Acceptance, celebration, relationships, and footwashing. Sounds like...
InSite!?! - a safe-injection site for drug-users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. What!?!
In a recent article, "Why I help Addicts Shoot Up," by InSite nurse (and Regent College student), Meera Bai, we are offered a poignant glimpse into the work of InSite. A picture, a face, a life, and yes, even a beauty, is seen in describing the day-to-day activities at InSite. Writing collaboratively with her professor (and my former professor!), John Stackhouse, Meera describes how her Christian faith is the primary motivation not only to support the type of project InSite represents but also to participate in the work herself. As a theology student, she comments, “Insite is a great place to work...because it contextualizes all the learning. No point to studying God if we don’t act on what we know.” Hmm…
Acting on what she knows is precisely why Meera is so adamant in her support of InSite. She strongly believes the work of InSite is ”offering participants a chance at redemption of both body and soul.”
But if you’ve heard of InSite, you’ll know there is no shortage of controversy among Vancouverites and Canadians about its operation. In fact, the reigning Conservative government in Canada, which perhaps in a drop of irony draws much support from Canadian evangelicals, has constantly pushed for InSite’s closure during their four years in office (BTW, I’m not offering a political opinion by this statement – I voted Conservative in the last election). The obvious good Meera pursues, it appears, is not so obvious to others, even other Christians.
I’ll admit, I’ve been skeptical of the InSite project. Will giving space for safe drug-use really address the issue, or just push the public to a greater acceptance of destructive behaviour? I don’t want to support destructive behaviour. But these concerns of mine (and many others), are exactly why Meera’s voice is so critical in the matter.
Hard drugs (and other social ills) are often viewed as faceless evils needing eradication from society. And Christians can be quite good (bad!) at protesting these apparent evils. While I don’t typically support Christian’s public protest, I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise against harmful behavior. Except for the faceless part.
And this is where Meera comes in. The story of her work with InSite – the struggle, the joy, the love – reveals the human side of destructive behaviour. It’s sad, harmful, dark and broken. No one disputes that. But it’s not faceless. As Christians, accepting this brokenness in people is difficult when we claim to know and experience so much more. We believe the primary call of Jesus, then, is to get your act together because God has a better life for you. Easier said than done. Which is why I think Meera has a better – and more biblical – handle on the situation:
“In the real world—the only world there is and the world Christ calls us to love—sometimes the best we can do, at least immediately, is make things less bad—and in the case of InSite, much less bad.”
“What we provide is reachable steps towards an ultimate end goal of self-worth – which of course includes valuing yourself enough to stop injecting drugs into your system. This is part of the Kingdom of God – which is coming, but not yet here.”
We live in a time in-between. A time where we get glimpses of restoration – the kingdom of God in this world. Yet we are continually bombarded with devastation and brokenness. And so we wait. But our waiting is not an idle wait. No, as Christians, we join people like Meera in following Jesus’ way, reaching out to the broken and hurting people of our world. However dark things get, we have an opportunity to provide the glimpses of restoration and redemption our world so desperately needs. At the very least, it’s a glimpse that people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside need. At the very most, it’s a glimpse we all need.
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away...I am making everything new!" Rev. 21:3-5 NIV