This week’s Leadership Series explored an area of Vancouver that not many feel safe being in, let alone providing leadership in.
Derek Weiss is the Manager of Community engagement with Union Gospel Mission – he talks a lot about leadership in the political spectrum, but for the Union Gospel Mission, leadership comes from above.
But what about the leadership team and how do they make it work on a daily basis?
“At UGM we come to work every day and there is a need right here, right outside our door. There’s need for days, for decades, with suffering from loss and hurt but there’s also a lot of hope. What we find and what our volunteers tell us as well is – we come here to help people and in return, they help and heal us. So what we give, we end up receiving and that is one of the great paradoxes’ in the universe that when we start to serve others as part of our practice of love and leadership, we end up receiving a great deal.
He says an important principle at UGM is to connect on a horizontal level, with people alongside them, but also on a vertical level.
“On a vertical level, we need to close the door sometimes. I learned this from teacher Jesus who went off by himself to pray and say, God, I need you today to stay sane, to help others and I need to hear you tell me how much you love me today so that I can be overfilling with that love and pass it on to others. So I have to live in it first myself and live in it with the daily habit of prayer, of coming before God in humility so that I can give it to others.”
So how is UGM able to serve so many and lead in the community in an area like the Downtown Eastside. How do you make that financially viable?
“We are physically here at work but we really feel our donors and volunteers with us spiritually, they help make this happen. We make a lot of asks and we ask for help and support on behalf of those we support and metro Vancouverites and British Columbians are generous and give a lot and so we do a lot through private and corporate donations to run the thing and that also keeps us accountable for those donors.”
Is there a message the UGM would like other community leaders to think about as we head into the Christmas season?
As we head into the holiday season, Weiss says it’s important to pay attention beyond the physical gifts and think about ourselves.
He says someone once said we have uphill hopes but have downhill habits.
“Nobody drifts upstream, so if you want to improve your life and the life of others this holiday season think about every day how you can connect with whatever it is with for you that is your higher power – I call it God, in Jesus Christ – whomever it is, how do you connect? Get empowered by that higher power vertically so that horizontally you can bless others and you can come to true significance. True significance is different than selfishness, selfishness and significance are virtually incompatible – you have to give to others but to in order to truly give to others you have to be filled and receive yourself from above.”