Malinda Thorne was an extraordinary individual; a dedicated and compassionate person who devoted her life to helping others through preaching and social work. Pictured above from an article in the Vancouver Sun on September 26, 1970, she operated a shelter and soup kitchen in Vancouver known as “God’s Rescue Mission”. At the time of the article she was operating from a location on Powell Street in the downtown east side but had previously operated from 823 Jackson Avenue. God’s Rescue Mission sheltered 10-15 transients and homeless people per night and Rev. Thorne served food and held nightly gospel services.
Rev. Thorne was born in Chicago in 1923. Her father and two brothers were Methodist ministers so she grew up in a religious household. She became interested in ministry when she befriended destitute girls in her neighborhood and taught them to read and write using the Bible. Eventually she became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Rev. Thorne says that the idea of God’s Rescue Mission came to her in a dream when she was conducting revival services in Spokane, Washington. She came to Vancouver in 1957 and initially worked at the First United Church under Rev. Russell Ross. According to the Sun article “in 1960 she opened [a mission] in an unused church at 823 Jackson” and “she has been at her present location at 381 Powell since 1967”
The building at 823 Jackson had been vacant since Rev. Ivan Moore left in 1956. The Vancouver Sun reports in July 1957 that “In mid-summer 1956, Rev. J. Ivan Moore left for United States. There was no successor to his pulpit, … When services ceased, the congregation scattered.” As noted previously, it had been evident since as early as the mid 1940s that the AME congregation had dispersed to the point that it was difficult to operate as a church. In December 1957 the Vancouver Sun reported that: “A church that has been closed for two years will open its doors again. … Preacher will be Rev. Melinda Thorne, Chicago.” [Rev. Thorne’s first name is sometimes spelled Melinda]
While the exact timing is not clear, it’s likely that during the period from 1958 to 1969 Rev. Thorne operated God’s Rescue Mission on and off out of 823 Jackson Avenue. The city directories, which are known to sometimes lag by a few years, lists the building as AME with no pastor from 1958 to 1963, vacant in 1964 and 1965, then AME Zion with Rev. Thorne as pastor from from 1966 to 1971. We know that some time in 1969 she had to move out of the building because Mac Elrod had approval from the head office of AME to take over services. [Rudder, 2004]