Building community, transforming lives
by Adrian Prasad
David Morgan, pastor of the newly founded church plant, Eden Whalley, calls Whalley “Greater Vancouver’s forgotten child.” The City of Surrey has worked hard in the last few years to create a new image for its infamous town center by building the new city hall and beautiful apartments within Whalley’s core. Though a makeover improves the area’s image, it conceals larger issues. Whalley has received a bad reputation for it’s high rates of crime, homelessness and low income families as reported by CBC Radio; solutions to these issues may not be easily recognizable to long time community residents.
Pastor Morgan previously worked with Stepping Up Ministry for 6 years, reaching out to single fathers to provide support and resources to help raise their children. During his time with Stepping Up, Morgan felt God call him, much like Abraham, to pack up and move his life, and so he did. Without any guarantee of a job or place to stay, Morgan met Andy Hawthorne, founder of Message Canada who likened their meeting to the miracle of Jesus calling out to the fishermen to cast their empty nets on the other side of the boat. When they did, they received a bountiful catch. Morgan and Hawthorne partnered to start Eden Whalley, with a mission of restoration, hope and transformation. As Morgan tells of his own walk with Christ, it is clear he understands those three goals intimately.
Morgan’s faith journey
As a child, doctors told Morgan that due to cognitive disorders that he would not be able to read, write, or function as a ‘normal’ adult. This played a large role in the strained relationship between Morgan and his father. Through a series of painful events, Morgan found himself dropping out of high school in ninth grade and landing a life filled with drugs, gangs, and addiction. For 22 years he was bound to his addictions, until one night he began to cry out to God. In his desperation, Morgan isolated himself from the only home he knew, in order to repent from his old life and start a new one with Christ as his focus.
After a rigorous year of rehabilitation, God restored all that was lost in his life -including his family relationships – and enabled him to complete a diploma in theology. Isaiah 58:12 says, “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt…” Morgan believes this truth was spoken over his life.
Why choose Whalley for a church plant rather than somewhere like the Downtown East Side? Other than being the “forgotten child of Vancouver”, Morgan speaks of Whalley’s residents living on the margins – those not perceived by the Church as a community to be reached. Explaining that often the Church shows compassion to the poor and the homeless, he wonders about those who are known as gangsters and drug dealers. Morgan understands that these groups are on the margins as he was, and knows Christ is found in the midst of them. His concern is not only for the image of Whalley but also for the very real people who make up the community.
In a Vancouver Sun public survey, Whalley ranked among the 5 worst areas where residents feel safe with a sense of belonging. Morgan is eager to change that. Eden Whalley has aspirations to begin cultivating true community in this town center by opening a local barber shop, offering more options for recreational sporting teams and building a mobile youth centre. These initiatives will help the church to reach out specifically to those on the margins so that they don’t need to feel alone even in such a dense area.
In speaking about maintaining motivation and perseverance for his work in a community with such long-standing issues, Morgan cites the famous story by Loren Eiseley: A middle aged man was out for a morning stroll along the beach when he saw in the distance a child that seem to be throwing something into the ocean. When the man came closer, he noticed thousands of starfish washed up on shore. The child was throwing them back into the water. Laughing, the man said to the child, “You can’t possibly save all of these starfish, there are thousands of them! What you are doing makes no difference.” The child knelt down, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the water and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
How to help
Eden Whalley held a gala in May, raising over $93,000 – exceeding their goal by $18,000. These funds are an amazing blessing to help make their goals a reality. Morgan stresses that now they need willing hands and hearts. If you have a passion for those on the marginalized and want to extend the love of Christ in one of the city’s most desperate areas, visit Eden Whalley (messagecanada.org/whalley) and speak with Pastor Dave Morgan to learn about what he’s doing and how you can get involved.