Our Stories - Calgary
- Hope Grows Here: Terry's Story
- Lasting, profound change
- A life transformed
- A time to rebuild
- Dear Seed Staff
- Dear Seed Staff
- Lynda's new life
- Huskies Softball Team
- Road to recovery
- Serving others
- Sowing seeds of hope
Terry landed at The Mustard Seed as a heavy user of illegal drugs. With no money, limited knowledge of Calgary, and a fresh criminal record, Terry somehow still had a spark of hope in his eyes that was apparent during his first meeting with his Employment Coach. Terry was quiet and respectful, and maintained his dignity as he explained his story. At first Terry admitted that he just needed a job to get into his own place, and said his dream was to have a shower without having to wear flip flops. It didn’t take a lot of motivational interviewing for Terry to come to his own conclusion that his real dream was to one day own his own moving company, just like he did before he fell victim to the lifestyle that stole it.
Terry was up and running after that. He knew what he wanted and decided to chase it. He started meeting with The Mustard Seed’s housing department, got his resume in order, and started working at Calgary Metal so that he could fund and maintain his own apartment. Terry will soon be taking a course for prospective business owners coming out of homelessness, and his dream is turning into a vivid reality as he puts the pieces of his life back together.
Terry landed at The Mustard Seed intelligent, full of hopes and dreams, and dying to be unleashed. He just needed a team of supportive staff to believe in him. Terry will soon be leaving The Mustard Seed employed, housed and fulfilling his dreams.
I first met Merle during Employment’s Wednesday evening shelter visit and I was immediately impressed by his gentle disposition, friendly countenance and sincerity. Merle had arrived at the shelter that week; after finishing his incarceration at a provincial institution, Merle was homeless and in need of sustainable work. After a few brief conversations, Merle expressed great interest in finding meaningful employment and ensuring that his stay in the shelter was a short one. Through a collaborative effort within the employment team, Merle obtained a job working on the new Mustard Seed building. Merle’s employment and his relationship with the employment centre proved to be a catalyst for lasting, profound change in his life.
Merle successfully moved out of the shelter into a shared apartment within three weeks of his fulltime employment. Gaining the respect of his colleagues and supervisors, Merle received a raise and decided to further upgrade his accommodations, selecting a nicer, single living residence. Today, Merle continues to enjoy his employment, his new living situation and his re-integration into society. Commenting on his success, Merle noted the absolute importance of The Mustard Seed community in helping him quickly transition from homelessness to housing and employment.
A life transformed
Mike's years of drug addiction had stretched his family to the breaking point. Finally, his family fell apart. At 46, Mike lost everything, including the people that mattered most to him.
"My life was over. I wanted to die," he says.
Mike was deeply depressed when a friend invited him to dinner at The Mustard Seed. The difference between other shelters and The Mustard Seed was like night and day says Mike. "For the first time since my divorce, I felt welcomed into a family."
Mike credits The Mustard Seed's chaplaincy program with encouraging him to seek healing from his addiction and with bringing his family back together.
With support from The Mustard Seed's chaplain and other staff, Mike realized he needed to face his addiction if he wanted to see his children again. He says that Bible studies led by chaplaincy volunteers at The Mustard Seed Shelter helped him reconnect with God and regain a sense of peace.
When Mike made the decision to enter treatment, volunteers from St. Augustine's church in Ogden began raising money to cover the cost. They continued to support him through prayer over the 12-month program. Best of all, Mike's family decided to reconnect with him, which Mike calls "a miracle".
"I believe God directed me here," he says of The Mustard Seed. "I have a lot to be thankful for."
A time to rebuild
Trish is truly an inspiration to anyone who meets her. Trish was a single mother, a piano teacher and a dancer - until she was hit by a drunk driver. The accident left her paraplegic and forced her to give custody of her four-year-old daughter to her parents. The accident left her confined to a wheelchair and fighting many other health concerns that stem from her injuries.
Trish says she was always an outgoing person but the accident, and the never ending rehabilitation process, pushed her toward reclusive tendencies. Referred by her social worker, that began to change when Trish became involved in education programs at The Mustard Seed.
Trish said The Mustard Seed's programs were a great way "feel a part of something again."
"It has boosted my confidence and self-esteem so much and it's even more than that, it's given me happiness and peace of mind," she says. "I can enjoy things again. I'm happy."
The Mustard Seed's education programs have made such a difference in Trish's life she now feels confident enough to move forward and perhaps do some public speaking and volunteering.
Dear Seed Staff
We haven't had the pleasure of speaking as of yet, but I felt the need to contact you with something very close to my heart. About 15 years ago, I was in a bad place. Drugs had taken over my life, and I felt that I had nowhere to turn, nor anyone to talk to. It was the Mustard Seed that helped me to realize that I was not alone and that with a little confidence, some determination and whole lot of support, I could climb out of the hole I had made and become a productive member of society.
Although I cannot recall everyone who was there to help me, it literally changed my life forever. Within a year, I was back at school, had my own apartment and had rekindled relationships with my family.
