House of Hesed

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House of Hesed: A Dream Lost
By Dave Edwards

Sometimes lost dreams simply make room for God’s intended work.

In October of 1996, a dream came to an end. I had served for six years on a board with the aim of starting a Christian run hospice for those affected by HIV/AIDS. What started as a dream, became a steering committee in 1990, and soon incorporated as a non-profit society in BC under the name “House of Hesed”. Hesed is the Hebrew word for the lavish, faithful love of God, and this house would be a place where that kind of love was clearly seen. That’s as far as we got. For reasons unknown to us, the vision simply would not become a reality. We guessed that the time and place was just not right. And on October 21, 1996 we held our final meeting, dissolved the corporation, distributed our remaining assets to some group in Winnipeg, and went home. I was sad.

The dream seemed so right. Jesus had shown us an example of unconditional love. He reached out and touched the lepers in love. He showed compassion for the woman caught in adultery, separating His response to the sinner from His response to the sin. He gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan, teaching us that even those we might deem as unlovable should be the recipients of our love. He even told us that when we minister love to even the least among men, it is actually equal to ministering to Jesus Himself. And there was a ready-made application for this kind of love. Showing the love of Jesus to those dying of AIDS was simply the right thing to do. And this picture of an AIDS hospice seemed to fit Jesus mandate so well.

It was to be a house, not an institution, hence the name “House of Hesed”. Over those six years we had refined the picture. An older home that needed renovating would be perfect. A downtown location, close to other resources for AIDS patients would be good. Room for twelve residents would be about the maximum for any given house. There would be a room for each resident, a room that looked like home. There would be common areas for recreation and interaction. The kitchen would be available for those who could prepare their own meals, with meals being provided for those who could not. A pantry for storage of donated food items, a locking medical cabinet for resident’s medications, an entertainment system, a staff office, and the list went on. It was a beautiful picture. And the loss created a small empty place in my heart – empty until I found myself in Winnipeg last week for the Evangelical Free Church National Conference.

Winnipeg. Remember? That’s the location of that mysterious group to whom we donated our remaining $1174.84. And guess what? They did what we could not.

A couple of phone calls, and I found myself standing in front of #45 Edmonton Street in downtown Winnipeg. It was called, can you believe, the House of Hesed. I tried to hold back the tears.

I was greeted at the door by the bright, smiling face of Maresa, the on duty worker, and her one-year-old daughter. She gave me a tour that was, quite literally, like stepping into the dream I had given up eight years ago. It was an old house, newly renovated. It had twelve bedrooms. I tried my best to choke back the tears. She showed me the staff office, the recreational areas, the pantry, the lockup for medicines, and a few of the home-like bedrooms. She explained that the reason it was near downtown was to be close to the other resources available to those affected by HIV/AIDS. I met a couple of residents who were up and about, but we walked past a number of closed doors as well. The love of Jesus was present.

As we had coffee and chatted about the history of the House of Hesed, I kept one eye on life in the house. The residents looked after Maresa’s daughter like she was one of the family. The smell of frying onions filled the house as Dana made his lunch. Joe scrubbed Dana’s frying pan, just because he wanted to help. Another resident laughed with a friend on the phone. Shirley seemed to need her own space, but that was ok too. And these were all people who had no place else to go, and no one else who could care for them at this time in their lives. And here, they were experiencing the true love of Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, they will come to know that love in a personal way.

After I said goodbye, I stood for a long time in front of the house. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face. I prayed for each of the residents, especially those behind closed doors. I thanked God for the workers, the resources, and the administrative gifts that had been used to bring the House of Hesed into existence. I worshiped.

And as I walked away, I realized that indeed, our failures sometimes make way for God’s success.

Dave Edwards is a writer and consultant, in addition to serving as Senior Pastor at White Rock Community Church, White Rock, BC for 16 years and counting. Dave and Kathie have been married for 25 years and have three children, ages 20, 18, and 16.