CHILLIWACK snapshots of faith
BY PETER BIGGS
TABLE of CONTENTS. (click headings below)
Shawn Vandop – Main Street Church
Matt Schantz – Central Community Church
Mike Mannis – Southside Church
Leon Throness – Chilliwack Alliance Church
Lorne Lueck – City Life Church
THE GROWING city of Chilliwack, 20 minutes east of Abbotsford, has a unique rural charm, set as it is in the fertile land of the Fraser Valley. Surrounded by farms, rivers and lakes, all set against the dramatic backdrop of the majestic Cascade Mountains, it is surprisingly large, with a population of over 83,000
Like Abbotsford, its significance as an urban centre is largely hidden to the passersby on the No 1 Highway.
Although it has steadily rising property values Chilliwack is now being viewed as affordable and commutable despite being 100 Kms or so from Greater Vancouver and the fact that Highway 1 now ‘chokes’ every morning between Abbotsford and Langley due to steadily increasing traffic density.
According to data released this month by the B.C. Real Estate Association, Chilliwack saw the highest annual jump in house prices out of the 12 real estate boards in the province at 16.6 per cent. In addition October 2017 was the hottest October on record for the city with 353 homes sold.
Within the borders of Chilliwack are outlaying communities such as Greendale, Yarrow, and Promontory. Further afield and belonging to the District of Kent, are the communities of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs.
Chilliwack’s community is divided by Highways 1. South of the Hwy, is referred to as Sardis. It’s north/south orientation contrasts with Abbotsford that lays mostly east-west (making it easy to get around using the Hwy). In contrast Chilliwack is a north – south City. To go from south Sardis north across Hwy 1 to downtown Chilliwack involves numerous traffic lights and up to 25 minutes drive.
Chilliwack is the warmest city in Canada according to a 2013, Maclean’s report, with an average annual temperature of 10.5 °C.
• Population of Chilliwack: 83,788
• Growth Rate (2011–2016): 7.5 percent
Statistics Canada (2016 census)
The archeological record shows evidence of Stу:lō people in the Fraser Valley, or S’уlh Tйmйxw, 10,000 years ago. Permanent structures in the Chilliwack area date from around 5,000 years ago. At the time of first contact with Europeans it is estimated that there were as many as 40,000 people living within Stу:lō territory.
The Stу:lō traditional territory extends from Yale to Langley, BC and comprises of 19 Bands. They have a large Stolo Service Agency (SSA) in Sardis that offers an impressive range of services.
‘The SSA aims to ensure social and economic development within the Stу:lō commu- nity through services and programs in the areas of education, human resource development, early childhood education services such as daycare, headstart and family support, elderly care, social development, health services, a dental office, tourism, and land and research and resource management services.’
Although not part of Chilliwack but in the District of Kent, these nearby communities (20 minutes NW of Chilliwack) have significant populations. Agassi is just over 6000 and Harrison’s year-round is around 1500 being mainly a tourist attraction, with the hot springs, beach, views. Both commnities are easily accessed off the No 1 Hwy.
Harrison Gospel Chapel belongs to the Mennonite Brethern and has around 90 members.
Agassiz has around six churches. Central Community Church in Chilliwack is planting a church that has grown to around 150 people.
Every three years, regional districts in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley compile a report on the homeless population based on an extensive one-day count.
It’s not an exact census, but if you compare the numbers from 2014 to 2017, the trend is clear: homelessness is growing faster in the Fraser Valley than Vancouver, notably in Chilliwack where the homelessness count tripled.
Chilliwack’s homeless count nearly tripled, from 73 to 221 people.
In Abbotsford, it went from 151 to 271. Overall, the area from Langley to Chilliwack saw its homeless population increase by 86 percent, compared to a 19 percent rise in Vancouver.
There are 44 churches in Chilliwack – for a population of around 84,000. Around half a dozen have 1000 – 1500 attendees a week. It is said that the Guinness Book of records had recorded Chilliwack to be the most churched city in Canada, this is questionable, however in parts of the city there does seem to be a ‘church on every corner’. Most public schools rent their facilities to churches on Sundays.
Rob Heppell, a Pastor at Sardis Fellowship Baptist for the past 13 years serves on the four person Ministerial Executive.
“We host a monthly luncheon and see up to 45 Pastors and Ministry leaders come, he told The Light. “We don’t do as much collectively as we once did, but there is still a strong Christian base here and networks of agencies that help the poor and marginalized,” he said.
