top of page

Barb Atkins

2004 - part of colleagues lunch; 2010-2012 Board member

October 20, 2021

I asked God to bring me another group which would be life-giving to me. Enter, Jacobs Well.

Barb at Okanagan Gleaners in Oliver 2021. Since her first time going to the Gleaners with Jacob’s Well, she makes it an annual event with her family and friends

Wow-how time flies! Good for you, Dawn, tracking these things and honouring the time and people. I’m not much at keeping track of stuff myself but here’s a bit of my history with JW that I can recall, dates are approximate and may need editing. 

In early 2004 I came to work in the DTES for UGM as an Addictions Counsellor. Part of going to work downtown every day meant I had to give up my Women’s Prayer Group through my church. I asked God to bring me another group which would be life-giving to me. Enter, Jacobs Well. 

I have no recollection of how we found each other. One Wednesday lunchtime I showed up at the Main Street location beneath the Jubilee Rooms, toting my lunch as I had somehow heard about Colleagues Lunch. Joyce and the others welcomed me warmly. Sharon Milligan was there. Beth, Helen, Berto came shortly after I think, as well as Steven Rathjen and so many other supportive, godly brothers and sisters, Aaron White, Brian Postelwaite. This little group became my lifeline in the DTES. I learned so much about Christ’s heart for the poor through JW. I attended one of the weekend workshops which was transformative. The group itself was a safe place for me to ask hard questions and recurve honest answers. 

I went gleaning in Oliver with Tom West and Karen and others, camping in a plum orchard and living communally. A retreat that will always be a very warm memory in my heart. Pretty sure Michael Spiers was there in those days too-he is so faithful and such an excellent cook!

My husband and I attended the Tuesday night community meal for a season and always left uplifted and encouraged. It was such a blessing to serve and be served in this way. 

Also transformative for me was my experience of the gorilla garden farmed by Tom before they moved to the Gulf Islands. Which reminds me of visiting there as a Board member in later years. We were so well hosted. I’ll never forget the ‘thresher’ Tom made from a bicycle to separate the wheat from the chaff I think. Even more memorable was an example of how he was teaching math, among other things, to his son. It started with a grain and wheat which was planted and grew into a stalk with so many seeds itself, about exponential growth and life and the kingdom of God.

I think by this time Joyce had got married and moved away. The other Sharon (Smith) was now ED I think. Sharon Milligan who was a long term volunteer retired to Vancouver Island. I’ll never forget Sharon M sitting crocheting (knitting) hand bags out of old plastic bags. The number of lessons I learned from all the people there are too many to record here. I met Mia and Al McKay there too -so many people who influenced my life for good and enabled me to continue to work in the neighborhood when I was weary.

There were many transitions of course over those many years. I have sweet memories of lunch in the garden too, I can almost smell the greenery and growth of all the goodness which surrounded us. 

To this day, the most beautiful bouquet of flowers I ever received came from a sister from JW. It was from the garden and was mainly sweet peas in a jar. Such a precious memory for me. 

As I write this I’m starting to recall so many sweet moments. I recall meeting Dawn and hearing that she had worked with Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong. I was so impressed since Jackie’s ministry had impressed me so much after reading her book. 

One more important thing that jumps to mind, those fabulous celebratory brunches-such a long table of shining faces once a year to thank God for his never-ending goodness and graciousness. Such sweet memories…

And I learned about Holding Space for folks there too -so many brilliant folks who shared abundantly from what God had given them. 

Did I mention that I loved and bought and still own all of Tom West’s CDs? Loved the music, the worship, the posture, the sentiments. 

Ok, I’m going to stop there. And I shall not read over this or I will want to rewrite and edit and delete. Forgive me for my verbosity. Please feel free to edit this stream of consciousness writing as I ramble on. Which reminds me of the newsletters which I loved. Such heart-felt stories of beauty in the ashes. And the recipes and drawings…

Anyway, this has been a life-giving moment for me as I recall God's goodness to me and to Jacobs Well and the living community it fosters. 

Oh wait, what am I doing now? Retired. I wondered what God would have in store for me in this next leg of the journey. As it turns out, I get to serve the community where I live by being an active member of the Strata  Council and serve my church family by being the Chair of the Governance Team, where concepts I learned at JW come in handy.  Loving my life, learning more about privilege and reconciliation.  Have been encouraged to write a memoir but I don’t see that in the near future. 

bottom of page