Serving Greater Vancouver & the Fraser Valley

Nightshift and Gideons events

NightShift fundraiser: unmasking the truth

by Trish Farebrother

A small group of aspiring ACTS seminary graduates have gathered in the chapel for a talk from a petit lady, who speaks tenaciously and unapologetically of reaching out to the beloved people her ministry serves. MaryAnne Conner, Founder and President of NightShift Street Ministries, is forthright in her resolve to shift our hearts towards compassion. As she speaks, passion filling every word, I can see God’s fingers reaching down into the cesspool she describes for us. Her words drip with Holy Spirit fire, and it is not long before a fire is lit in my own belly.

“What we do is messy. It’s not comfortable. People are suffering. They are dying. They are being abused,” says Conner. She doesn’t beat around the bush by painting a pretty picture of her work in Whalley, one of the Lower Mainland’s roughest neighbourhoods. “You toss in addictions on top of that, extreme poverty and homelessness and we have a cesspool.”

NightShift is a grassroots, not-for-profit, contextualized, multi-denominational ministry born in Conner’s heart on a cold winter night in 2004. The ministry has since expanded, “like a ground swell” she says, to says, to include nightly outreach teams, a nursing bus, The Care Centre counselling and even a boutique shop for women.

“Where was Jesus?” Conner pauses, weighing her audience. “Hanging out with the people that society would stigmatize as prostitutes, drug dealers, pimps, criminals. I used to call them the same names.” It wasn’t until she offered God her own brokenness that she realized “we’re the same as them. We’re all broken people. We’re just moving at a different pace.”

The call has not changed. We serve the same Jesus who engaged in relationship with society’s outcasts. He wasn’t hanging out in synagogues. He was out touching the lepers, speaking with prostitutes, breaking bread with the homeless and outcasts of society. He was out, “…doing kingdom work in the bowels of the city!” His motive was love in the highest degree.

The same address to a large mainstream church might set a few squirming in their pews – it’s no easy task to love the unlovely, but love is what draws volunteers into NightShift daily, who then spill out God’s love into the dark streets of Surrey 365 days a year. They are not just offering a bowl of soup, a clean shirt or an awkward hug – they are doing kingdom work, sowing seeds of belonging, validating the poorest in spirit.

“LOVE in all its shades of truth” is the theme of NightShift’s annual Unmasking the Truth women’s event on April 13, 6 to 9 pm at Eaglequest Golf in Surrey. The fundraiser is hosted by Fiona Forbes (host of TV’s The Rush) and includes guest speakers Karen McAndless-Davis (author of When Love Hurts), and veteran TV presenter and domestic violence survivor, Kathy Kovacs, will share their personal stories of hope to help us move beyond the masks. The evening holds the promise of transparency and vulnerability in a safe environment. All proceeds support NightShift counselling program at the Care Centre. Tickets cost $30 each ($25 for a table of 10). Includes light refreshments, fashion show, trade show, plus door prizes. Book a table early, because the event sold out last year. For more information or to register visit: or call 604 953-1114


Doerksen’s Shiyr Poets heads Gideons fundraiser

by Keri Langley

It began as an anti-government protest in Kiev’s Maidan Square, with disgruntled citizens speaking out against Russian influence and control in Ukraine. But the demonstration, fuelled by unrest, anger and fear turned violent and by the end of the day, almost one hundred people, including protestors and police, were dead and over a thousand were injured. The events of February 18, 2014 are now known as the Ukranian Revolution.

This year, on the anniversary of that bloody day, Peter Marshall, President of Gideons International in Canada, stood in the same square, handing out Hope Magazine, to people in a country that continues to suffer in unrest and war. Partnered with an organization in Eastern Europe called Mission Ukraine (which empowers youth and evangelical Christians to find their giftings and develop leadership skills), about 100,000 Russian and Ukrainian translated copies of Hope Magazine, (featuring 50 Psalms, and the Gospel of John in a colourful magazine featuring photographs of landmarks of the country) have been put into the hands of people throughout the Ukraine, desperate for truth, and longing for hope for the future.

“In Ukraine there is a huge openness for people to hear the Gospel message; for them to hear good news today,” shares Marshall. “They are looking, they are desperate and hungry for answers.” When people in these communities that have been ravaged by war (there are 1.5 million displaced people in Ukraine) read the word of God, “they sense from the Spirit that it is real. Then they want to share. There are crowds of people showing up at churches – churches are bursting at the seams.” Marshall tells of one young man, Alexey Youditsenko, who puts on a bullet proof vest and a war helmet and heads out to areas devastated by war to hand out Hope Magazine, food and clothing to soldiers.

Along with a new vitality that seems to have fuelled and mobilized Gideons International in Canada over the last few years, comes a greater desire to reach the world with the Gospel. Through passion for Jesus, and partnerships around the world, it looks as if Gideons is the little evangelistic engine that could. “Because we are a small organization, we are flexible and very nimble,” Marshall shares. Standing a few months ago in Maidan Square, Marshall himself gave away 200 Hope Magazines in 45 minutes, putting them into the eager hands of people hungry for truth. In a two-hour period, 10 youth workers handed out about 2,000 Hope Magazines. “We do this to share the love of God,” and to meet their mandate of Bible distribution. And it seems to be working. The demand for New Testaments and Bibles in Ukraine is growing exponentially.

To meet that need for Bibles (Marshall will return with a team to Ukraine next year), Gideons International in Canada is hosting a concert fundraiser May 1, and they have enlisted the help of a man well known for his love of scripture – worship leader and musician Brian Doerksen. The concert, at Northview Church in Abbotsford, features the music of Doerksen and his band The Shiyr Poets, to drum up attention and financial support for supplying Bibles to Ukraine.

Doerksen, an internationally-known, award-winning Christian musician was a natural fit for a Gideon’s fundraiser concert. After going through a difficult musical period around 2010-11, he rediscovered the Psalms in a way that was profound. “The result is after a couple of years of not doing any writing and feeling like I’d lost my words, in a fresh way I rediscovered the Book of Psalms,” Doerksen shares of the inspiration for the debut album from the Shiyr (pronounced “sheer”) Poets, a band he formed with friends who have a similar passion for the “songbook at the heart of the Bible.”

The album, Songs for the Journey, Volume One, features Psalms 1 through 10 set to music agreed upon by Doerksen, and bandmates Calum Rees, Brian Thiessen and Teresa Trask. Doerksen notes the Psalms are special, reflecting the heart of God, and also of man, in a way that includes even the dark and gritty bits of humanity.

The Shiyr Poets (a GMA Covenant Award winning band) are an obvious match for a fundraiser whose aim is to get God’s word into the hands of people looking for truth, amidst upheaval and darkness. Doersken says he most often has to turn down requests to play fundraisers, but this one was different. Not only was there a shared passion for Scripture (in particular the Psalms), he had already come across Hope Magazine during an event he was doing recently at a men’s prison in Drumheller, Alberta. “There I was in the chapel in this little prison and there was this Gideons’ magazine. It said something like  ‘50 songs from people who are in trouble’. You open up the magazine and the songs they are referring to are the Psalms… These are songs, these are poems and these are prayers and they are for people who are in trouble. And of course, that is what we are singing.”

Much like the people of Ukraine, the Psalms are prayers and songs for a people in trouble. Who are longing for help.

Admission to the benefit concert is complimentary, and will include information on how you can help get Bibles to people in Ukraine. The fundraiser is May 1, 7 pm at Northview Church in Abbotsford. RSVP at (604) 588 6883 or (604) 755 0528. A voluntary offering will be taken.

Leave a Comment