be able to play for people and share our music. It’s also a lot of fun!”

MCC’s Jane Njogu welcomes everyone and offers a prayer before the meal begins

Jane Njogu is the Homelessness Prevention Outreach Program Coordinator for MCC BC. She and Daniel are good friends and have great respect for each other. When Daniel approached Jane about volunteering at the BBQ, she suggested he come and sing. Daniel invited John to join him and he readily agreed. Jane loves how it adds to the holistic approach that MCC has taken in offering this service, which developed as a response to the needs she learned about as she engaged those living on the streets around the MCC Centre.

“Just as we do around the world, we are responding to the needs of the people living here as they are communicated to us,” she explains. “We’ve partnered with other organizations and have had individuals like Daniel and John volunteer to bring their gifts.”

Jane says the two gentlemen are truly dedicated to their volunteer role.

“Even when Daniel wasn’t able to make it on a certain evening, John still set up the PA system, hooked it up to my phone and provided music that way,” she says. “I am so impressed with his commitment.”

Larry appreciates the services offered by MCC and the music provided by Daniel and John

Those who attend the BBQ appreciate the variety of services available to them. Larry, who also receives services through Communitas’ Brain Injury Drop-In, comes to the BBQ regularly. Volunteers know him by name and are aware of his dietary challenges, bringing him a customized plate of food. He also enjoys the music Daniel and John provide.

“It’s really great what they do here,” he says.

Daniel and John purposefully choose gospel songs that reflect the joy, peace, and comfort of their Christian faith. Daniel has sensed that during this pandemic there is an added layer of fear to lives that are already vulnerable. It is what inspires them to share their songs.

“I know that for me, no one can bring comfort like Jesus can, there is no other place to be than under God’s wing,” he says.

Jane echoes these thoughts, adding that her faith in God informs what she does every day, as she responds to the brokenness she encounters. She also notes the way her work has impacted her.

“We are doing life together and as we do that, it becomes transformational,” she says. “It transforms all of us, not just the people I serve but me too. I have been changed by this experience.”

As for Daniel and John, making music together brings them closer together as friends. The opportunity to use their gifts to bring some joy and comfort to others is what inspires them to continue. They invite others to participate with them.

“If we can bring a sense of hope by what we do, then that makes all the difference,” Daniel says.

Learn more about Communitas' Home Share services

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For more information about MCC BC’s weekly BBQ, please email Jane Njogu at JaneNjogu@mccbc.ca