Lillooet, BC is a beautiful little town along the Fraser River, which during the gold rush days was the largest center north of San Francisco & West of Chicago. Today, Lillooet has a population of around 2,500. The Better Living Center is on the corner of Main St & 6th Ave in downtown Lillooet, & the building was at one time the liquor store, then a medical center. In the early 2000's the building was purchased by church members (who at the time rented space in the United Church) and the Conference. Today, Sabbath services are attended by 15-25 regular worshippers.
These few believers gathered together to ask the Lord for guidance to outreach in our community. Over the past year & a half, He has led us 'step by step'.
One of our members attended the Health Share weekend at Camp Hope & then shared the D'zozo book (written by Dave Fielder) with the other group members. The impacting thought was -if you can't do anything but show someone how to cook, then do just that !That thought, prayerfully, led to a program of Plant-based foods, cooking demonstration classes.
The plans for these classes brought to our attention to the need to spruce up the building inside & out. Members stepped up to repair the fence & the lawn sprinklers & to mow the lawn regularly, We now are collecting for, and making a plan to add shrubs & flowers to the yard, for the community & ourselves to enjoy. We moved the BLC SDA Church sign to a more prominent position on the front of the building, & added a bulletin board for upcoming events & potted plants & seasonal wreath decorations by the side door. Inside, a member family donated new chairs, much needed storage units, & a much larger fridge than what we had prior. Some other member donated a newer stove that had all 4 burners & the oven working. Homey touches were added, like seasonal table cloths & center pieces & antique items arranged attractively, plus a table - always stocked with hot water & herbal teas, & a refreshing lemon or lime water in a spigot-ed glass container - which encouraged visitors to chat or meet. We turned our only closet into a resource area for health information. A regular weekly cleaning schedule was begun.
God was slowly bringing us alive & each time we prayed for His will to be done, He moved us a step further.
Our first Plant -based cooking demonstration was “Holiday Treats” in November 2013. We felt we needed to bring expertise to these classes & invited two young ladies who were real experts at cooking healthy, plant-based foods, and who had wonderful personalities to make the classes fun as well as enlightening. We gave out personal invites to our friends & about 25 attended. People loved the class, offered suggestions for future classes on a survey, & thus began our monthly cooking classes from Jan. - June 2014. One of our key presenters is moving away, but our other young 'stay at home mom' will work with a group of us to facilitate the cooking classes for 2014-2015.
The BLC members decided to 'practice what we preach' & have weekly fellowship dinners after church- all plant based foods. We currently have people who attend the cooking classes coming to these fellowship dinners.
One of our members shared NEWSTART videos so we could become more informed & better educated in matters of health. Our Sabbath afternoon hikes have also become a uniting factor for our BLC Family.
More prayer, and another door opens. The annual Lillooet Apricot Festival, held the same weekend as Camp Hope begins, offered us another chance to open the BLC doors to the community. Most of our members were heading to camp, & the few who could stay prayed for help and God provided 7 community members -who had attended the cooking demos, to help with the work. We served haystacks with vegan apricot/mango icecream (recipe developed my one of our members who thought she could never do anything like that) and had NEWSTART videos playing while 60-65 people came in to eat.
The next day we did Health & Wellness assessments. Besides the BLC team and community volunteers we had a staff member and students from FVA give a helping hand with massages, blood pressure reading etc. Approximately 60-65 assessments were completed.
September 2014 we showed Forks Over Knives & served various flavours of popcorn & peanut butter smoothies.
In October, Phil Brewer from Silver Hills Guest House hosted a 3-session workshop on health. We served a plant-based lunch for the 40 people who attended.
November 30 will be our second annual “Holiday Treats” plant-based food cooking demonstration. The classes will run once monthly to June.
Our next health initiative will be to facilitate a “Reversing Diabetes Workshop” - as requested by community members – in either February or March 2015.
Throughout these BLC changes, our small group of 15-25 people have strongly supported different needs through generous giving. We purchased a new 48” TV, sent a child to summer camp, & have the funds ready to create our yard garden. The door of the District Court House opens onto the sidewalk to our yard. We will create a welcome, peaceful place for those who await their day in court. If God wills, we will open our doors for these same people on court days- perhaps for a warm tea, or a comforting word.
This past year we have also facilitated a First Nation's Wedding Reception, a memorial luncheon, and most importantly is the personal ministry of our members. Friendships are growing as people's needs are being met through day to day contact & by attending these events.
Our suggestions for other small churches looking for outreach ideas; get a sense of your community needs by talking to your friends, organize your facility & group & pray, pray, pray. Dream big, remember it is not you that provides, but God & He can perform miracles. Sometimes at our planning meetings, we only have 2 -3 people. But with God & communication with one another, plus lots of prayer, God's Spirit is working.
Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, & won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me”. (MH 143.3)
Elaine Roque, Lillooet Better Living Centre