Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The Friday and Saturday night ‘steps’ outreach I have been involved in has been going great this year. We talk to a lot of people about God and have someone commit their life every few weeks. Recently there has been another person on the scene that came up to me to talk about the importance having a Bible with the name ‘Jehovah’ in it, rather than the standard modern translation of ‘Lord’. Yep, he was a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ (JHW).
I had never chatted with a JHW before, except once (years ago) when some came to my door and I asked them what the difference was between what they believed and regular Christianity, and they didn’t know. They said they would ask their pastor and come back and tell me.. but they never returned and I never thought about it any further. So when this guy came up to talk to me I was curious to understand more about who they were.
He said he was just interested in open discussions of the scriptures but as we talked it seemed more instructional than discussional, and it chewed up a lot of time. I did some research and discovered JHW’s don’t consider Jesus part of the trinity of God, Hell not to exist and the Gifts of the Spirit to be dead and finished.. among many other very worrying doctrines. I tried to discuss it with him but he kept referring back to key verses that he said you had to know the original Greek to understand. For every point I made he had a counter point ready. I felt like he was using a telesales call centre phone script which pre plan conversational flow charts for every variant and response to keep the customer on track for the sale. In fact he had just that.. a guide book to argue JHW theology, which he later showed me.
While I like to discuss God with anyone, the amount of time (hours each week) he was taking up was becoming a problem because it was drawing me, and others, away from the ministry outreach we were there for. But he kept interrupting us despite our requests to be left alone during our outreach. And so he changed from ‘Pharisee’ (someone more interested in arguing theology than acting it out) to a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ (someone appearing Godly and Christian motivated but actively/deliberately having a negative effect on the outreach gospel message work).
At first when the pastor I was outreaching with asked me not to spend time with him, I wasn’t convinced it was the right response. But it took time for the JHW’s true nature to come out (Deception, Distraction and a Devaluation of the God I believe in). I told him I didn’t mind him being there but I asked him not to interrupt me during my outreach as it was no longer an appropriate time or place to talk to him. Then I took it to God in prayer about how to handle the situation.
Surprisingly I got a very clear response back from God that I was ‘not to engage him’. Despite my previous feelings on shunning (and I think there are many problems of interpretation and application in reference to the ‘Expel the immoral brother’ Biblical passage..) I have a much stronger position.. and that is to follow God’s instructions when they are clearly given. I viewed myself as a warrior on a battlefield, and although I felt strong enough to handle the enemy I was facing, I needed to submit to the general’s command of when to advance and, when to retreat. So the next week when JHW came up to talk to me I said “God has told me not to engage you” and he replied “How could he do that? God doesn’t interact with humans..” I almost chocked. The whole Bible is God interacting with Humans! I responded “That’s your view, not mine” and walked away.
The following week I had a dream. The JHW got into an argument with a steps pastor and it became a physical fight. Then I went and talked to the JHW church and explained that Jehovah is also know as Father and a father interacts with his children. Jesus is known as Friend and friends communicate with each other. And the Holy Spirit is know as Councillor and councillors talk to their clients. So by their very names the God Trinity is defined as a God of interaction. In the dream the JHW Church listened and agreed there was no argument against that line of reasoning, but nor were they interested in changing.
So last weekend we were out on the steps again, and even as people stopped to listen to our testimonies the JHW guy would come up to them and draw them away from listening to us. And when we would be talking directly to people he would step in and question what we were saying. At one point the JHW guy had bumped into the Pastor as he pushed his way into the Pastors conversation with someone, and so the Pastor gave the JHW a paper print out listing the verses that refer to the Trinity and Hell, to which the JHW guy responded that he was going to sue him..
