After almost two weeks out and about, the only ones who dislike a poor person helping the church and asked me to leave 'their property', were the Anglicans at St. Pauls Cathedral. Which is ironic as I am an attending Anglican and they are supposed to help and love the poor, although I guess they think a poor person outside may be an embarrassment to the guests at their high society function... How surprising that I was treated better at a Robbie Williams concert!
I had breakfast at St. Peters Eastern Hill, which was perfect. Nothing fancy, just the basic cereals and toast with some 'important looking' church people quietly moving around checking that everything was alright, and everyone's needs were met. They weren't supervising, but serving our needs, and it felt great. The 15 or so homeless people/guests visiting for the breakfast genuinely seemed happy to be there. A good start to the day.
Then off to the library, and while waiting for a computer, I got distracted by the Transformers Xbox game, saving the Microns from the evil Decepticons, and two hours passed before I realized it. I reminded myself I was not here to play games, and checked the weather. Finally some warmer nights coming up. Great!
Off to visit my friends out at World Vision. I caught the train out to Camberwell and then got on the tram out to Burwood. I only had a Zone 1 pass and I thought that somewhere towards Burwood it would become a Zone 2 section. I probably should get off at the end of Zone1 and walk the rest of the way, and went to check the maps on the tram walls for where it changed. All four display maps on the tram were so old scratched and rubbed that the section I needed to examine was rubbed off and not visible on any of them. (It only occurs to me now that I could ask the driver...) So I sat down until my stop at Springvale Rd and felt a little guilty, wrestling with my perfectionism to always do the right thing. I don't think God meant us to be overly analytical of every little decision we make, so I let it go, and moved on to helping the tram driver try and work out what the metallic dragging noise was that had been coming from under the tram.
It was fantastically refreshing and encouraging to see all my friends there again. They were all interested in my journey and after 1/2 an hour of grilling me in a circle I felt great that I had been able to answer all the questions I didn't know a week ago, and that they were interested and learning as well. They say a big 'Hi' to all you readers of the blog! Then due to my lucky timing it was the WV Christmas party, so some more fun there to. Muffy gave me a lift back to St. Kilda in her car, which was a highlight, to have some really good conversation for a while, despite her oft late sharp braking methods ;)
I was near my brother's place and so thought I would drop by for a visit. As I walked up to the building entrance he walked out, on his way to the city, to meet his girlfriend, with two walkie talkies, to go and look for me. Ha! We went in and I showed them a spot where I slept and talked about homelessness. He wanted to try begging and sat down with a sign asking for $2 so he could do laundry. He got $3 after 1/2 an hour. I didn't feel good about the ethics of him pretending to be homeless with an Amex in his pocket, but also thought about my situation and wondered if others saw me as not so genuine in my position, on account that I could leave it and get a job at any time? We all walked around the city for the evening and they watched and waited from a distance while I went to the 10pm food van at Vic Markets. One young guy came up and asked me the time and then mentioned how late the van was running, and stood next to me. That was all that was said, but I felt it was a connection, an acceptance. It seemed very small but I felt it was important. A drunk guy came by and started yelling at everyone and a lot of people quickly moved away, before someone stood up to him and moved him off. The drunk guy smashed his bottle of beer on the road in anger as he left. The reality of the situation is that a lot of tough looking and tough talking street men, are really scared of getting involved in anything violent and run off as soon as it looks like a serious situation. I've seen the occasional chest-beating but no-one really wants any trouble, that's not why they are there. The real trouble makers are the louts passing by the food vans looking to slag off for no good reason.
Later Terry and Marcy headed off, and I wandered up north of the city. Rupert had told me there was a building where the security guards let some homeless people sleep, as long as they were out by morning. I didn't find it, other than I found the 50 Collins Place Plaza was open all night, with no security or anyone around for the hour that I sat there. Good to know if I need some shelter from a storm or something. I bumped into a homeless guy called Ethan. He was Jesus hyper and was fascinated with the cross on my top. We had a quick chat and he moved on. As I headed back down to my Arcade spot at 2am, about 30 skateboarders whizzed by down Collins St. Now you don't see that everyday.
