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Really? The City and the School Said "NO"?
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By Rick Vandekieft

Christians in London are, for the most part, giving people. And because London is the home to so many generous, caring people, the city is the base of numerous servant ministries helping those in need and spreading the Good Word. There are the ministries such as Ark Aid, Sanctuary London, LCPC, Mission Services, Youth for Christ and literally over 100 others work with and for Londoners. The need exists. Just as many London based ministries are reaching around the world bringing help and hope to those in despair.

The people devoted to these ministries tell stories of government bureaucracy and corruption that restricts how much of the help that actually makes it to those most vulnerable. These shipments of the bare essentials; clothing, hygiene products, school supplies and even some toys are too often “confiscated” for no reason, contrary to the prior acceptance of the government agencies.

Why would anyone stand in the way of aid getting to those in need? The ministries doing foreign work can tell about road blocks they must work through to get the goods to destinations in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan , Ethiopia, etc. This is just the reality of working with governments in the third world. No one in a position of authority here in London would misuse that power to block one from helping another, right? Unfortunately, no, not right.

This is the story of Martha and Wayne Cole. The Coles were featured in an earlier edition of Christian Life in London about a previous mission of charity. Martha and Wayne are two very caring Londoners that have worked for over a year to gather enough stuff to equip a small school in a remote region of Senegal. During the gathering period, desks and computers and monitors and chairs and even bicycles were stored in every possible nock and cranny of their home, enough stuff to fill a 40 foot container!

Rejoice! The Coles received the approvals and paperwork from Senegal. Time to get the container loaded and ready for shipping. Very exciting.

The plan was to drop the container off at the Cole home. Just to be sure, Martha placed a call to the city (of London Canada!!) to find out if there were any rules, thinking a pylon or safety tape maybe suggested. Instead, they were told that they would not be allowed to have the container on their street regardless of its "humanitarian purpose".

To clarify...this was not for a month, not even a week; this was just for 2 days! No, not allowed. BUT if the proper permit was obtained and a special insurance policy was purchased, then...maybe.

Calls to the insurance companies were just as frustrating and yes, they offered the insurance policies for containers but only to registered businesses. One insurer let Martha in on another fact, "Just in case the person at the city didn't tell you, the city will only issue the permit to registered business. Even if we did offer the insurance to you there is still no way the city would have issued the permit."

An aside to the story... As this was going on, London endured a huge rainstorm - September 10th 2014 with hundred or more homes encountering flooded basements because of the city's sewage system backed up. Days following the storm many of the homes affected by the overflow had 40' containers dropped off at their homes being used during the WEEKS of restoration work. There were no permits or insurance required so what's the deal?

The Coles, who had worked so hard to secure all of the donations for Senegal, came up with the perfect alternative to the city's lack of compassion. There is a public school just up the road so Martha contacted the school about having the container placed in their parking lot Friday afternoon and picked up early Monday morning. She assured the school that the container would not be dropped off until school was out on Friday and would be picked up prior to school starting on Monday.

What a wonderful opportunity for the school to participate in this act of charity. Would they suggest to their staff and students to pitch in by helping move the items from the Cole house to the container?

Apparently the school didn't see any need to any way at all...and refused to allow the container to be dropped at the parking lot. No, not even for the two days when school was not in session.

After a mad scramble they found a dear man that could accommodate the 40' container but he was at the complete opposite end of town.

The Coles were able to recruit volunteers to help transport all the goods from their basement, their garage, their living room and family room and their bedrooms to the other side of the city.

Just as the transporting was working into a routine Friday evening, Wayne received a phone call. His mother had been taken to University Hospital - she was not well. At 2:00AM Saturday morning - another call - Wayne's mother had just passed away. They were torn - time to fill the container prior to it being picked up was running out - what could they do? After a sleepless night they realized that there really were no options - they needed to work as long as it took to load the container. Very late Saturday night, the container was packed to capacity, the job was done.

On Sunday they planned Wayne's Mom's funeral.
The container left Toronto on October 1st with an ETA in Dakar around mid-November. The Coles planned to fly out in late October to be in Dakar when the shipment arrived. Just as the plans seemed to be all falling into place; Ebola.

The Cole family were very concerned with Martha and Wayne going into West Africa because of the fears and risk with the Ebola outbreak. After much soul searching and prayers, they decided it was not fair at this time to put their family through the worry. Wisely they have delayed their visit until the outbreak is under control.

Martha Cole says to you the Christian Life in London readers; "I fervently ask that you and your Christian friends pray for all of the Ebola patients and their families. It is a deadly disease and many families are affected especially in the poor areas that have limited medical supplies and expertise."
Editor's note:
God Bless the Coles and their team of volunteers. They are so dedicated to bringing hope, joy and the Gospel to those that, without their help, would continue a life of despair.
To those at City Hall and at the “school up the road” – “Were those hardline, insensitive decisions really necessary?