This article was published in the October 1996 issue of the WMSC VOICE, and is reprinted by permission.
Hearing ambulance sirens was nothing out of the ordinary when I worked as a nurse in the emergency department in Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital. But, although I didn’t know it at the time, the sirens blaring one day were signaling a major change in my life. Through the emergency doors came a woman and her 12-year-old daughter. The mother—a single mom— had killed her son, wounded her daughter, and stabbed herself with a knife.
As I drove home that night to my comfortable home overlooking the city, I thought, “Where was that woman’s support system? How could her distressful situation have gone unnoticed? What could have helped avert this tragedy?”
God gave me a clear answer. He showed me a living room and women talking…
For the next few months, I prayed with two friends about what this support group would look like. My husband and I had three children, aged six, five, and one, at the time, so our house was childproof; and we had just added a spacious playroom. So in September 1976, after the health and fire departments checked out the facilities, my two friends and I put a small classified ad in the local newspaper offering “free child-minding and lunch for single mothers, provided by Christian ladies one day a week.”
They began to come, a few at first and then an increasing number as the word spread. The women were free to come and then do shopping or errands while their children were looked after by loving adult volunteers. But most moms stayed to chat. We became their sisters and mothers and friends. This was the start of the Open Door.
We expanded to two days, adding a Bible study, a preschool teacher, a clothes bank, a “pamper night,” a food voucher program, and celebrations of special events. When our home became too small, we moved to excellent facilities in Hillside Baptist Church in North Vancouver. Another Open Door began in Aldergrove. Over the years other branches started in Abbotford, Campbell River, Chilliwack, Langley, Quesnel, Sardis, two in Vancouver and White Rock—all operated by churches of various denominations. Although the White Rock branch has closed (due to lack of volunteers to run the program, certainly not because of declining need), another has just opened in Cranbrook.
First and foremost, all credit goes to God for the motivation and any Open Door success stories. We are merely participating in what God is doing. The verse I like is Colossians 1:27: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” If we live that out, it will speak hope into people’s lives.
The women coming to the Open Door are outcasts, without any hope. The church has expected them to get cleaned up and then come to church, whereas Jesus always went out where they were. He did that with the woman at the well. That’s what we need to do. We, with Jesus, need to go out looking for sheep that are lost, rather than waiting for them to come to us.
The Open Door is meeting the immediate needs of single moms, whoever they are and wherever they are. We don’t ask any questions. We just tell them that Jesus loves them. We’re looking for that hundredth sheep (Luke 15:4-7).
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
1 John 3:16-17 (NRSV)