• Christina Van Starkenburg

Humble Hospitality: Showing up for your neighbour.



“There is nothing greater than giving people space to be,” says Nicola Bartel, executive director at Mercy Canada. “To go into those dark places and not be alone. That’s the love of God when he promises that he will never leave us. And when he sits with us in that dark place and in the presence of somebody – a neighbour, a friend, whoever that is – he works in that community, in that beautiful space, and helps someone walk through it and out of it.”


Young women come to Mercy from across Canada to find healing and acceptance. In short, they come for the hospitality. The residential care facility and wellness centre in Surrey, B.C., serves women between the ages of 19 and 30 who are struggling with a wide variety of life-controlling issues. 


Some of them are struggling with eating disorders, others are overcoming addictions to drugs and alcohol, wrestling with the fear and uncertainties of unplanned pregnancies, or conquering the pain and trauma of being trafficked.


At Mercy they meet women, like Bartel, who genuinely love them for who they are. People who are willing to sit with them as they grapple with their pain and problems. “Every single woman who has come through [Mercy] will talk about how they felt so loved, so accepted, and not judged. That the time that was given to sit in those dark places and [have someone] just sit with them and be present allowed them to go on their own journeys. To experience God on their own terms,” says Bartel.


She says that simply being with people who are struggling, and letting them experience all of their emotions as they walk through their challenges is one of the best things we can do. 

But helping out and being truly present isn’t always easy. The commitment involved can be overwhelming. Our perceptions about those before us get in the way. The busyness or stressors in our own lives cloud our compassion. Sometimes we just don’t want to get involved.

Bartel is fully aware of the amount of emotional fortitude it can take to walk alongside someone who is struggling. She’s been helping hurting women for almost 25 years, and she’s quick to point out that she’s not doing it alone. There is a process to helping others: “It’s connecting to God. It’s connecting to self. And then, you can connect with others.”


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