Sardis Doorway Origins by Elsie Goerzen
The seeds of Doorway were planted in me in 1967, in the Nursery of the pediatric ward of Vancouver General Hospital, where I was working as a young newly graduated nurse. I encountered an injured infant and his young parents, who were struggling with life, and for whom there was little support.
So here was a vulnerable infant, and there were his vulnerable parents. And I thought: who was there for these parents, to support them, to give them encouragement, to help them learn the many skills required to be healthy parents?
As time went on, and Walt and I had our own two children, I became more aware of the challenges of parenting and the reality of child abuse in our world. I read about it, and thought about it, and in 1982 or so, I had a phone call, inviting me to become a volunteer facilitator with a support group for parents in Chilliwack, named Parent Support Circle. Here the stresses of parenting were acknowledged, encouragement was given and parenting skills were learned. A scripture verse had been ringing in my head for some time already: ‘Of those to whom much is given, much will be required.’ I realized that I was incredibly privileged in my life, and at the same time, recognized the courage and strength of the people I was learning to know in the support group.
And a dream began, that these women, to whom life had handed great challenges, had something we needed to learn from them. And that we, in the church, had resources we needed to share. I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if these two groups of women I was now part of, could merge and become friends. And as it happens when a dream begins to grow, God nurtures that dream, putting ideas, people, and events in your path to confirm it.
One of those events was that my sister-in-law told me about a group known as Open Door, in North Vancouver: a support group for single mothers; and she said, ‘Elsie why don’t you start something like that in Chilliwack?’ Well, that was too scary to consider, but my sister Irmi (who lives next door to us) and I began talking about the idea. We thought maybe we could do it in our homes, and then if it all failed, no-one would know and we wouldn’t feel foolish. Not long after, I met Lee through a mutual friend (Sue!) who knew Lee had a similar desire.
Lee and I met, on our Patio and soon visited the N Vancouver Open Door. We then invited women from all the churches in Chilliwack to a meeting, held in October 1986. Thirty-five women came, and Elvira Corben, the coordinator of the North Van Open Door came to tell us about what they did.
At the end of the morning, we extended an invitation to anyone who was interested to meet at our house the following week. Now, I don’t really believe in bargaining with God, and I did feel a bit like Abraham, but I suggested to God that if we had 10 people come, then we’d know we had enough to start.
And you might guess how many people showed up the next week! 10! It was amazing, how those people had been prepared for just something like this they came with the varied skills we would need to begin this endeavour.
We had some predatory work to do: we had to obtain our licence, be checked out by Social Services, have the Fire Inspector come, etc. During this time of waiting, we met weekly, to plan, to pray, to strategize, to dream.
At last, on February 17, 1987, Sardis Open Door began, with four mothers and six children. By June, we had twelve mothers with 16 children, and 19 volunteers. One year later, in June 1988, we were involved with 45 families, and we were operating two days a week.
At one of our morning staff meetings in the first year, Grace Wiens read from Mother Theresa’s Words to Love By, a piece based on Matthew 25.
That became our theme, when at times the work seemed overwhelming, we could remind ourselves: I can only love one person at a time.
A name change occurred in 1996, when we formed our own local board of Directors, and we became Sardis Doorway.
I “retired” in 2005, and I am thrilled to see Doorway thriving, with the leadership of Karin (and Denise, and Heather before her) and the Board. It is a wonderful thing to see the being that began as a fledgling little group 30 years ago flourish, growing in strength and effectiveness, and blessing all involved in this family known as Sardis Doorway.
God who began a good work so long ago, has done (and continues to do) far above and beyond what we could ever have asked or imagined!
Elsie is now the End Abuse Coordinator for MCC https://mcccanada.ca/learn/more/end-abuse
Over the years, hundreds of people have written their own 'Doorway Stories'. This blog will feature some of these stores. Visit often as we keep adding new ones.