Hope in the Midst of a Pandemic: Bryan's Story

“My story in Canada starts on January 24th, 2020.”

This was the day that Bryan arrived in Canada at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto from Uganda. It was from there he flew to Edmonton in the wee hours of January 24th.

It was -30 degrees.

“I left my country under circumstances that were out of my control,’ explains Bryan.

“As I exited the Edmonton International airport, I was approached by a cab driver who helped me load up all my luggage into his trunk and I got into the back of the cab as fast as I could because it was really cold. It was then that he asked me where I was going, and it dawned on me that I didn’t have an answer to his question.”

Bryan showed up in Canada with little money and no plans. The cab driver told Bryan about a shelter near by and all he had was enough cash to get there.

“We arrived at Hope Mission at about 3 am where I was able to get a few hours of sleep before being woken up to exit the building,” recalls Bryan. “When I got up, I noticed that my shoes were missing plus one of my suitcases.”

Bryan was scared, the shelter gave him a pair of winter boots but informed him there was nothing they could do about his stolen suitcase. All he had was one bag left with the rest of his belongings, and Bryan had no idea he would be wheeling around that single suitcase for the next 2 and half months.

“It was the morning of January 24th that it dawned on me that I was homeless.”

Coming to Canada in the midst of a pandemic proved to be more difficult than Bryan thought. The full lockdown in February created a lot of uncertainty for everyone and it became increasingly more difficult for many agencies to provide basic services. Everyone was trying to figure out this new world.

“I was able to get a tent from a friend whom I called my big brother. He always watched out for me, we had our tents pitched next to each other,” says Bryan.

“I remember being able to wheel our belongings to the City Centre mall to warm up, sit and have a coffee but all of that changed with the pandemic.”

That March, Bryan met a friend that introduced him to the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. Through them he was able to get a lot of the help he needed with filing a refugee claim, applying for Alberta works as well as low-income housing and interim Federal Health program.

“On April 1st, I moved into an apartment through E4C I was able to pay rent because I was getting some money from Alberta Works. Through the Mennonite Centre, I was able to get groceries from the food bank as well.”

By August, Bryan was looking for ways to stay busy and began seeking out volunteer opportunities throughout the city. Many places weren’t accepting volunteers because of pandemic restrictions but eventually he met a friend that told him about The Mustard Seed.

“I asked her if she would introduce me to the coordinator, which she did, and I started volunteering three days a week,” says Bryan.

“Three days turned into four days which turned into five days. I loved being a small part of what was happening at The Mustard Seed. During that time, I did some reading on the website about the vision, mission, values and work of this organization. They aligned so well with my values and that got me so invested. I was able to volunteer at different hubs during this time which helped to see the vision… played out.”

The Mustard Seed was more than an opportunity to volunteer and stay busy, it helped Bryan grow and become more connected to God in his own life.

“The Mustard Seed has really been very instrumental in my faith journey,” says Bryan.

Bryan attributes his coming to Canada and finding The Mustard Seed all to God. Before he left Uganda Bryan says his spiritual relationship was not what it is today.

“My faith was honestly holding on by a thread.”

On October 28th, 2020, Bryan was asked to start working as a frontline worker when the Convention Center was opened for shelter space. From there he went on to being team lead and after that contract was done, he applied for the Community Engagement position.

“My story is nothing short of a miracle..."

"Seeing where I started from and where I am right now. The season of homelessness and poverty is a levelling field that humbles anyone, and I am thankful for that season because I now see how relevant it is in what I do,” says Bryan.

Being able to openly practice his faith and be surrounded by people that are like minded has been amazing for Bryan. It is that Christ centeredness of The Mustard Seed that makes this organization so special for him.

“…the kind of work that The Mustard Seed does is working with people, which isn’t always easy. You need to connect with the person who actually created those people – and that's Jesus.”

It was the focus on Christ that drew Bryan to the shelter and to this ministry and it is that continued focus that has kept Bryan coming back.

“[God] knew I needed to go through what I went through to be relevant in the position He has given me here. I call the Mustard Seed my home because I have found a family here," says Bryan.

"I know that if I ever needed anything, there will always be someone I can call. I have been nurtured, challenged and given a chance to be a voice for the unhoused community and help break the stigma around homelessness and poverty.”

1 Samuel 2:8 says, “He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honour. For the earth is the Lord’s, and He has set the world in order.”