Real Community

imagesPlease see the conclusion for Westside’s practical response to the recent floods in our city. When I began to write this piece I only knew half the story.  I only knew that I wanted to tell you about my recent experience with the Hands at Work community in South Africa.  I didn’t yet know about the terrible floods at home in Calgary.

I have been to South Africa three times over a span of three decades.  I have seen that beautiful but complicated place in various states of trouble, hope, and stress.  Right now there is no mistaking that South Africa is living through a slow-moving disaster.  Because of the ravages of HIV/AIDS, there are millions of orphans needing the most practical care.  Hands at Work works to identify, and support, the most vulnerable of South Africa’s children, extending that work into seven other countries in sub-saharan Africa.  It is a beautiful story of love in the midst of a real disaster.  I was going to tell you that story.  But then the second half of the story happened.

I was on my way home, and because of a lay-over at London Heathrow, decided to hop a train into London.  There on the train was a TV showing BBC news clips.  I gazed at the screen, bleary-eyed from the over-night flight, when I noticed a story of flooding.  And then I noticed the distinctive shape of a Canadian mailbox.  And then I heard the word Calgary.

Until that moment, the world’s trouble was usually something I thought I had to travel to. Yes, individuals at home had trouble, but not Calgary collectively.  Do you know the NIMBY acronym (not in my backyard)?  For us, in Calgary at least, the world’s disasters are far away, something to be seen on CNN (disaster TV, a new kind of entertainment, in high definition). But now that separation has been erased.

Since arriving home four days ago, I have been pondering how trouble has unexpectedly invaded our back yards and basements -- literally.  We can no longer say NIMBY.  The floods came uninvited, and many of our friends and family are desperately hurt by it all.  But along with the trouble has come an outpouring of practical help, and real community.  Again, we are watching a beautiful story of love in the midst of a real disaster.

As we dig ourselves out of the mud and mess, some of us heartbroken by the loss to property and personal possessions, some of us in need of accommodation, some of us in need of financial assistance for a time, I wonder how this event might change our view of the world.  I saw this posted on facebook today: “Note to self. Be more generous when you hear of a disaster in a foreign country.”

Perhaps its too soon to absorb such higher lessons.  Right now we need to do the simpler thing and just lean on each other.  But a bigger perspective on the world and its disasters is surely something we will need to make room for.  What happens far away may now feel a little more real to us.

Maybe we are being immersed in the idea that trouble comes to us all.  Maybe we are realizing too that caring for one another is the most basic Biblical ethic.  And hopefully we are finding out that to give help -- here at home, or far away -- is how our faith lives.

Bob Osborne


WKC's 2013 Flood Response

Because of the recent devastating floods, the Serve:Local Committee has come up with some specific initiatives to help our WKC community and our city:

1. “Adopt A Need”: We have set up a registration system on our website where people who need help, and people who are willing to help, can register. The Serve:Local Team will link these persons and families together.

2. We are partnering with Samaritan's Purse on an on-going and long-term basis to serve our city and help in the rebuilding process.  We will be gathering a database of volunteers from our community and will contact them as we get requests from Samaritan's Purse to serve in specific ways.  This will be a great way for a group of WKC’ers to work together as a team while Samaritan’s Purse organizes the projects.

3. We will be asking for on-going donations from our community, which the Serve:Local Team will designate to Disaster Relief for the 2013 Flooding. Portions of this offering will go directly to Samaritan's Purse to aid in the projects they are organizing.  As well, these will aid in any number of practical ways for our own community.  The website will tell you how to designate a portion of your giving to Serve:Local or to give in other ways.

4. Finally, we are in the process of contacting the organizations we are currently partnering with (Inn From the Cold / Feed the Hungry / Calgary Homeless Foundation) to see where they are in need, and how we can serve them during this time.

Please register online at to let us know the help you need, or the help you can give.  Because of the love of Jesus, we want to do good for our community and our city.

Thank you,

The Serve:Local Committee of Westside King’s Church