The Indigenous Family Centre (IFC) in Winnipeg, Man., is a community resource focused on feeding the bodies, minds, souls, and spirits of people living in the North End of Winnipeg who are marginalized and vulnerable. One of three urban aboriginal ministries operated by the Christian Reformed Church, the center has been making efforts over the last year-and-a-half to focus and clarify its mission in the community.
Michele Visser, the center’s director, said, “With everything we do and every service we offer, our first question is, does this promote healing and spiritual growth? If not, we don’t do it.”
Unfortunately, because of Winnipeg’s ongoing meth crisis, the center has had to secure its building in ways they have not had to in the past. “We keep our front door locked at all times now. We removed the phone and the computers that were once freely available for use by the community. We’ve taken a strong stand on safety—we expect people to be sober and respectful when they’re in this space. We are prioritizing the safety and health of the collective community here, and if that means taking a firm stand with a few individuals, we will do that,” Visser said.
The ministry has also renovated some spaces to encourage health and spiritual growth. Visser invited artist and IFC board member Melissa Critch to organize the redecorating of several rooms, including an office, the family room, and the center’s medicine room.
For Critch, it was important not just that every room be functional and comfortable, but also that each room include touchstones to remind people of their identity. She chose colors, patterns, and decorations that recall important Indigenous ceremonies and philosophies.
“Many of the people who live in our area aren’t able to get out of the city to attend our cultural ceremonies, so I wanted to bring those positive aspects of ceremony to them here,” Critch said.
Renovating three rooms in the building required a lot of cleanup and preparation. The Cadets club of Covenant CRC, including about 20 boys and 10 adults, spent two hours one Saturday in January ripping out carpets, cleaning out rooms, and assembling furniture.
Evan Booy, Covenant’s Cadet organizer, said, “The work that needed to be done was really ideal for the group we had. The boys got a chance to learn about IFC and the service they provide to the community and help out in a tangible way.”
Besides the new décor in the family room and an office, IFC has a dedicated medicine room in which people can spend time praying.
“We have spaces now that are intentionally focused on healing, peace, and prayer for the people we serve,” said Visser.
Related: Urban Aboriginal Ministry Seeks Help Dealing with Drug Crisis