“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in it various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
107 has a new meaning for me today. My “mother” church – the church that led me to the Lord was Central Tabernacle in downtown Edmonton (now North Pointe Community Church in Northwest Edmonton). The church was also known as “the pyramid building” and was on the corner of 116 Street and 107 Avenue. It became a home for me of sorts. The first time I visited here, I attended a service as a brand new born again Christian. It is an experience I will never forget and will treasure always.
The second time I visited here, I came up from the states to see the Singing Christmas Tree at Central Tabernacle as it played a huge role in my becoming a Christian. I got to know the pastor and his wife, along with several members of the congregation and I fell in love. I began to imagine relocating to Edmonton, and when I returned home, began to pray about it. Through a series of amazing prayer experiences and life changes, what I thought was impossible happened.
The third time I visited here, it was for three months, and I explored the possibility of moving here. It seemed the only way to come here was to come on a student visa, so I went to the local colleges/universities to see how best to achieve this. I ended up deciding to attend NAIT to complete a Bachelors of Applied Information Systems & Technology, as I would need to get into the workforce quickly.
During those three adventurous months, I volunteered at Central Tabernacle as well. I lived in the West End and I drove down 107 Avenue every day and became very familiar with it. One day from the church, I drove down 107 Avenue to 95 Street and then north one block and discovered the Italian Market, which sold the most delightful Italian submarines – still the best I have found in the area here. It was an idyllic summer of volunteering and getting to know the church. I travelled 107 Avenue a lot!
I had to return to the states to pack up and move, which I did two months later. I found a room and board to live in (with other students), attended NAIT, and continued to volunteer at Central Tabernacle, settling into Edmonton. Of course, settling included many visits to the Italian Market, as I had become quite fond of their subs, and their produce as well. And I had also discovered a great Vietnamese market at 97 Street and 107 Avenue called Lucky 97. I stopped there regularly to get a Vietnamese sausage called “cha”, chili garlic sauce, and other sundries.
It is now 12 years later and a lot has happened. The church moved out to the northwest corner of the city and I have moved several times. But anytime I would travel 107 Avenue, seeing the remains of the church, or stopping at Lucky 97, or heading to the Italian Market, I fondly remembered my idyllic beginnings here in Edmonton. Those were formative times for me.
Little did I know then of the roads that would lead me more regularly once again to 107 Avenue. I graduated from NAIT and went on to work at the church, NorQuest College, and PCL Construction. But nothing seemed to really work out, and I had this desire and hunger for more of God. I had heard about Taylor Seminary and decided to pursue a Master of Divinity degree there. The Master of Divinity requires five semesters of field education, and I started my field education working with the Salvation Army by ministering to homeless, addicted and prostituted women on the streets on Monday nights from 9 pm to 2 am. And much to my surprise, one of the “hot spots” for prostitution was 107 Avenue between 95 Street and 124 Street. Once again, I was travelling familiar terrain, but with a different focus and awareness. How did I not know about this for the years I worked right in that area?
I went to a funeral today – for Pilar. Pilar was only 31 years old. She had a rough life, struggling with addictions and working the streets. I met Pilar this last year at “The Journey” – a weekend retreat for women from the streets. I did not see her for a while after that, but then one Monday night, I stopped the van for a lady on 107 Avenue and 95 Street. To my surprise, it was Pilar. I saw her a few times after that as well, and that corner became “Pilar’s Corner” in my mind, and I began to look for her anytime I drove by. It will be hard to drive in that area and know that I won’t be seeing her again. At least not in this lifetime.
My hope and prayer is that God worked through us as we shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with Pilar in word and deed and presence at “The Journey” and on the van. I pray to continue sharing his love with others on our nights out on the van. Thank you, Lord, for all the memories I have of experiences on 107 Avenue – I pray I never forget my idyllic beginnings there and relationships built with people at Central Tabernacle, as well as the relationships built while on outreach ministries with the Salvation Army.