Nine Days of Shelter at River City Church

Last month, during the height of the extreme cold weather that hit most of Canada and the United States, an NAB church served as a 24/7 shelter for the homeless in their city, not only saving lives but also serving as an incredible Gospel witness, both through their actions and through many conversations.

On January 11, River City Church in Vancouver, Washington, opened their doors to any and every homeless person who needed shelter from the extreme cold and ice, and they did not close them until January 20, nine days later. They had been pre-approved to provide space for fifteen homeless individuals; they ended up sheltering nearly three hundred during those nine days.

Most of the typical warming places, such as libraries, or shelters, even those run by the city, were either not open during this period of extreme weather or they were only open for limited days or times.

Pastor Ryan Sidhom shared, “The amount of influence God has granted River City Church through these nine days is insurmountable. The entire city seemed to rally around us, sending volunteers, truckloads of clothing and blankets, thousands of meals, and more. We have had so many amazing Gospel conversations with both volunteers and our homeless neighbors. We’ve had so many opportunities to share WHY we did this!”

Along with the support of individuals, three NAB churches from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho also sent supplies and money to help River City sustain their shelter for as long as they did.

There were immediate needs beyond simply keeping people warm they were able to assist with as well. River City provided food to those they could, and they also brought in medical professionals to treat terrible wounds and give others vital medications. Despite the fact that these nine days stretched their already meager resources to the brink, “We did what we did,” said Pastor Ryan, “because we wanted to make sure everybody was cared for and kept out of the cold.”

In addition using River City to keep nearly three hundred homeless out of the extreme cold, God is also at work in other ways. They were able to help one man buy a ticket back to his home in Tennessee after he had gotten stranded here prior to the ice storm. Another man used this opportunity to fulfill his court-mandated community service hours, but then returned to volunteer further and expressed a desire to continue to be involved with the church going forward.

As news of their work housing so many for so long spread, so has their influence. A local newspaper wrote a story about the response of nonprofits and shelters to weather crisis, prominently featuring River City in their coverage. The mayor of Vancouver not only shared River City’s story but also noted their response is sparking city-wide change; the church was name-dropped in the state congress as an example of the how cities and organizations should respond; even more importantly, people are reaching out to River City and Pastor Ryan to express interest in checking out a church for the first time.

Pastor Ryan said, “This is absolutely an inflection point for our ministry. Things will never, ever be the same!”