So I am beginning to see the wisdom in God’s instruction in this case. I see the possibility that shunning may have a role, but only after very careful prayer and consideration. It is a very dangerous and destructive tool when inappropriately applied (I did give the curtesy of explaining ‘why’ to the person I applied it to). Now I have to have Faith that the matter is in God’s hands to deal with, and focus on those who’s hearts God has prepared: to sow the good seed.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Love on the Streets:
When I started my Faith Walk I never had any intention of getting involved in a relationship. In fact I had never even been in a relationship (except with God). Sure I grew up interested in girls, it's just I never went 'looking' for a relationship. I was always focused on exploring my spirituality and the few times when I did express my interest in someone, it was never returned. Making the decision to leave my career and sell all I had also included an acceptance within my self that I may never experience that side of life, as I wouldn't consider myself of interest to any girl (based on today's materialism and financial security priorities, let alone the psychological and spiritual complexities added into my life's journey this year).
When I started attending a Church comprising of homeless and street people (Church of Hope) I was happy to discover the girl I had seen a couple of moths earlier was helping out with the singing and worship music during the services. And when I joined the Flinder's St Steps outreach choir, late Saturday nights, she was there too. I stood next to her when we sang, but never made any attempt to communicate with her, as I was fully loaded with dealing with being newly homeless at the time.
I was immersed in the street world, living and sleeping rough, with guys like Warren (wrapped in cardboard down alleyways) and it took all my attention and focus on God just to survive. Actually, I had once mentioned to a friend that my biggest enemies to watch out for would be 'the distraction of girls' and 'pride'. One person from America emailed me some questions about the issue of female relationships in my situation, and I pretty much rebuffed the suggestion of any possibilities. Not that their aren't any relationships on the streets; their are lots, albeit they tend not to be very healthy ones. I remember one girl was walking along with mention "I've lost my boyfriend, I can't find him.." "What's his name?" I asked. "I'm not sure" she said. "How long have you been going out?" I asked. "He's my third boyfriend today.." she replied!
After a few months I started helping out at the Church, which later grew into a leadership role. I discovered the girl's name was Nella and we became friendly, chatting and helping each other with tasks and supporting each other on the streets. She had come to Church of Hope a few years ago as she felt God asking her to change from hating drug dealers and addicts (that influenced one of her friends) to loving them [Love your enemies]. This is her testimony that gives on the Sat night 'Steps' microphone every few weeks (last week she gave her testimony and someone listening decided to give their heart to the Lord!) So we started singing duets together at Church, chatted as a team at the food vans and visited people in hospitals together.
As Winter approached I was quite interested in Nella but the implications of making a step in that direction seriously concerned me.. could be a gift? could be a distraction? I had to weigh up and think about all the implications and what God would want, before I even gave a hint of interest. I thought talked to a few few people about the theology of singleness Vs partnership, and an Orthodox priest said something good about 'walking hand in hand together towards God'.
I worked on the friendship a bit more: the first time I called her from a pay phone I hoped the conversation might go for at least five minutes.. it went on for three hours! (well I just listened mostly) At one point I was tired from standing so I reached around the side of the booth and grabbed some milk crates to sit on. And then one night we were at the Steps and she was nearby with a friend talking to a girl (stranger) about the grief and difficulties of the recent death of that girl's mother. She was standing quietly in the dim light, with a hood up (almost biblical) and she was full of compassion. I said in my mind (and I guess my heart) 'ok God, I choose her', which surprised me, as I have never really asked god for any thing before.
I am always very strict on myself for saying 'what you will Lord', and this was the first time I actually bypassed that. Well I said nothing and it started to rain, so we all went our separate ways. After Nella went to drive home I went back into the city (about 12:30am) and sat and thought about things more. About half and hour later Nella called me on my mobile and asked me (as it was raining) if I wanted a lift back to the Shed. I was surprised and thought 'she must be half way home by now' but said 'sure!' right away. [She later told me that despite the fact she had left the city she felt prompted by the spirit to call me and come back to offer the lift.] So we drove back to the shed and as we neared I was trying to work up the courage to ask her out, but my adrenaline was pumping too fast and I chickened out, and she went home.
