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Drink from the Fountain

Five years ago, Chris was living a nightmare.

“At that point in my life, if I had a god besides myself, it was probably cannabis,” admitted Chris Hyndman, who resides  with his wife and two children in Vancouver’s West End. “But I had a devastating experience of that god failing me and the rug being pulled out from underneath me. I was suicidal. My mind was out of control. I was hearing voices and seeing demons behind every bush.” 

In the midst of his nightmare, Chris was invited to a barbecue in his neighborhood. It was hosted by Dennis and Mistin Wilkinson, a couple who had been living and church planting in the West End for several years. It was actually Dennis’ mother, Carol, who approached Chris and asked if he would join them in their front yard for a meal. 

Chris was stunned. He couldn’t believe that there was actually a family that wanted to share a meal with him. “You’ve got to understand,” he explained, “when I met Carol, I was a lunatic, a space cadet. I was completely out of my mind and convinced that I was going to die any second and go to hell.”

As he arrived at the barbecue, the sun was shining and these strangers welcomed him into their lives.  “They called themselves Christians,” Chris recalled, “a family that believed in Jesus.” 

Dennis introduced himself to Chris. Among other things, Dennis told him that he loved Jesus and believed the Bible was good and true.

Chris was stunned again. “Do you know how dumb that is?” he asked Dennis sincerely. “You seem like a smart guy. Do you know that believing that stuff is really outdated? We’ve evolved past that.”

Dennis smiled, and kept listening.

In the days that followed, Chris thought more and more about his experience at that house. “There was just something compelling about that family,” he remembered, “and the way they lived out their lives, how they loved their God. And I didn’t know who my god was anymore. I just knew I was lost.” 

Chris began to meet regularly with Dennis. He was in and out of the hospital and was put on a variety of psychiatric medication. As they walked together in the neighbourhood, Dennis listened to Chris tell about his struggles and the difficulties he was experiencing with his new medications. 

“The crazy thing was,” Chris recalled, “Dennis didn’t know it at the time, but on those walks, he would share some of his knowledge about church history - the story of people interacting with Scripture over time, doctrine and heresy - and that was exactly what I needed to hear. I had a church upbringing, so I knew what cultural Christianity was about, and I was in total rejection of that. But without even knowing it, Dennis gave me the exact apologetics that I needed to unlock my mind’s resistance to the idea that the Bible could be true, and that God could be trustworthy.”

Although a door had clearly opened in Chris’ heart, he was still drowning in depression and crippled with anxiety. “I would just go on these rollercoaster rides,” he said, “and it felt like God was taking me on a tour of just how lost I was and how desperately I needed his salvation.” 

Then something happened that changed the course of Chris’ recovery. “In the middle of one of those white-knuckled tours, Jesus showed up. I was lying in bed and it was like a waking dream. I saw Jesus sitting on a fountain and he said to me, ‘I’ve got this. It’s okay. Are you thirsty?’ And he offered me a drink from the fountain.”

It wasn’t the end of everything that Chris was struggling with, but it was a big shift. From that moment on, Jesus was real to him and he started living with confidence in that reality. 

Suddenly, he was different, and people noticed. Not long afterward, in a group discussion at Dennis’ house, an ardent atheist from the neighbourhood was in a heated conversation with Dennis. In the midst of it, Chris spoke up and effectively defended the Gospel with clarity and intensity. 

On another occasion, Chris was walking his children to school with a family friend who had witnessed the transformation in his life. After hearing more about his faith journey, she turned to him and asked, “Are you saying that Jesus is a cure for depression?” 

“Worked for me,” Chris replied. 

Prior to his encounter with Jesus, Chris had been very outspoken online and in public. He had rarely held back on sharing his thoughts and opinions. “Everyone knew how lost I was,” Chris said. “So, after Jesus saved me, I felt like it was really important to tell everyone that I’d been found. You know, this is who I am now.”

Not long after Chris was baptized, his wife Lee began her own journey of faith and eventually surrendered her heart to Jesus and was baptized. Their newfound faith transformed their family. Soon afterward, the couple and their two children began to lead worship together in their church community. They were even invited to other churches to serve as worship leaders. “When my kids are up on stage,” Chris remarked, “and they’re belting out these songs from their hearts, really worshipping the way we’re supposed to, I break down every time. It’s amazing what Jesus has done in our lives.”

As a musician, Chris has embraced opportunities to share Jesus through his music. So he hosts a music festival in his neighbourhood and is a regular at a local Irish pub where people gather together and talk openly about life’s challenges. Chris’ songs speak about his faith journey, but he’s also willing just to be there for people. “Jesus was willing to crawl into the ditch with me,” Chris said, “so I want to be willing to get in there with others and not be afraid to get messy and dirty. That’s what Dennis and Mistin and Carol did for me.” 

The church community that Dennis and Mistin planted in the West End is called Meta Communities. It’s a small gathering of believers and non-believers. But the mission is clear, especially for new believers like Chris: “We’re just trying to paint a picture in our neighbourhood of what it looks like to love Jesus and to have him live in us.”

Vancouver’s West End is not an easy place for anyone to live. The neighbourhood is constantly changing, with a menacing housing crisis and a very high turnover of residents. The people of Meta Communities, in many ways, live through the same struggles as others in their neighbourhood, except they live with hope.

“It’s not easy to be the Church in the West End,” Chris says, “but there’s definitely hope, tons of hope. It’s challenging when people come and go, and you don’t see things change quickly. You have to trust God and just do your part.”

Chris and Lee and their kids love the West End, despite the uncertainty of life there. Together with their new family at Meta Communities, they are clinging to their hope in Jesus and taking every opportunity to serve others in their neighbourhood.

For Chris, it’s a far cry from the nightmare he lived not long ago.

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