Not much happened until the afternoon. I had wandered around Fitzroy a bit depressed as I had not had any decent evangelism/helping connection for a few days. As I walked back into the city I prayed to God about it, along the lines of 'well I'm here, so you can use me...' Two blocks later I was back in Bourke St Mall. There was Ethan having an angry conversation with an elderly man sitting on the bench. He saw me and came up and said the man had called him a poofter and he was yelling at the man not to judge people, Jesus didn't come to judge. I nodded and said I hadn't seen what had happened so I wouldn't get involved. He said ok and walked on. I nodded at the man on the bench. He asked if I knew Ethan and I said I had only met him for the first time last night. I sat down and we started chatting. He asked me about my religion, and I told him about God. He wasn't religious but was interested in my experiences of meeting God. His name was Perry and he lived in a nursing home and had nothing to do but just sit in the mall. His family did not care for him either. He asked me what you need to do to be a Christian and I said you just need to believe in the story of Jesus and have a heart attitude to doing the right things by God. I asked him what he was doing for Christmas Day, and he said nothing, so I invited him to the Church of Hope Christmas lunch, and he said he would think about it. I also asked him if there was anything he would like me to pray for, but he said he was ok. I shook his hand and moved on. It was great how quickly God had answered my prayer for a Christian encounter with someone, I just wondered if I had said the right things? He wasn't converted, but there was a lot of Godly value in our talk. I wondered if I had the right skills and info to help talk someone into conversion?
I headed over to CoH (Church of Hope) that was open for a couple of hours. When I got there, there were just two others. David the leader and another man called George. While we were talking, two teenage girls came in for a look. David immediately engaged them (in a very friendly way) and talked to them about God, as they were not Christians. Shortly he asked if they would like to pray to become Christians on the spot, one said no, but the other almost did but was pulled away and David gave them some reading tracts as they left. So it was pretty cool that just as I was thinking about the process of evangelism, the opportunity to watch and listen to an experienced person presented itself. It was encouraging. Another man also came by and warned me about street people pretending to be your friend on a long term basis, just to seek to ruin you because you are a Christian and to find out where you live so they can go and rob your place. He said the Cross on my top was a big target sign for bad elements in the city. I thanked him for his warning and said I had not had any problems thus far, but would be wary.
Sitting back at FSS (Flinder St Station) I met and chatted lightly with a few other people and street kids. Then I saw Eco Paul and shouted out hello! Eco Paul used to go to my Church and is a part of the street community (always collecting stuff and preaching about environmentalism, etc...). We had caught up a number of times in the months leading up to my FW but I had not yet told him about it. When I told him all that was going on he was ecstatic, he thought it was so counter-cultural that he couldn't believe someone from the rich eastern suburbs was following this path. Walt (another street person) came by drunk, and was also surprised by my story. Eco Paul later said a lot of people would know now as Walt had a very good tongue. He also told me that sleeping in the gardens at the AXA building on the corner of William and Collins St would be very good spiritually. I then helped him load all his stuff on the last tram out east (3 loads of stuff) and I heard him shout loudly "Hello Melbourne People!" to the tram riders as it pulled away from the stop. Hilarious.
I wandered down to the AXA Gardens but it was all to open for sleeping bag, perhaps when it was warmer I could lie there clothed (without a sleeping bag) and discover the spirituality of the spot? I think it was supposed to be about having nothing out in front of a building which represents the pinnacle of wealth and financial management. For now I headed back to the Arcade for the 2nd night in a row, happy I had a good day.
In the morning I spent a good amount of time sitting on the FSS as the day warmed up. One guy asked to take my photo. Then I went to the 12:15pm service at SPC (St. Pauls Cathedral) and sat down the front, but nothing happened. The sign board was out the front, but it was all quiet inside, after 1/2hr I left. Outside, I had a dollar coin I had found in the bottom of my sleeping bag that morning, and wondered how to spend it. What was the best value I could get? Since it was hot and I was thirsty, I though it would be pleasing to have a change from water. Not enough to buy a Slurpee (which everyone else in the city seemed to be holding) and all cold drinks are above a dollar. I headed off to QV Safeway, where the whole shop (underground) is like a big fridge. Scanning the shelves I said 'Yes!' as I found that Pepsi Max 1.25 litre bottles were on special at 99 cents. I handed over my dollar, no change, and went and sat down to enjoy my prize. Halfway through, a pat on the back, and Tim and Laura sat down! They saw me in passing and came for a chat and a pray. That really brightened things up. Meeting friends, prayer and Pepsi; it's all you need.
