Image of a candle with the words prayer, conversations with God

Advent Week Three: Praying Through

As we enter the third of four Advent weeks leading up to the big day, and as we continue our focus on the core value of ‘Intimacy with God’, I have been reflecting a lot about the very personal nature of this core value. Being close to God starts with us first and foremost. Then it overflows into our work, our families and our surroundings.

When I think about the many beautiful people that I get to work with every day and when I consider how deeply our staff values Intimacy with God, there’s someone whose name consistently comes to mind when I think about people who value and depend on the necessity of a close relationship with God.

Her name is Brenda Wootten.

Brenda has been working in our shelters since 1993. She’s literally seen it all; the goods and the bads, the highs and the lows. I’ve known her for around 20 years, but I really got to know her well when she came to work with me at Gateway in January of 2004. I hired her to be our Assistant Director at that time. She quickly became my right hand person; the one I went to for advice, the one I trusted with the hardest parts of running a shelter. It was then that I learned how much the value of ‘Intimacy with God’ really meant to her. She always prayed, always trusted that God was with us in every situation. She prayed for me, for the residents, for the staff, for the whole operation of Gateway. All the time!

She was offered the job of Director of Florence Booth House in November of 2005. That was horrible news for me, but great news for FBH. While there, again she dedicated everything to prayer. She had a heart for women who found themselves homeless. Her heart broke especially for women caught in the sex-trade, so she developed programs in response to that issue. All of this came as a response to what God was telling her during the time she spent in prayer.

She left FBH in 2011 to become the Director of Human Resources (HR), now called Employee Relations (ER), for the shelters. There are approximately 240 employees at Toronto Housing and Homeless Supports and she has the mammoth responsibility of making sure that everything goes right for every single one of us. That’s huge! When I spoke with her last week about the value of Intimacy with God, she instantly said “It’s the core of who I am.” She said that she prays at least every single day and oftentimes more than that when things are really tough. She admits that the job is so big that “I can’t do it on my own. I need God’s help.”

This Advent season Brenda, as much or more than anyone else on our team, is longing for that ultimate Christmas Day when Jesus finally returns once and for all to make everything right. For more than 20 years she has seen, felt and yes, experienced the heartache of the women and men who stay in our shelters. She wants it to end, and soon! In the meantime, she strives every single day for justice in her corner of the world.

This Advent season let us continue to be ‘The Hand of God in the Heart of the City’ in our corners of the world while we wait for that ultimate Christmas Day when everything will be made right once and for all.


Dion Oxford, Mission Strategist

Infant Jesus, truly God, truly human, truly infinite, truly frail:
Your greatness holds the universe. Your face attracts our hearts.
Your goodness beckons all that is good in us. Your wisdom searches us.
Your truth reshapes us. Your generosity enriches our poverty.
Your hand fills us with blessings. Your mercy brings forgiveness.
Your glory fills the world.
– Celtic Prayers for Life Today R. Simpson
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