One of the first Abbotsford sex trade workers to come to the ministry, Tia told her story at a special service in the church that reached out to her.
“Tia was one of the first sex trade workers to come to our meals. She said she came only for the food. Later, she faced her addictions and sought treatment. Now she wants to come to church.” Norma Neufeld of South Abbotsford MB Church explained how a small idea, sparked by seeing prostitutes on the streets of the western Abbotsford area, became a significant ministry.
Neufeld told Tia’s story as part of an address to the B.C. Mennonite Brethren convention in May. Then, at a special service at South Abbotsford Church June 7, Tia herself spoke about the ministry she had received and how her life had changed. Cold and hungry, she had walked the long way to the Women’s Resource Centre hoping for a sandwich, she said. “I saw this big meal. They said the church ladies had made it for us. But, why?”
“These people made meals like they would feed their own family,” Tia said. “I was so touched, I cried and I cried and I cried. I felt, somebody cares about me. For me, that was a first.”
One of the volunteer cooks for “our ladies” related Neufeld’s philosophy: “I cook whatever I would cook for guests invited into my home.” The South Abbotsford women started cooking for 6–8 women, once a week. Now 15–30 volunteers gather to make about 900 meals in a batch, typically enjoyed by two dozen women.
The Spirit’s prod
Neufeld says she felt the Spirit’s prod to interact with the women of the street. “At first I was apprehensive – but also excited. I was worried about saying the wrong thing. But these women, too, are just people.” She and seven others now serve regularly.
“As we serve dinner, we have come to know them – over food.” Neufeld says the street women often say, “We can taste the love!”
Another volunteer says, “Women who had faces but no names, now have names and lives and stories. It is a joy.”
Abbotsford’s non-profit Women’s Resource Centre, the federal and provincial governments, and South Abbotsford MB Church have joined together to provide one-on-one help, practical assistance like laundry facilities, and a safe place to meet and care for women who often fall off the radar of conventional social programs. Some, because they have no fixed address, cannot register for medical care.
“It’s like God has such a compassion for these broken women, he just keeps opening doors as fast as we can keep up,” Neufeld says. “Women come because God has been speaking to their hearts. More than once, I have heard our church helpers say, ‘I’ve been waiting so long to be involved in something like this.’ I’ve learned God was preparing workers long in advance for this and it was waiting for the opportunities.”
“We have no doubt that’s where God wants the church ladies to be.”