Later: I caught up with my mentor, visited CoH, talked with Rupert and sat more on FSS. Noticing a huge crowd out the front of SPC, I went over to see what was happening. It was a carol service with the Melbourne Philharmonica Orchestra. The ushers were all nicely in black with a red flower on their chests, and the crowd was all in their best clothing, a couple in black tie. After everyone was inside I was told you needed a ticket to get in, but there were still seats available. I went and sat on the knee high stone wall on the other side of the front courtyard hoping, as with the concert earlier in the week, that I might be able to hear something from outside. A man came up the ramp and a piece of paper fell out of his pocket before he went inside. I went over and picked it up. It was a voucher for a free copy of the evening's programme. I walked over to the door usher and gave it to him, saying that it had just been dropped and perhaps the man might come back looking for it. He thanked me. Soon the doors were shut, an usher on the outside, and there was no sound to be heard.
Over the road in Federation Square there was another carol and music concert on for the general public. So I decided to stay sitting where I was and listen to that music. Another man did the same not far away. I remembered Jesus' story of the Banquet. At first I felt a little angry that the Church had this 'Banquet' of music, there were empty seats and they had not gone out to ask the poor, crippled, or blind to come and fill the seats, like in Jesus' story. Then I also put myself in the shoes of those left outside after the doors are closed with "wailing and gnashing of teeth". I gnashed my teeth a bit to see how it felt, but didn't wail as I didn't want to draw any attention. Later another usher came out and went and got Hungry Jacks, brought it back to the other usher and they disappeared inside to eat. Some more guests arrived and, as the door was shut, thought they were locked out. I thought the ushers were like the bridesmaids who ran out of oil and weren't there when the groom arrived. I went over to the guests, welcomed them and said the door was not locked. I pushed open the door a little and let them inside, shut it and then went back to my seat. The other guy wanted to go over the road to Fed Square for a closer look and asked me to mind his stuff for 5 minutes. I said that would be fine.
I read my Bible a little, and then I got up and stretched my legs a bit, when 3 ushers came out. An older one I had not seen before came over and asked me if that was my bag by the wall. Yes, I said that it was. He asked me to move it as it was a security threat. 'No problem'. I said I would get it and keep it with me, and went and got it. Then he came up again and asked me to leave. I said that I was keeping an eye on the other guy's stuff for a few minutes. He said that the others guy's stuff would be thrown out too. I asked "Have I done something wrong?" Looking into the man's eyes I could see a heart that was completely hard. He said, "I am in charge of security and this is OUR property," and I said, "No, it is my Father's property," and walked away. I picked up the other guy's things and went to the far corner away from the doors and sat down. The other guy soon came back and thanked me for looking after his stuff and sat back down on the wall to listen to the 'people's' concert. So I then thought about the story of the vineyard tenants that threw the owner's visiting servant outside before killing the visiting son.
Intermission, and out came a number of people for a break. One older lady came over and sat next to me and mentioned the heat. I said I liked the heat and deserts, which led into a conversation about who I was and what I was doing in the city. Her name was Doherty and she was the wife of one of the choir members. Soon her friends were calling her to hurry up and come back inside, and she blessed me before hurrying off. Another good connection. Then up from the street came a young man giving out tracts (Biblical message pamphlets) and doing evangelism. He was Nicholas from Crossways Baptist out in Burwood. We had a good 1/2hr of conversation and fellowship before he moved on to other people. It was an interesting night, and after the concert finished and everyone left and the Fed Square concert finished, I headed back over to the FSS.
At 12:40 a Greek man came and sat next to me. He was Pontas and he had just missed the last train to Werribee by 4 mins. Thus he said as he was on welfare and had no money, he would just wander the city for 5 hours until the first train the next morning. In the meantime with nothing to do we also had a good talk for about an hour. He said he was a Christian, although I am beginning to wonder at all these people that 'call' themselves Christians but do not display any Christian traits... He talked about the problem of being stuck on 'that' poverty rung, where he paid for accommodation, a meal, and then the rest went on poker gambling and cigarettes. Which apparently are very expensive. For a 2 pack a day man it's about $24 or $160 a week. Out of his $400 pension and with rent that does not leave much left... He went for his walk and then out came the skateboarders again. I went to bed for the night; pulled out my sleeping bag, and lay down, right at the front of St. Paul's Cathedral. :)