Learning a Life of Mission
How does your faith shape your life and work?
That’s a question Avigail Venema asks herself every day—and she explored that question this summer through the Urban Lab, a program of Resonate Global Mission partner Mission Montréal.
Mission Montréal is an initiative formed through a collaborative partnership of Resonate, Classis Eastern Canada, Diaconal Ministries Canada, First CRC of Montréal, and a local ministry called Christian Direction.
Mission Montréal’s Urban Lab cohort is for young adults who want to learn how their faith in Christ makes a difference—no matter where they’re working or what they’re doing.
“My hope is that they will be able to understand that the mission life doesn't need to happen only in a ministry setting but that they can be the hands and heart of Jesus in their everyday life,” said Jacynthe Vaillancourt, a Resonate ministry partner who leads the Urban Lab cohort.
Venema is a third-year student at Redeemer University. She’s studying English literature and history and hopes to teach at the college or university level someday. During the past two summers, in between school years, she has worked in the children’s library at Innovation Youth, a ministry of Christian Direction.
“I’m passionate about people and stories . . . that kind of informs the way I see everything I do,” said Venema.
The Innovation Youth children’s library primarily serves children in Montreal who are from families that live with limited resources. Many are children of newcomers to Canada. As part of her work in the library, Venema not only helped these children find books to read but also ran a weekly camp for kids who did not speak French at home but would be attending a French-speaking school.
There the teachers teach in French, students read in French, and students must complete homework in French—and students who are newcomers, or whose parents are newcomers, might not speak French very well.
“They can practice French during the summer so that they don’t fall behind kids who have French-fluent parents,” said Venema.
As part of the training for her summer work, Venema also participated in the Urban Lab cohort. While her workplace provided her with orientation on what to do at her job, the Urban Lab helped her explore how best to do her job.
Every week during the summer, Venema met with other young people who were working for Christian Direction. Vaillancourt mentored them as they explored three frameworks for mission: scarcity to abundance, theory to practice, and rivalry to peacemaking.
Every other week, the cohort explored a framework by reading the Bible together and discussing what they could learn from each passage. During the other weeks they went on a prayer walk together through a neighborhood in Montreal. The cohort also visited all of Christian Direction’s ministries in the city so that they could learn about the ministry and its context.
For Venema, a big takeaway from participating in the Urban Lab was being able to see the “big picture” of work in the city and the role she played, and to learn that building relationships in these communities takes intentionality.
“I liked the idea that we were not just going to do our own tasks but instead saw how they are all a piece of the puzzle . . . of everything going on in the city. It really helps you see how you are one part of all these things that are happening,” she said.
“It’s helped me to see how different organizations can work together,” she added. “Community building doesn’t just happen by living close to one another. You can live in the same space, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re engaging in the same space.”
Venema said that she believes her participation in the Urban Lab cohort and her summer work with Christian Direction are experiences she will draw on throughout her life as she seeks to share her faith.
“I think my faith inspires me to be present for others and to see the beauty of God’s world and want to share it with others in everything that I do,” she said.