The following week she dropped me home again and gave me a shiny new blanket to help keep me warm in the night. I thought I would try a little tester and so asked her if she was curious would she like to come back and see the shed? She said yes and we walked round the back of the house for a look. After she was happy it was solid and fairly weatherproof we walked back to the car. As she said goodbye I asked her out. She was fairly shocked, thinking I was like a monk and not interested in that sort of thing, and I explained that I was but being independent gives you leeway to make your own rules :) She said she was concerned that she wouldn't want to be a 'distraction to the mission' and despite my assurance that she was a valued support, not a hindrance, she left to drive home, leaving me standing there thinking 'right, time to move on.'
Two days later I was at a friends house when she called me up. She wanted to explain further that she was interested but very concerned about a relationship impacting my work. I too was similarly concerned but I had the benefit of chewing it over for a couple of months first while she only had a couple of days. We discussed it for a few hours and by the end we agreed to give it a go! Woo Hoo. The next night she called me back and grilled me for another three hours about my history and intentions. She didn't want her time wasted and we agreed we were both only interested in the relationship as long as we were looking for a marriage partner and that God would be first in all things. That night I got out the blanket she had bought me and slept in it, even though it was a bit cold (without the sleeping bag), as a metaphor that I would commit to the relationship even if it wasn't always providing me quite enough warmth. I got through the night and a few days later we went on our first date.
We got on better than we expected and were constantly surprised about how much we had in common. We worked on keeping a high commitment to street mission as well as alone time, and I kept a sharp eye out for any signs from God as to approval or disapproval. In fact the street work went even better and we felt good about being a good example of a proper Christian relationship to our street community. A few times she had strong headaches and I prayed for healing and they instantly disappeared (once stopping in the middle of Flinders St to pray, while crossing the road, with cars streaming by each way, because it felt good to have a partner you could pray with instantly whenever the need arose, wherever you were!). Early on I gave her my only valuable possession: my 'FAITH' stone that I had carried around in my pocket from the start of the walk. I told her we were now growing in faith together, and she has carried it everywhere since.
Were there any negatives? Not really. We acted as a team, organising Church of Hope, out on the streets when she was available (she works full time as a civil engineer during the week), and talked to people together about God, and she was with me every step of the way as I worked to get Warren into De Paul House Detox unit, where I visited him every day. When he walked out after four days she supported me in my stress and struggle to cope with loving him further as he went back to the drugs and alcohol and sleeping rough on the street. She also had some spiritual gifts that blossomed together, that gave us confidence in our partnered relationship with God, except.
Except there was one time when she had a dream about finding a stick, with the star of David carved on it, in a park. She had to return the staff to a synagogue which she was very reluctant to do. She told me about the dream the next day and later we went to Church. After Church there was some games on in the hall and we decided to go for a walk together first. As we walked along we went through a park we had never been to before, and she suddenly exclaimed that this was the park from her dream the previous night, and then she got worried that the stick symbolized me, as I had slept in a few parks and had a Jewish family background. She certainly didn't want to have to give me back.. and I thought deeply about it, and we carried on, taking extra care to make sure 'Jesus was at the steering wheel, not us.'
Well after four great months of dating I was thinking asking her to marry me. There was no real need to make an actual decision. In my mind the decision was made back on the Steps, just before I asked her out, when I said to God 'I choose her' and everything that followed was just enjoying seeing how God planned for things to unfold. I was pretty laid back and happy about the relationship. She would often ask me 'Do you have any specific questions, anything you need to know?' and I would say 'not really'. I was just happy to trust in the Lord to see what happened. Trusting him that my decision was his decision, planned from when he knew me, before I was born.
So Monday last week I wasn't planning anything to happen exactly at that time, but when I asked her where she wanted to go for a walk, she decided the State Rose Garden, down at Werribee. We drove there late afternoon and walked around. Tens of thousands of beautiful colored roses all in full bloom, and no one around. Down the back was a little wooden gazebo and we sat down together and I knew it was the right moment. I talked of what she meant to me, got down on one knee and asked her to marry me... she said yes! :) We hugged, kissed and the sun shone as the tears dripped down her face, and I kissed them, those sweet salty tears.