The Chilliwack Ministerial has five ministries they focus on and especially support:
Teen Challenge (based in Yarrow)
Cyrus Centre (for youth)
RAN Mission-Ruth& Naomi’s
The Salvation Army
Chilliwack Hospital’s chaplain Jim Gaetz.
Some years ago Fraser Health withdrew funding for chaplaincy. Realizing the critical nature of this role, individuals and churches – supported by the Ministerial stepped up to fund a part time Spiritual Care Coordinator.
Jim Gaetz (pictured right) was Lead Pastor at Southside Church in Chilliwack for 15 years. He became the ‘Chaplain’ at the Hospital some 8 years ago.
He works there five days a week four hours a day.
“I start with 10 minutes alone in prayer, then generally start my rounds in the ER… then ICU an then visit the wards. Once a week I especially focus on the Psych ward where people will line up to talk to me. Many are depressed and suicidal,” he told the Light. Jim’s usual opening line when approaching the patient is, ‘Hi I’m Jim, a chaplain. I’m just stopping by to make sure you’re not worried or scared.’
Not surprisingly most patients do NOT say ‘I’m fine’. “People just open up”, said Jim. “Just today a man told me that he’d just heard that he has pancreatic cancer and probably only has weeks to live. Lots have a faith background but have ‘drifted’. Facing eternity they want to connect with God.”
Asked how often these kinds conversations happen, Jim, responds “well, I’d have to say at least twice every week.”
He frequently deals with patients who have dementia, who cannot understand that they can no longer go home. “It’s tough, as anything I might say simply doesn’t ‘go in’, but I try to meet them where there’re at. A number of patients ask me to pray with them. I find that there are lots of lonely people. Perhaps from out of town, perhaps kids have moved away and so many dropped out of church, so there’s no support or visits from anyone.”
Although dealing with some tragic situations, on a personal level Jim is not weighed down.
“I never leave depressed,” he says, “I leave grateful to God for enabling me to be there.”
Saturday October 28 saw hundreds come to the annual Chilliwack Connect at First Ave Christian Assembly. With scores of volunteers, hundreds of those in need enjoyed a day of pampering including free breakfast & lunch, clothing, haircuts and foot care. Most service providers were represented with displays.
The event is organized and hosted by local service agencies, churches and volunteers and receives no government funding.
The Salvation Army, RAN Mission & the Cyrus Centre provide critical services for hundreds of Chilliwack people daily.
Most of their clients have not come from elsewhere but have lived in Chilliwack for at least six years. The Ministry leaders meet often and enjoy warm collaborative relationships.
• The Salvation Army
In 2016 Chilliwack Salvation Army served 27,000 lunches (something over 100/day) As the Food Bank for the city they distributed over 600 hampers a month with an additional 1500 Christmas Hampers. They are also the only Emergency Shelter in town.
Tim Bohr, the Community Ministries Director commented, “we currently have 16 permentant Shelter beds and another 30 mats we put down in our dining room. BC Housing have approached us about expanding our shelter with Britco modular units to 46 beds. It will be open 24/7 and be low barrier. We see the current shelter building being used exclusively for women. This will happen early in 2018. The shelter is needed as a first step off the street, the next step is safe affordable housing – something currently just not available in our community.”
Asked how he has seen Chilliwack’s social needs change in recent years he replied, “The first thing is that our clients are getting older with a major increase of seniors in the food bank. It’s similar in the Shelter – likely to do with the rise in housing costs.
The second observation is that the condition of our Shelter clients is deteriorating rapidly. Folks are more sick and less functional.”
• RAN Mission – Ruth & Naomi’s
From the Mission’s experience in helping hundreds of often broken and addicted adults one factor is clear; an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Dr. John Gray who leads the Residential Recovery program states “So much adult brokenness originates from tough childhoods and each generation passes on their brokenness to the next.”
A vision emerged for a FAMILY CENTRE
It is currently being built behind the Mission and will have 36 low rental apartments for at-risk and homeless families. In addition the lower two floors will provide a ‘Wellness Centre’ which includes wrap-around services such as medical, dental, counselling and other supports. “There will be a childrens day care centre and a range of courses offered, including parenting, anger management and basic Christianity,” said Bill Raddatz – Executive Director.
