“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24
To the sound of applause and bilingual shouts of celebration, the 105 Keefer Street condominium proposal for Vancouver’s Chinatown was rejected on November 6, 2017.
Projects like that at 105 Keefer have been sprouting up in this neighborhood, changing the face of its streets, businesses, and residents. Low-income renters comprise 80% of this historically Chinese neighborhood, but condos and commercial developments have been slowly displacing long-term residents and businesses.
KING-MONG: THE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
King-mong Chan has been working with local grassroots organizations to amplify the voice and concerns of the Chinese-speaking low-income community to ensure that revitalization of the neighborhood does not result in replacement but instead is based on building up the low-income community. The community welcomes new development that is appropriate for the culture and the needs of the low-income Chinatown community. In the end, the City of Vancouver Development Permit Board rejected the 105 Keefer proposal because it failed to satisfy the contextual needs of the area through not engaging and listening to the community.
"Spending time with God by studying His Word...helps me abide in the Vine and to feel God’s heart for our neighbourhood."
King-Mong has been studying scripture with the local Servant Partners team in Vancouver, BC. Every week, they have been travelling through Nehemiah, Acts, Luke, and Amos. Together, they apply themes of God’s justice and righteousness to their locally-inspired work.
King-mong reflects on how studying Scripture in community with others informs his participation in seeking justice in partnership with his neighbors:
Spending time with God by studying His Word with other Christ-followers at Servant Partners has been really important to me, because it helps me abide in the Vine and to feel God’s heart for our neighbourhood. In particular, to understand God’s heart for justice and to pray for the uplifting and liberation of low-income people in Chinatown has been critical in guiding my community organizing work with Chinese-speaking residents against gentrification in Chinatown, including the fight against the market housing development application at 105 Keefer Street.
TYLEE: THE MINISTRY INTERN
Tylee Styne, an intern with Servant Partners Vancouver, was similarly impacted by the words of the prophet Amos, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). She understood that the Lord moves ever forward into establishing justice and righteousness, and that is His promise to us; we in turn must be willing and obedient to follow in His ways.
Tylee first connected with the Chinatown Concern Group and their work for affordable housing access and food security in the Downtown Eastside. She learned to listen to the concerns of her neighbors as she joined in support of their cries. “Being active in listening to the voices of the concerned places a deeper engagement in my heart to move to action and see all voices represented and heard in this city,” Tylee shares.
The city’s decision to reject the 105 Keefer development project was a victory in direct response to the voices of the community. As community members articulated their stories and presented their concerns over how such a project would affect their community and their personal well-being, city council members clearly saw that developers did not adequately engage the community over regarding potential cultural and economic impact.
For Tylee, standing beside her brothers and sisters in City Hall is an integral part of her ministry of calling out for justice and walking in solidarity with her neighbors. “I hear the cries and the voices of the marginalized and deeply oppressed, and I am with them. This is what my God says, and so shall I.”