Well despite having my first meal at church home group last night, I just want to talk about the 'important' things that happened yesterday...
I was heading off to church home group, and while I estimated it would be a couple of hours walk to Preston from the city, I allowed 4hrs, so as not to rush. I was walking through the Exhibition Building gardens towards Gertrude St, and passed by four guys drinking beer at a bench. They seemed like homeless guys and the beer can pile was up to about 50 cans. One of them noticed the cross on my top and asked if I was a priest? I said, "No, just a lay person." They asked me what I was doing, and so I sat down on the ground and told them. They were quite interested, and didn't seem drunk at all, despite the number of cans there. We talked about homelessness, and one guy seemed positive about my interest in the subject and another was negative about me. He said unless I was addicted and diseased like them then I could never understand, and thus I should just go home. I stressed I was just trying to get a 'better' personal understanding of their issues and that seemed ok. One guy said he had Hepatitis and asked if I would drink from his beer can. I said if it was a soft drink, then I probably would, but as it was alcohol then I could not. They were staying in a boarding house across the road, and after 1/2 an hour three of them left to get some more beer. The guy with the twisted nose asked me if I had any ID and I said no, which he then wondered what the police would say? I said I hadn't spoken to any of them. The other guy, Ali, was quite slow and soft in his speak and got up to go back to the Hub (the boarding house) which was in my direction, so I offered to walk there with him.
As we walked he searched himself and realized he had lost his swipe pass and room key. He became very upset and we went back to the bench, but it was not there. We went off to the milkbar where he thought he had left it. He was worried someone would use it to steal his stuff and perhaps that was why the other 3 guys had left earlier? As we were walking to the milkbar he said to cross our fingers that the key was there. I said no, let's pray to Jesus to help us find it. He agreed and we stopped and said a prayer. We walked on and he said he hoped Jese would help in this situation. I was thinking 'Right Jesus, my first little mission out here, I really, REALLY need you to come through on this one, please!' We got to the milk bar, but the lady said it was not there. We then went to the Drug Rehabilitation Center where he had been earlier on in the day. We walked in and he introduced me as his friend, and the staff all had a look but it was not there, so we went back to the Hub. When we got there he was so worried he was sweating. We talked to the manager, Kate, and she gave him a spare key, but said he would need to pay $35 replacement for the pass, out of his next welfare check. He was really upset as he could not afford it, another prayer to Jesus, and we went up to his room. He opened the door and we went inside. The whole room was no bigger than about 30cm wider than the single bed. He sat down and I saw the pass and key on the bedside table. He was ecstatic! He went into full Joy mode, praising Jesus. He kept saying, "thank you, Jesus," over and over! We went down to reception and returned the spare key to Kate and he told her how good Jesus was and how Jesus and his friend John had helped find the key. She smiled and also said, "Isn't Jesus good." Outside we shook hands and I said goodbye, then walked down the road, praising God.
I only got 10 meters when I saw a woman sitting on the ground in a phone box, crying and yelling, "I'm insane! I need to be locked up!" I stood nearby and started praying for her. She glanced up and saw me and then went back to the call. She just kept saying she needed to be locked up. Shortly, she looked at me again and said, "What do you want?" I just said I wanted to make sure she was alright. Again back to the call, more tears, and then she screamed and threw the phone at the wall, and just sat there sobbing. I sat down in the gutter beside her, and she started to tell me she thinks people are drugging her, that she can't live in the world, and she was too scared to come out of the phone box; she felt safer in the box as it was like a cage. I listened and asked some gentle questions, like, "Do you live nearby? Is there someone who cares for you?" etc... She said she didn't feel safe at home and no-one cared. I told her God cares about her. She said she believes in God and that he cares about her, but no-one else does. Then she started crying again, "I'm scared, I'm scared." I asked her what her name was? Sofie. I asked if I could pray for her and she said ok. I prayed for God to help her and to take away the fear. Afterwards she said thanks and we continued to sit and talk for the next hour. I told her it was good she had a room to go to, as I was homeless and didn't have one. She said she was going to be homeless and I could have her room, but I said no. We talked more about how God cares for her, which she believed, and then decided God wanted her to go to him right now, and that she needed to kill herself, to escape this world and go to him! I said he wouldn't want that, but she was intent on suicide. We talked for another hour as she was debating whether to run in front of a truck or not, and then she got the idea to overdose on pills which she had at home. She got up out of the booth and headed for home (which was good) to get the pills (which was bad). I followed along behind her, through some back alleys and into a boarding house, up the stairs, through the hallway and she went into her room. I stood outside in the hallway. I didn't think it was appropriate to go inside or try and stop her, but I wanted to be close. If she did try to harm herself then I could go and get some help and an ambulance. She fumbled around, but couldn't find any pills, and came out into the hallway and sat down crying. Then she decided to cut herself with a knife, debating that she needed to die, but didn't like cutting. She went back in and started rummaging about. Due to the commotion a man and another woman came out of their rooms and I talked to them about what was happening. The woman went into Sofie's room and talked to her (quite sternly by the sound of it) and the other man told me she had been going downhill the last couple of months, but not as bad as this. The lady came out and thanked me for helping and said Sofie would be alright and she would look after her now. I said goodbye, and continued on my way down the street. I felt it was positive that she was out of the box and back in her room being cared for. I thanked God and journeyed on, for the first time feeling proud to be wearing the white cross on my top.