Yours very truly,
Dear Seed Staff
You are a wonderful organization. I can't begin to explain how much The Mustard Seed has helped me. But it is not the Seed but the people who work there. You ladies and gentlemen are awesome and I truly love and care for all of you.
I would like to get you people something as great as you've givin' me, although I don't think it's possible. You've are giving me hope and a better life.
Thank you and God bless,
Your friend, Bill.
Lynda's new life
After four years of living on the street and in shelters, Lynda finally has a place to call home.
Lynda came to The Mustard Seed Shelter in rough shape. She struggled with serious health issues that made it difficult to maintain work. After seeking refuge at the Shelter and having her needs cared for, she soon moved into The Mustard Seed's supported housing.
She was able to receive government funding for her disability and learned how to start budgeting. The Mustard Seed helped Lynda find affordable housing in a safe community. Generous donors also provided household items to help her set up her new home.
While Lynda was thrilled to move into her own place, she missed her loving community at The Mustard Seed.
"I felt like I was leaving friends and family," she says.
That's where our Aftercare Program came in. Aftercare helps former guests find stability and community as they move into independent housing. Staff make regular home visits to check on former guests and ensure they are doing alright.
"[Aftercare] got me a couch and a bed." Lynda says. "I look forward to the visits. And obviously they help a great deal."
Your support provides a place to call home and a new beginning for guests like Lynda. Thank you for providing hope and security to those most in need in our community!
Huskies Softball Team
It may be The Mustard Seed's best-kept secret: we have a softball team! For the last several years, guests, staff, and volunteers have teamed up under the Huskies banner to compete in the Calgary Christian Mixed Slo-Pitch league.
From the moment the players step into the van to get to the game, the enthusiasm is palpable. You can see how every player on the team adores what they are doing, and a spirit of delight and common purpose infuses every moment of their time together.
The team is coached and supported by members of the recreation department, and players include current and former guests at The Mustard Seed shelter. Anthony joined the team to fill his time and help him keep on the right track. He was staying at The Mustard Seed Shelter when he says he realized the path he was on would eventually lead to jail time or death.
"The Mustard Seed provided me with a clean stable environment filled with people who genuinely wanted to help me." Anthony started participating in Education and Recreation programs, and soon he was ready to move out on his own.
"[The team] gives us the chance to be around people who have helped us and continue friendships that began when we started our new lives," Anthony says of his experience. "It gives us a feeling of being part of something."
Road to recovery
Tien still bears the scars from a house fire that left him with severe burns to much of his body. He spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries and was unable to work for almost two years. The financial strain tore Tien's marriage apart and his wife left with their two children. Tien had lost everything when a friend suggested he go to The Mustard Seed.
"It's been very hard," he said. "It was the first time in my life that happened, but I had no choice. I had no money, so where else could I go?"
Tien lived at The Mustard Seed Shelter for a few months until he could find a job and save enough to move out on his own. With The Mustard Seed's help he was able to get into his own place and able to furnish it with everything he needed to make it his home.
In all the ways his life has improved, the most significant to Tien is having regained his independence.
"When you have a home you can sleep when you want to, eat when you want to and go home when you want to," he said. "When I'm working I need to be able to rest because I am tired. After work, now I can go home and relax."
"I feel very happy."
Jim volunteers to serve meals at The Mustard Seed. He is staying at another shelter but comes to The Mustard Seed for his meals. He moved to Calgary from Fort Nelson, BC, where he was working in the oil patch. The drilling in his area was slowing down so he decided to try his luck elsewhere. It wasn't as easy as he had anticipated.
As he stood in line was standing in line waiting for a meal, one of the staff was going through the line-up looking for volunteers to help serve, so he volunteered.
He enjoyed the experience so much he began to help out regularly.
"I see people in worse condition than myself," he says. "I don't come down so hard on myself. It makes me feel good to help people.
"I'm 47 and in good health, I know a lot of people who aren't. I'm looking for a job now with the larger oil companies. It just takes a bit of time but for now I can be warm and dry while I volunteer."
Sowing seeds of hope
When Jerry Kamphuis, owner of Country Lane Farms, celebrated his 50th birthday, he decided to commemorate the occasion in a slightly unconventional way: by giving back to the less fortunate.
Jerry's business supplies the community with naturally raised beef, chicken and salmon. For his birthday wish, he turned to his loyal customer base for support in supplying The Mustard Seed with needed clothing and basic necessity items.
Every few weeks, Jerry loads up his semi-trailer and parks at various locations throughout the city with his freezer full of meat, where customers come and pick up their orders. Jerry encouraged everyone to bring with them items from The Mustard Seed's wish list on his birthday. The response was overwhelming. Cartons full of blankets, clothes, and necessities began to fill the truck. Jerry graciously gives the credit to his customers, saying, "It's not me - it's my customers who made this happen."
The Mustard Seed wishes to extend a special thank you to Jerry and all of the Country Lane Farm's customers for their generosity and ongoing support. These desperately needed items are going to help those in our city who need a little help getting back on their feet - and you are an integral of that journey.