Toronto: When something new doesn't go as expected

When James* pioneered a MoveIn patch two years ago, he had no idea how challenging or how fulfilling it would be.

He was living in the Teesdale patch in Toronto, working for a small business in operations and sales. He wanted to start a new MoveIn team and somehow bring a witness of Christ in a place that had little of it. A patch in Toronto’s Etobicoke region drew him. Having secured a new job, he started searching for roommates. When he could find none, in September 2015, he moved in on his own.

Located in west Toronto, this patch is home to over 20,000 people, about half of whom are Somali. The neighbourhood centres around six 25-storey apartment buildings. During the 1990s, a civil war in Somalia displaced thousands of people. Of the Somali refugees who came to Canada, many settled in this patch. They have stayed in the neighbourhood and built families there. The patch is also home to people from Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. James was excited to pioneer and make disciples; he hoped a community of Somali believers could be started. His neighbours, however, weren't as open to connecting as he had anticipated.

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“God had me in a place where I was really praying back to him what he says about himself in the Bible.”

Right at the beginning, he hit a wall. Loneliness began to creep in. He began to realize his own weaknesses; he couldn’t work alone; he felt down, stuck, and discouraged. The hardest part was trying to start something new and having faith and hope for what that could look like. The “something new” didn’t go as he expected, but in the process, God answered a lot of prayers and provided a like-minded community. 

James dealt with the loneliness by spending a lot of time with God. He found a place to go for silent retreats. “If nothing else,” James says, “God had me in a place where I was really praying what he says about himself in the Bible -- who he is, how powerful he is, and how much he could do.”

Community eased some of the struggle of pioneering too. James connected with the wider body of Christ and sought out community. He prayed together with other MoveIn teams, as well as a like-minded small group from his church. The friendship and fellowship was invaluable.

"When I moved to Etobicoke, I had no clue how much God was already doing here. It turns out a group from my new local church had been learning about multiplying discipleship for five years. Another family had just also moved into an unreached, poor neighbourhood up the road after returning to Canada after 10 years in Turkey. They both welcomed me and shared their experiences, which was a massive blessing."

Two years of praying and prayer walking later, life in James’s patch looks different. He has made many friends in the neighbourhood. He has a roommate and together they have learned about disciple making: the ongoing process of reaching out to neighbours more effectively and being more assertive in sharing Bible stories and talking about Jesus. 

 Are you considering moving in? James’s advice is:

“Definitely do it. So many areas exist without any Christian witness and dedicated prayer. It is an amazing experience to join God there.”