A unique ministry on the Ave is helping provide support to vulnerable Indigenous individuals with complex issues and who are experiencing particularly difficult situations.
The Edmonton Urban Native Ministry (EUNM) is a registered charity operating in the basement of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 87 Street and 118 Avenue, separate from the ministry headed by Rev. Mark Chaing on the main floor.
Pastor Tim Choi quickly moves around the EUNM premises in an active and dedicated manner. He is the second pastor at the ministry.
“I came here in 2012, but it started in 2004,” stated Choi.
Chaing said the EUNM has been a good thing for the church.
“St Andrew’s feels very blessed to have Edmonton Urban Native Ministry working out of our building. Opening our space has helped to open our hearts,” said Chaing.
The Presbyterian Church’s role in the EUNM comes from the acknowledgment of their role in residential schools and the vulnerability of the Indigenous population to sexual exploitation, addiction, poverty, and homelessness. The Presbyterian Church also acknowledges the need for reconciliation.
The EUNM helps those affected by sexual exploitation, addiction, poverty, and homelessness.
Choi and his volunteers provide social, spiritual, and practical support in an inclusive setting. They also work with other churches to offer a summer camp, a vacation bible school, and children’s ministry programs.
“The Presbyterian Church of Canada decided to appoint eight ministries like this. This is one of those eight ministries,” said Choi.
Choi is careful to acknowledge the contributions that both volunteers and patrons make. These contributions can range from taking orders at the kitchen counter to contributing to a discussion. An appreciation of what people do helps develop self-esteem and build healthy relationships. Choi agreed that there’s a lot of satisfaction gained in serving a community, but added, “it’s a lot of work”.
Walk along Alberta Avenue and you’ll frequently see people suffering from the complex and traumatic issues that EUNM is addressing. Experiencing these issues is traumatic and can result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and relationship and self-esteem problems.
Choi and his volunteers work together to provide a non-judgemental, healing environment.
“It’s been a valuable tool in my recovery for a healthy lifestyle,” commented Ken Starr, a three-year patron.
Jennifer Harding, a volunteer, spoke about the importance of the EUMN. “I would say [participants] have a place to go, a place to be welcomed,” she said.
Other services include a drop-in between 10:30 am and 3 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. They serve lunch between noon and 1:30 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays and provide a small food hamper every second Thursday. In addition, the ministry provides a meal after the 4 pm Sunday service. They also provide computer access.
Donations are appreciated. Presently, “we require pre-washed clothing,” said Choi.
Despite its focus on the Indigenous population and location, the EUMN opens its doors to all people from all denominations. You are welcome to drop in at St. Andrews church and contact pastor Choi at 587.520.3950 or [email protected].