There is a lot to be learned from the community of Vedder Terrace in Chilliwack, British Columbia. This intentional community is a part of Bethesda Christian Association. Its residents model the instructions given to the community in Romans 12:
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom. 12:10 – 13 NIV).
Before I even rolled out of the van, I had received the warmest welcome from two members of the community. By the time I rolled out of the van I had four new friends and a delicious chocolate bar in my hand. What wonderful hospitality!
Within the hour, community members were enthusiastically escorting me on a guided tour where I was invited into several beautiful homes. The members whom I met shared a lot about their lives. They told me about the community events which they enjoy at the clubhouse, shared community meals three times per week, movie nights and other events that people who do not live at Vedder Terrace can take part in. Many of the events are Christ-centred and incorporate prayer. When they heard how much I enjoy board games they hosted an impromptu games night. Their enthusiasm, joy and generosity were abundantly evident.
The majority of residents have developmental disabilities and receive varying levels of support for tasks of daily living and employment. 24 hour on-site support is available for emergencies. However, while staying there for a few days I noticed that these individuals were especially adaptive and relied on support workers far less than they could have. They had a strong sense of one another’s needs and were happy to support each other with a variety of tasks. As they did so, they clearly exhibited servant hearts.
The residents of Vedder Terrace serve in many ways. Many have jobs in the community and beyond. Some are responsible for cleaning the clubhouse and other custodial tasks, others work at McDonald’s, at a daycare, or assist provincial politicians. Various residents have hobbies including model trains, gardening, and collecting movies. They have all contributed to a collaborative community art project called Joy.
Each Vedder Terrace resident shares a beautiful two-bedroom townhouse with one other person. Each house has unique and stylish decor. I was thoroughly impressed by the state-of-the-art accessibility features, particularly the sidewalk which consists of hashmarks painted on the flat pavement rather than the typical raised cement blocks. This is especially helpful for people who use mobility devices, walkers and wheelchairs because it prevents them from tipping their mobility device over if they veer slightly out of line with the sidewalk. The architecture of the community, its front gate and circular design offers many of the residents an added sense of safety and security.
I appreciated that I was not staying in the only designated accessible unit. Most of the Vedder Terrace townhouses are ground level units equipped with wide doorways, wide hallways and even a roll-in shower in addition to the regular bathtub. This means that people with and without physical challenges can visit each other without having to worry about structural barriers.
The hospitality, joy, freedom, and love I experienced here helped me realize what heaven might look like: Welcoming, accessible, and full of life.