• Cyrus Centre – for youth
The Centre, leased from the City used to house Family Place on Wellington Avenue. There, at risk and homeless youth may go and receive support, safety, and a bed. Cyrus offers programs and services to guide and equip youth for success and enhance their quality of life. Aside from the Cyrus Centre in Abbotsford, there are no shelter beds anywhere for at-risk youth in the area spanning from Metro Vancouver to the Okanagan. www.cyruscentre.com
Shawn Vandop – Main Street Church
Main Street Church takes up the best part of a whole city block in the downtown area. Senior Pastor Shawn Vandop grew up in Chilliwack. “I remember that there was always one ‘happening church’ back then but now there are six or so churches with over 1000 / week. That said it’s easy to forget that there are many who need the gospel,” he said. Vandop has been greatly impacted by Southland Church in Steinbeck, Manitoba and annually attends their Prayer Summit along with 2000 or more.
Their focus and Vandop’s passion is PRAYER.
Like many churches in Chilliwack they are involved in helping the community with services such as a Boys Club in Central Elementary School, and an after school ‘Adventure Club’ at McCammon Elementary. He is a regular supporter of the Ministerial.
Matt Schantz – Central Community Church
Matt has been Lead Pastor for 3 years. Prior to that he was involved in leading young adults and worship. Central, now seeing around 950 people a week has planted two satellite churches in Agassiz and in Promontory (south of Sardis) each has grown to around 150 people.
They employ a unique approach. The satellites have their own Leader/Preacher/Worship group, however they all come under the one Eldership at Central. Matt’s sermon from the previous week is passed on to the two Pastors. Taking advantage of Matt’s many hours of preparation they may edit it some (to make it their own) before they preach it. “When planting a church we don’t feel a planter should be taking hours and hours in sermon prep. This also has the advantage of helping them learn to preach,” Matt shared. Central has a ‘Preaching Lab’ and a ‘Leadership Lab’ – equipping people to lead in the 30+ small groups.
“We are experiencing a surge in young families. A third of our church is 10 or under!! (that’s sometimes 250 kids on a Sunday)”
Mike Mannis – Southside Church
Southside meets in the Sardis Secondary School and has a youth and admin centre just
behind Chances casino where a staff of 11 oversee this growing church (they are now around 1300/week). Mike has been Lead Pastor for 9 years.
He has a passion to equip believers to be witnesses in their lives. Indeed every week Southside sees newcomers that have been invited. “There’s a tension between keeping Christians happy and reaching the lost,” he shared.
In the past 2 years they have baptized 270 new Christians. “God is bringing new people to us!” Mannis said (pictured right).
Leon Throness – Chilliwack Alliance Church
“I’ve been at the church for 10 years. We’re changing as a city, from ‘old Chilliwack’ – Dutch, Farming, Military to ‘new Chilliwack’ with an influx of people moving out from Metro Vancouver. I’m concerned that as a city we’re actually not as ‘Christian’ as some may think we are. Likely less than 10 percent of people are in church regularly.”
Every year the church reaches out with an elaborate Christmas production and coordinates thousands of Samaritans Purse Christmas Shoe Boxes for us all.
Lorne Lueck – City Life Church
CityLife church sees around 800 people each week. Lorne is at the cusp of retirement with his son Justin set to take over as Senior Pastor next year. Lorne is concerned about the loss of basic understanding of Christ’s place in secular culture. “It doesn’t take long to find people who have no idea who Jesus is,” he said. He reflected on recent years of ministry in Chilliwack. “I see ‘the church’ as much more aware of care for people than in previous years. I’m really proud of the churches and ministries in our town. We’re getting out of our walls and reaching out.”
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior 1 Timothy 2
• Mark Strahl – Conservative MP for Chilliwack – Hope. www.markstrahl.com
• Laurie Throness – MLA for Chilliwack – Kent www.lauriethronessmla.ca
• John Martin – MLA for Chilliwack www.johnmartinmla.ca
• Sharon Gaetz – Mayor for City of Chilliwack www.chilliwack.ca
by The Light on November 15 2017
1. How would you describe the impact that the Faith Communities have on Chilliwack?
“As we deal with social challenges I do get asked, ‘what are the churches doing?’.
If you include Christian ministries, such as the Salvation Army, Ruth & Naomi’s Mission and the Cyrus Centre, along with each church’s own ministries, the ‘church’ is doing an amazing job in Chilliwack!
Jim and I visit many different churches and we get a broad view of ‘the church’.
