They started two years ago as a small group of Christian church leaders meeting with Mayor Kerry Cook at a coffee shop.
Now known as the Christian Leaders Network (CLN), they are setting out to make Williams Lake a better place to live.
Recently 60 people from various churches, social service organizations, businesses, the RCMP, First Nations bands and city representatives, attended a luncheon hosted by the CLN at Signal Point restaurant to begin figuring out how to make a concrete difference.
Pastor Jeremy Vogt, CLN lead team member, told the room that the network has evolved into a team.
“We tested our wings last year by hosting a domestic violence workshop led by a wonderful lady named Kamal Dhillon. She’s a national speaker and trainer on the issue of domestic violence,” Vogt recalled.
The workshop brought together Christians from many different churches into direct contact with social workers, medical care professionals, RCMP and interested citizens, many who needed help in the area of domestic violence.
“That event proved to us that we could all come out of our silos. We could open our doors of isolation and begin to work together on behalf of our city.
“The domestic violence workshop built bridges between churches, but also between others sectors of our city and community. Bridges that have lasted.”
Vogt said the RCMP, local First Nations communities, and social services providers have been asking when Dhillon is coming back to Williams Lake.
That one event has been an indication of what can happen when a community like Williams Lake pools its resources, he suggested.
A huge fan of the Abbotsford Christian Leadership Network, Vogt described ways that organization has brought churches and businesses together to support the homeless, couch-surfing youth, recovering addicts, and families.
“They have rallied churches and businesses to work with other organizations in their city and done amazing things and provided broad support for the food banks, thrift stores and Big Brothers Big Sisters, to name a few. They have also forged a relationship with their city hall.”
What’s possible in Abbotsford is possible for Williams Lake, Vogt suggested.
Aside from wanting to bring Dhillon back for another workshop, CLN hopes to fully fund and support the Salvation Army’s Great Room’s ministry to support women recovering from domestic violence and abuse.
Some of the other items on the wish list include supporting “vital” helping organizations such as the Salvation Army, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Circles of Strength, Choice for Life and Youth For Christ.
They hope to partner with the RCMP and the city to find creative solutions and develop volunteer streams for some of the difficulties surrounding Boitanio Park, and develop and staff a Christian-centred youth safe house for adolescents struggling with addictions, violence in the home, homelessness and other serious issues.
Paul Lomavatu said in the first year, the group spent time wrapping its head around how a CLN would work.
“Now we’re asking what we can do? We want to hear from you and prioritize so we can have a precise focus.”
Cook said the formation of the CLN is long overdue in Williams Lake.
“I’m encouraged to see so many denominations, so many backgrounds, and fields of expertise here. It’s encouraging,” she said.