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Union Gospel Mission manager and staff filling the role of wedding planners; first couple ever to be wed at New Westminster UGM

Vancouver, BC—It wasn’t long ago that Bill Wong could be found regularly banning Randy McGee from the New Westminster Union Gospel Mission. Today, the UGM manager can be found counseling McGee and his fiancée Michelle Werhli, and coordinating the finishing touches on the couple’s three-tiered wedding cake. On Wednesday, August 29, Wong, who is both long-time friend and pastor of McGee and Wehrli, will be performing the couple’s wedding ceremony, the first ever to take place at New Westminster’s UGM.
For Wong, the change he has witnessed in McGee’s life is testimony to the power of persevering in relationship and maintaining hope for individuals, even in the midst their darkest times. 
McGee recalls one such time. “A few years back I was smoking crack cocaine outside of UGM when Bill came along, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Could you please not do that here, Randy?’ So, off I went. When I was done, I came back to UGM, went straight to Bill and apologized. Sure enough, Bill forgave me.”
Mutual respect, trust and honesty have remained foundational to Wong and McGee’s 15-year friendship, leading McGee to not resent Wong for times when the manager asked him to leave the centre, but rather to take chances to make better choices for himself.
“He speaks to you, not down to you,” McGee says of Wong’s respectful communication style. 
Reflecting on the joy of witnessing growth in both McGee and Wehrli as individuals and now as a couple, Wong shares that, “Despite how we feel about the choices people make, or the actions they take, we have to keep at it and remember that there is always hope for each individual. For someone who feels hopeless, a strong relationship built on trust and honesty, and rooted in love gives them the strength they need to find hope for their own future.” 
Today, McGee has not only a hope for his own future, but for the future he shares with his soon-to-be wife. The two have come a long way from the night they met outside of UGM in 2003 when Wehrli, who had recently become single and homeless, sat crying on the pavement. McGee came along and provided a shoulder to cry on. What started as a supportive relationship continued as such, and two years later, McGee proposed to Wehrli at UGM in New Westminster. 
After only four pre-marital counseling sessions, Wong has enabled McGee and Wehrli to improve their ability to understand one another and to communicate effectively. The couple has noted drastic improvements.
 “If we have a problem now, instead of arguing we sit down and talk about it,” Wehrli shares. 
“We both look forward to growing old together,” adds McGee.
New Westminster’s UGM will be filled with joy, hope and new beginnings, as 23 guests and staff gather to celebrate McGee and Wehrli’s wedding at 2 pm with a reception to follow. This is the first wedding to take place at New Westminster’s UGM. Wong and UGM staff are thrilled to host the special occasion. 
Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 8 locations in Metro Vancouver, UGM provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To find out more, visit www.ugm.ca.
29/08/2012
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