Last night was another evening out on the street with CARTS. CARTS is a 'backronym' for 'Christian Actions Reflecting The Spirit'. Since we walk around the streets of downtown Victoria pulling a few sturdy garden carts, CARTS is a good name for us. These carts are loaded with hot chocolate, sandwiches, fruit, pastries, homemade cookies, blankets, jackets and other warm clothing, socks, underwear, toques and scarves, and other necessities of life. Over the period of about 3 hours every Friday, we meet and help about 200 people in various positions of need. All of them receive love, and whatever we have that we can share with them. For most people, it's not the excitement of getting a peanut butter and jam sandwich that brings them around every week. It's the love expressed in the smiles, the hugs, the words, the genuineness. It's knowing that our volunteers are out in any weather because we want to be there. We've never missed a night, and this year we're looking forward to being able to be out on Christmas Day. That is going to be such fun! Last night we probably had a record number of volunteers. 29. We had so many that 3 or 4 had nothing specific to do except walk and talk. We had at least 4 new volunteers who joined us for the first time, while many of us have been doing this for several years. We have the greatest caliber and variety of volunteers—and this includes the many who are involved behind the scenes who never join us on the street. The faithful teams that make the sandwiches every week. Those who make our famous CARTS chocolate chip cookies. They are huge, tasty, and include the secret ingredient—love. The lady who faithfully goes to Starbucks for their day-old pastries, and wraps them for distribution. The little old ladies who knit scarves and toques. The people who regularly cull their closets for good used clothing and blankets. The businesses and individuals who faithfully share financially with us, and the businesses who donate day old food items. The school kids who collect and donate the proceeds from drink containers. The church ladies group who stuffed 91 socks with personal hygiene items for us to give out this Christmas. It's a never ending list. Many items are donated, some are purchased with the cash donations. But there are the regular volunteers who not only join us in distributing everything, but who out of their own pockets buy special treats. The young man who buys and gives away at least 100 full-size chocolate bars every night he joins us. The lady who makes incredible home-made fudge, wraps it and gladdens the hearts of those who ask: “Is the fudge lady here?” The lady who once a month makes about 180 of our famous CARTS cookies. Other nights usually have several people making a batch or two, but she does one whole night herself. A young couple who give out the little Halloween-sized treats. The guys with muscles who pull the heavily-loaded carts. The guys and gals who give out the clothing items with grace and flare. It's almost as much fun as going to a boutique! But I've saved the best until last. The two faithful ladies who started CARTS nearly 7 years ago (the two ladies pictured here). Two sisters with a vision for interacting with people face-to-face, on their level. Bringing joy, love and food to those in greatest need. Not worried about a little dirt or grime. Not deterred by the roughness of the street culture. Not scared by the unpredictability of someone on drugs. Just being angels of mercy. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep. I'm so glad I connected with CARTS a few years ago and am able to be a part of this wonderful expression of God's heart for people. Sunday morning church is nothing compared to this loving act of worship for the One who encourages us to give a cup of cold water in His name.
Life has taken me from the rather predictable working year after year and not feeling fulfilled to serving with Youth With A Mission as a missionary in my homeland of Canada. I am presently active in Victoria, with responsibilities and interests in our YWAM office, and out on the street. (and feeling more fulfilled than at any time earlier in my life.)