Former “black sheep” to guide Gospel Mission Society
People living on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side – newly-arrived condo-dwellers and “street people” alike – can expect a new reason to be attracted to the area around Hastings and Carrall Streets.
The newly-hired General Director of Gospel Mission envisions a spirit of welcome and love to draw people into the building and into a new relationship with God. Wesley Chadwick has been chosen to take over Western Canada’s oldest continuously-operating Mission, filling the position left vacant by the unexpected death last year of Rev. Barry Babcook. Rev. Babcook had been in charge of the Mission for 17 years.
A native of South Africa, the 38-year-old Chadwick was, for a time, the black sheep of a family dedicated to serving God. His father and mother planted churches in Rhodesia (as it then was – now Zimbabwe), Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and the United Kingdom. But in his late teens, Wesley fell into drug addiction. He used crack cocaine, among other substances, before he and the woman who is now his wife were miraculously set free.
“It happened overnight,” he says. “We said to each other, ‘we’ve got to stop this,’ God decided it was time for me to get out of that and serve Him better.” This testimony of hope, mercy and grace will encourage people on the Downtown East Side and show how it is God’s will for people to be set free from the things that oppress them.
At the same time, Chadwick sees a new role for the Mission, expanding its reach and its scope, likening it baking bread, with different ingredients coming together that tastes and smells delicious to all.
“You know how, when you walk past a bakery, the smell of baking bread just draws you in?” says Chadwick. “That’s how our Mission – our church – should be: where the love and welcoming spirit causes people to come in and just experience it, breathe it in, find out what’s it’s about … if that means newcomers are sitting beside ‘street people’, so be it.”
Founded in 1929, Gospel Mission offers hope to people on the Downtown East Side in a variety of ways, all through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a Sunday Believers’ service, church-style services throughout the week, Bible study, prayer night and even a movie night. Meals are offered at some of these services. Since 2008, it has operated The Lord’s Rain, a facility that provides showers five mornings a week. It receives no government funding, and is supported by volunteer help, in-kind donations and finances from churches, individuals and foundations.