Connecting Streams is a catalyst that helps the church reach out intentionally to the marginalized — currently in Edmonton, Langley and Ottawa. Donna Mitchell, Connecting Streams’ National Director, recently sat down with Power to Change to talk about the ministry.
P2C: How did Connecting Streams start?
DM: Connecting Streams was started in October 2006 through much prayer and seeking the Lord. It was birthed out of a desire to help the church move beyond the four walls and reach out intentionally to others. The Lord showed us that He has a special place in His heart for society’s marginalized: people who are hurting, broken, in crisis, in a lot of pain, and sometimes forgotten and pushed to the edge of society. When the church reaches out intentionally to society’s marginalized, both end up coming to life.
P2C: Society’s marginalized, who does that term include?
DM: In Scripture, the term ‘society’s marginalized’ is not used, but in Psalms 146 the Lord refers to His heart for those who are orphaned, widowed, in prison or strangers in the land. In today’s society, there are marginalized people in long-term care facilities, in the inner cities stuck in addictions, widows in our community, new Canadians and refugees, and of course those who are in prison. They are those in society who are set aside: hurting, invisible, and vulnerable. We added the term society in front because ‘the marginalized’ is not who they are. It’s not their identity, but it’s how society treats them.
P2C: What are some of the ways Connecting Streams reaches out to the marginalized?
DM: All of our ministry is done in teams. Believers want to reach out and make a difference. But sometimes they are afraid, apprehensive, or they don’t feel that they know enough. We will take way bigger risks together than we will by ourselves. We do ministry in groups so there is a taste of what community can feel like. For example, in a long-term care facility, when a team goes in, they can gather residents together, hear the Word and share their own stories in the context of community.
“When the church reaches out intentionally to society’s marginalized both end up coming to life.”
P2C: Why is it important to reach out?
DM: When the Lord shared His heart for society’s marginalized, what we underestimated was His power to change lives. All through Scripture in Jesus’ interactions with people, we realize that He had a heart for outcasts. Sometimes we get the idea. We don’t want to reach out to society’s marginalized because we feel sorry for them. We want to make it clear that God does not see them that way. He sees the potential of what He can do to transform, and He values every person even when society treats people without dignity. The Lord treats them with dignity.
P2C: You don’t do this work alone, but you walk together with the local church. Would you expand on that?
DM: We didn’t want to create a ministry that was in competition with the church, but we wanted to create opportunities that would extend the ministry of local churches. When volunteers come on a team with Connecting Streams, they are an extension of their local church. People from different denominations are learning from one another and spurring each other on even though they are coming from very different backgrounds.
P2C: If you could say something to local church pastors, what would you share with them?
DM: We recognize that they take their role very seriously and are committed to doing the best for their people. I would just want them to know that we share their passion and want to help them with that mission. We want to partner with them. We believe in their passion to reach their community, to disciple their people, and to teach their people how to share their faith and stories.
P2C: What has God been teaching you through ministry?
DM: One of the themes that the Lord has been speaking to me about is the theme of maturity. He is calling us to mature, to grow, to stand firm. When individuals volunteer with us, our prayer is that they will mature in their faith as they volunteer. When we reach out to society’s marginalized, we realize the struggles and the opposition in their pathway. It calls us to a deeper level of maturity in our faith. The stronger we become in our own faith, the more we can help others. When I look back in my own journey, there have been people that were deeply rooted in their relationship with Christ. When I was failing or at risk for going back into my addictions, there were people along the way that helped me stand firm, helped me believe God, and helped me see the bigger picture. I want to encourage us as volunteers to mature and grow strong in our relationship and trust in Christ.
We will never drift into the life that God has called us to—we have to take intentional steps. With our current culture and the warfare that we are under, there is a lot of pressure to actually stay safe. Unless we take intentional steps, it’s just not going to happen. Apply what the Lord is asking you to do and take those intentional steps so that it becomes a way of life.