Angie Draskovic is President & CEO of Yonge Street Mission in Toronto, an EFC affiliate organization. She shared her knowledge of poverty today in our Three Questions Series of short online interviews.
Q1. How has poverty changed for today’s generation?
As Christians, when we consider those among us experiencing poverty, it is important to know that this is not the Toronto that our parents or grandparents immigrated to. Our society, has chosen to allocate public resources in a way that has created an ever increasing divide and number of people who are experiencing poverty, making Toronto the inequality capital of Canada. Social supports, available affordable housing, and the presence of full time work at a livable wage no longer exist. Highly skilled and educated new Canadians enter a job market that dominantly produces part time jobs without benefits, with over half (64%) reporting that their most significant barrier to finding employment is their lack of Canadian experience.
Q2. Where should churches fit into this overwhelming situation?
People today are faced with conditions that are insurmountable without the support of community, a void that if anyone is mandated to fill it, it is the church. Jesus chose to speak of the churches responsibility to the poor often. The community mandate that speaks to how we are to live with and care for one another. We have the opportunity to know the times (as the men of Issachar did) and be the community that we are called to be. In the face of this great need we see the church’s greatest opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to those around us.
As big and overwhelming as poverty seems to be, it is not too big for our God. And it is not too big or complex for us. If humankind can find a way to put a man on the moon and advance technologies as they have, we can certainly figure out a social system gone awry. Toronto and many of our cities are some of the most privileged on the planet with an overabundance of resources – we have enough to help the poor move into a position of dignified living.
Q3. What actions can we take to help?
As children of God we can do much as we donate, sacrifice our time, be community for the isolated, and vote in a way that ensures that there is enough housing and fair employment for the people who need it the most. We can demonstrate God’s love and cause others to bring Him glory as we lead the way. We can show others how they can choose to give out of their abundance and give some of their time so that all people belong and are valued in our communities (2 Corinthians 9:9-15).
The church has never had a greater opportunity to lead the way, demonstrating God’s love and value for people in our tangible actions. James 2:17 says “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Friends, if there ever was a time for action on behalf of the poor in our city it is now, and my prayer above all prayers is that we will lead the way by demonstrating our faith causing others to bring glory to God.
I am sure the city mission in your city would welcome you to contact them to find out how your church can partner in community. Toronto folks can reach us through our website www.ysm.ca.