Posted by: Philip Rushton | May 18, 2010

Finding God in Broken Places: A Farewell Reflection on 6 Years at Osprey House

“The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God’s design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Jean Vanier suggests in this quote that our interaction with the poor points us to Christ. The profound truth of scripture is that God’s kingdom belongs to those who are poor and broken (Matthew 5:2). The Bible reveals to us that God has come to bring good news to the poor and to bring freedom to those who are oppressed (Isaiah 61 / Luke 4). It follows from this that if we want to participate in God’s kingdom and see him working in the world, we ought to enter into community with those who are poor and broken.

For the past 6 years I have had the privilege of working with a group of developmentally disabled adults in a group home in Abbotsford. As I look back on this experience I recognize that these people have had a prophetic role in my life. They have modeled for me a life of virtue and have challenged me to confront my own brokenness.

The residents that I have been in community with have wrestled with a lot of brokenness. They were all born with severe developmental issues and spent their early life locked away in large institutions. Out of the five residents at Osprey House, only one has the ability to speak. I cannot imagine the feeling of fear and confusion that would come from not being able to communicate my needs to those around me.

Yet, despite these unimaginable set-backs, these residents have found reasons for hope and have been capable of living with joy. Jesus promises that those who mourn will find comfort (Matthew 5:3). It has been amazing to see this truth come to life with these residents. I have seen broken people find peace while playing with sand, joy from a simple hug, and happiness from a home cooked meal. These brave souls have found reasons for hope and reasons for joy even in the midst of great odds. One of the residents, C., is probably the most joyful person I have ever met. We would go to the airport every Thursday and watch the westjet plane take off at the end of the runway and he would almost explode because he was so excited.

The residents I work with are also people of great character. As they live in a situation of complete dependence these residents are forced to live with great patience, courage and trust. One resident, C.D., cannot use any words and yet he sticks with us, trying to find ways to show us what he wants. With gentle persistence he presses forward each day. There is also a sense of great honesty in these residents. Not bound by social norms, they are free to express true frustration, anger, and sadness.

My time at Osprey House has been a challenging. As I have had to care for highly dependent people it has exposed my impatience and selfishness. Jean Vanier comments in his book, Community and Growth, that he did not realize how broken he was until he lived with the disabled. The challenge and blessing of living in community with the poor is that it forces you to come to terms with your own humanity.

As I head down to Longview I bring with me a lot of blessings from the community at Osprey House. I am indebted to these beautiful people for their prophetic role in my life. As I have engaged with them I have been drawn closer to God’s kingdom.

As Jean Vanier concludes, “Jesus is the starving, the parched, the prisoner, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the dying. Jesus is the oppressed, the poor. To live with Jesus is to live with the poor. To live with the poor is to live with Jesus.”

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Responses

  1. I work with kids every day that have learning disabilities, low social skills and some have physical issues….I’m there to help and teach them at a level they can comprehend, but I know they teach me more then I ever could teach them.

  2. Thanks for sharing Pauline!

  3. I’d like to borrow the Vanier book. If God will use you to bring a sense of caring to our Longview group it will be a great blessing. I can only speak about me, I’m afraid I care for my lifestyle and comfort level so much that there isn’t much left over to care for the poor and disenfranchised.
    Keep on keepin on.

  4. Hey Gil,

    Yes, Vanier’s book is a great read. I actually don’t have my own copy so you might want to try and find it at the library. Also a great place to buy cheap books is half.com. I just found a 20 dollar book for 75 cents today!


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