Winnipeg’s North end, where Steven J. Klassen works as a pastor, has a variety of ethnicities and cultures that make the community vibrant. The community has much to offer but lacks enough opportunity for people to work and contribute.
“The amount of cultural diversity in the north end inner-city of Winnipeg is one of the things that God resonated with me as I was considering joining [the Living Word] team,” Klassen says. “God’s desire is for all nations, all people, to come to know Him through Jesus Christ. The door is not closed to anybody.”
Before working as a pastor with Living Word Winnipeg, Klassen spent 24 years working with Youth for Christ Winnipeg and another 4 years working with Youth for Christ Canada. Although Klassen has felt God’s calling to work with young people, he valued the new opportunity to work with a range of ages.
“As I was going through a season of discernment God re-visioned me with some previous vision I had, but added to it.” Klassen recounts the season of transition he entered in 2019.
Klassen’s dream for the ministry is to create a wilderness camp and healing centre that would provide a place of refuge to experience God and work through transitions or personal struggles. One of the biggest struggles Klassen sees in the community is the high unemployment rates and the lack of work opportunities.
About three years ago Klassen started a wood and gardening ministry that provides people from the inner-city the opportunity to do productive hands-on work, connect with others, and make money. Klassen says idle energy can lead to destructive habits and he wants people to have a positive place to put that energy.
“Chopping wood is fulfilling because you feel like, well you are, accomplishing something. Even if you split one piece. One big piece. One knotty piece. You’re getting a sense of doing something.”
The ministry has partnered with a property near Hazel Ridge that gives Klassen space to bring groups out to garden and cut wood to be sold as firewood. Last year they had about 120 customers and all of the revenue went straight to paying people wages.
From May to September a grant provides wages for participants 15 to 30 years old to take part in the gardening and wood ministries. But the opportunity is for all ages, with people as old as 50 taking part throughout the year.
“It’s not just gardening.” Klassen says. “You’re teaching people. You’re training people. You’re giving them the opportunity to work the ground and plant the seeds.”
The goal of the ministry is not just to provide a job. It’s about learning life skills and building relationships.
In the winter the group gathers around a wood stove to warm up and Klassen ensures time for sharing, praying, and eating together.
“If we can get people connected from this wood and garden ministry into our church that would be great,” says Klassen.
Living Word has less than ten full-time staff, and are always in need of support and volunteers but Klassen specifically is asking for help in his ministry.
“I really need God to provide people who are passionate about gardening and would love to actually take over leadership of the garden ministry,” says Klassen. “The ministry is growing with our garden twice the size as when we started.”
Klassen has many ideas to grow and advance the ministry, providing more people the opportunity to be involved, but without more leaders he can only do so much.
On top of his dream to open a wilderness camp and healing centre, Klassen hopes to add a small lumber production to their ministry as well as providing people in the community with their own garden boxes to learn these skills at home.
Klassen hopes this ministry can reach more people who need it and can provide a place of refuge in Christ.
“Our ever-present help in times of trouble, as it talks about in Psalm 46.”
To see the wood and garden ministry in actual click here.
If you are interested in supporting the ministry at Living Word or working with the wood and garden ministry you can call Pastor Steven Klassen at 204-797-6932 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can donate to their ministry here: https://pushpay.com/g/livingwordtemple