In addition to directly helping people who are homeless, many churches have ministries that prevent homelessness, either directly or indirectly. With nearly half of all Canadians living paycheque to paycheque, many churches provide much needed programs and services to help make ends meet. Daycare, youth groups and providing support for single parents all make a positive impact on our community.
Social connectivity is another part of church that impacts our community. We are finding that social connectivity is diminishing from communities, leaving many people feeling isolated. We often hear of seniors, for example, who become isolated and lonely as friends pass away. When a church learns that this is happening, the vast majority of them respond with options to help reconnect that individual to the community of the church.”
2. Chilliwack stands out from other Lower Mainland cities as seeing the greatest increase of homelessness according the recent count. What is the council’s thinking as to why? Plus will Chilliwack get some of the 2000 portable housing units planned for by the NDP?
“It is shocking. In the 2014 homelessness count we had 73 and three years later it’s 221. That’s a 203 percent increase. Per capita, this is actually similar to Vancouver, but as a big city they have more supports.
We sometimes hear people speculate that many homeless people are new to Chilliwack, but a recent study found that 62.2 percent of homeless people have actually lived in Chilliwack six years or longer. These are members of our community who need help and support.
Last June, City Council adopted an extensive Chilliwack Homelessness Action Plan (go to www.chilliwack.com/homeless). It was created in collaboration with service providers and people who are actively working in the area of homelessness.
As we look for housing options, we know that it’s important to start with emergency shelters. Currently there are 46 emergency shelter beds available at the Salvation Army and eight youth beds at Cyrus Centre. With 211 people identified as homeless in our community, we need more beds.
We’ve advocated to the Province for more beds and services in Chilliwack and will soon see the positive results of that work. The Salvation Army will be opening a new modular shelter in the New Year, providing some additional emergency shelter beds.
At the same time, we are looking at the issue of affordable housing. We have supported Mamele’awt Qweesome & To’o Housing Society’s grant application through the federal Homeless Prevention Strategy and they are working on building 80 units. We have also supported Ruth and Naomi’s Mission, which is building affordable housing for families that will feature 36 units.”
3. Largely because of unaffordable housing in Metro Vancouver people are moving to the Valley and driving in, even from Chilliwack. The six lane improvement (slated to be completed by Winter 2022) seems utterly inadequate – with current daily traffic jams now just past Abby. What solutions do you see for this?
“It is inadequate. Chilliwack’s population is pushing 90,000 residents and we’re growing. We added 350 new kids to our schools last year. Couple that with our outdoor beauty and the lowest property taxes in the Lower Mainland (both business and residential) and we know we will continue to grow.
At our last Council meeting, we discussed the freeway and the need for it to be widened sooner than planned. The Township of Langley requested that we send a letter to the Honourable Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation, and the Lower Mainland Local Government Association in support of their request for widening and expansion projects of the highway from 216 Street to 264 Street. Council is writing that letter, but will add to it that the widening of the highway into the Fraser Valley must be expedited.
For now, the BC Transit #66 express route between Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley has proven popular and affordable ($5 and under), and it will likely be expanded in the future.
As a municipality, we are also working to attract more jobs to Chilliwack. We want our residents to enjoy a good work life balance that comes from working close to home. Opportunities like the new Molson Coors brewery, or the recent expansion of Roger’s Foods Mill, will provide the chance for more residents to work close to home and avoid commuting along the freeway.”
4. How could Christians pray for you in your challenging role?
“I find it humbling that people do pray for me. I have people approach me on the street to tell me that they are praying for me. How to pray? Well certainly for wisdom and discernment, strength also. Plus balancing family life with the challenges of public life. Even with people I may strongly disagree with, I want to be gracious and respectful. We are to be ‘Wise as serpents, harmless as doves’ and ‘always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.’”
Chilliwack Homelessness Action Plan can be read at www.chilliwack.com/homeless
• St. Mary’s Elementary – www.stmarysschoolchwk.com 604-792-7715
• Cascade Christian – www.cascadechristian.ca 604-793-7997
• High Road Christian Academy – www.highroadacademy.com 604-792-4680
• John Calvin School – http://jcss.ca 604-823-6814
• Mount Cheam Christian School – www.mccs.ca 604-794-3072
• Timothy Christian – www.timothychristian.ca 604-794-7114
• Unity Christian – www.unitychristian.ca 604-794-7797
• Agassiz Christian – www.agassizchristianschool.com 604-796-9310