My Story

One Friday night I had settled in for the night when I got the phone call from one of my kids to tell me Isaac was stabbed and was in the ER.

“He wants you to come.”

“What? Really? Me?” I asked.“How serious is it?”

“No clue.”

I rushed to the hospital and the clerk at the ER desk asked if I was family. Why yes, I replied. Yes I am.

The ward clerk shook her head. How could this white woman possibly be the family of a gang-involved pure black Sudanese thug?

Isaac’s mother Yar had passed away from cancer several years earlier after arriving in Canada from Sudan via Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Afterwards, God asked me to step in as a mother figure to him and his three brothers.

Isaac was sitting up in his bed when I peeked into his curtain.  One of his homies from Somalia stood protectively beside him. There was a lot of blood and his wound was being bandaged.

“Hey mom” he bellowed. “Don’t worry. It’s not that bad.”

His nurse rolled her eyes, but assured me he would be released once he was stabilized.

His homie glared at me and asked how I’d heard where Isaac was.

I felt a bit wonky. I can’t handle blood and needles and lots of other things you find in the hospital. But I prayed for him. I hugged him. I told him everything was going to be fine. But as I left I wondered to myself…was it?

Thus began the first of many visits to the ER, hospital rooms, delivery wards, murder scenes, funerals and more. Because I am family; a mother figure for kids who are so lost their own families often shun them when they slip into trouble that comes from gang life and hustling crack.

That was night was when I realized I was the mom in the hood, and the ground I was sowing into was hard fought and bloodied but oh so worth it.

I distinctly remember the morning God told me I was standing in the gap. “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30)

As I dug into it, I realized I was being asked to pray for these young people because no one else was doing it. The souls of these kids from far flung nations around the world are dear to God. No matter where they wander, He calls them into relationship with Him. And someone has to contend for this to happen. Someone who knows them and gets them and loves them.

The motherhood call isn’t as easy as it sounds for me. Before I became a Christian, I aborted three babies and then later on in life, I miscarried three more. I really thought my dreams to be a mom were dashed. But God had other plans. Not only did He forgive me for my transgressions, He redeemed my losses. Part of this came when He compelled me to parent and co-parent several refugee teenagers whose parents were absent or dealing with their own trauma or demons.

While working at a centre for war affected families, I oversaw the mentoring of ten Sudanese families. Later, I coordinated the ROUTE program for 45 at risk refugee youth from 12 wartorn countries.

My heart came alive seeing them grasp the life skills we were trying model, but it was not without its ups and downs. Several of the kids were jailed. A couple of the girls got pregnant and had abortions. An Eritrean Muslim girl had a child at a very young age and her parents threw her out.

And then, the worst thing possible happened. A Sudanese kid named Mariak, the best friend of several of my ROUTE kids, was murdered. It happened about 100 yards from my home and he bled to death while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Seeing the crime scene with his bloodied shirt is still a memory that is seared in my mind.

Then a young man from Sierra Leone was murdered. His brother had lived with me.

A Somali young man was shot mistakenly.

And Abdul, an Eritrean boy, whose two sisters were in the ROUTE program, was stabbed outside the YMCA. That night, I was once again in the ER waiting room along with dozens of Abdul’s friends. The nurses, nervous about all the community who’d gathered in the hospital, told me Abdul had passed away. Then they scurried away, leaving me to share the awful news with his family and friends.

Although the ROUTE program ran out of money, I had morphed into a full scale urban missionary with many of the kids remaining in my life. I came to understand just how hard the work of an urban missionary work was. A friend once said my job was sowing seeds in hard ground, in concrete even. That is scarily accurate some days.

The only way to stay buoyed up amidst the valley of the shadow of death was the Holy Spirit’s comfort and transformation…and prayer. I began hosting prayer meetings in my living room and the Holy Spirit began to heal and deliver and save young men and women from different nations, tribes, tongues and people groups. My home in the centre of Winnipeg somehow had become a house of prayer for all nations.

This is what led me into Sanctuary House of Prayer and life as an intercessory missionary, where prayer is part of my mission field. Intercession is irrevocably melded with my call as an urban missionary. I am being asked to love these ones as well as pray continually and fervently for them.

is as necessary today as it was then. This past spring one of my most precious guys in Alberta died of blunt force trauma to the head. The war rages on against these young adults and my role of standing in the gap in intercession and with love has never been more crucial.

Gaylene Dempsey

Gaylene Dempsey

Missionary, Sanctuary House of Prayer

My heart burns for unreached people groups to know the kindness of this man Jesus, whether in villages, jails or the streets of urban centres.

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