The next couple of days were my happiest, before they then became my saddest. Wednesday, after my first day back at work at World Vision, I hit the streets only to learn Warren had died of a drug overdose. I was devastated. I had never had a friend die before. We had spent a lot of time together over the year, and while he was happy for me to pray with him a number of times for his struggles, I was never quite sure of the state of his soul, and the chance to reach out to him further, deeper, was gone. I walked around the city for an hour shaking with tears and felt like wandering aimlessly all night. But the Lord cut through my feelings to remind me I was partnered now, and so I called Nella and she drove out and picked me up, and comforted me that night as the grief and shock set in.
The saddest and happiest week of my life. A few guys on the street who were his friend turned deeper to their wine. I am trying to turn deeper to my God, my Father, thinking about how Warren like to be a father figure to the kids on the street. And what of the timing? I later found out he died on the Monday afternoon, the very same moment in time I was out of the city proposing to my girlfriend.. Not that I think my location would have made any difference, as he never took the drugs in my presence. I can take some comfort that that he often said to me "Go spend time with your girlfriend, you deserve it".
So I was the rich man that went out to meet Lazarus. Amazed at my transformation to the point where I am grieving for one of Melbourne's homeless drug addicts. Hoping he is now resting peacefully in the arms of Abraham. Now a homeless beggar myself, engaged to a Godly woman, making herself beautiful in the ways of old. Seeking to walk together, hand in hand, towards God, Heaven, and the friends we shall meet there within.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Plan to the 10th December 2008 (1 year):
Last week I saw a job advertised that involved working with street and homeless people, and I applied for it.
Now I haven't been looking for a job as being a single person, with little or no running expenses, I could carry on operating the way I have this year indefinitely. But with a relationship I need to consider the future implications, and that means some level of financial income.
There were a number of options that came to mind. 1/ I could try and raise financial support from people and organizations interested in my street ministry. 2/ I could get a part time or full time job doing anything and fit in my street work around that or 3/ I could get a job with an organization dealing with the poverty and homelessness around Melbourne that I am involved with.
Of course Jackie Pullenger says not to worry about seeking funds. If God wants you there he will find people to invest in your ministry, regardless of what your 'results' are.. and that if God can look after the thousands of Israelites in the Desert for 40 years.. then he can easily look after you, your family and others, so long as you have faith and keep focused on his work.
While I was thinking about these things it was a job in my field of involvement that I noticed, but I was not sure if I was ready to go back to work yet. I kind of feel that it would be good to be on the streets full time this summer, to capitalise on all I have learned this year. So I put an application in, just to keep the door open while I thought and prayed about it some more.
My application required a reference from my previous employer, so I rang my old World Vision Boss and confirmed she was happy to be a referee. She was happy about it but also let me know they were short staffed for the next month and I was welcome to come back and help them out for a bit, on a casual basis. I thought about it overnight and the next day agreed to help out for November. I start tomorrow.
I'll use the trial work period to assess how it affects my street work. Can I find a balance?
In fact, I have now booked a flight to Alice Springs to return to where I started almost one year ago, at Campfire In The Heart (a wonderful christian spiritual retreat center). I will rest there for the first week of December and reflect on an amazing year and the future ahead..
Friday, October 19, 2007
A new Grace:
Early on in the year I found my motivation to keep being 'full on' for God waning. After three months of concentration and dedication some of my old habits started to inch their way back into my lifestyle. I started cruising the Internet for fun, ate some junk food, miss spent some money and was 'sleeping in' too long in the mornings. Oh yeah, and I discovered Sudoku. These were not necessarily sinful things, but they were distractions from the mission and I got depressed about it. Change needs to come from within and while you can strip away the negative/distracting things from around you (eg. since being on the streets I hadn't spent any time playing computer games) this only helps so much. The Bible says 'if your eye causes you to sin then pluck it out..' Well you could pluck out your eye but when you hear a friendly female voice you might start imagining what sort of body would go with it..
Stripping away the the things that detract from your relationship with God does help, to a point, but not completely. So after a few weeks of feeling down about myself I prayed to God about it. I asked him that whenever I was weak in my resolve that he would use my weakness for his glory, that he would display his strength when I couldn't..
Well it was like I found a secret door, or something, and as soon as I prayed (walked through it) everything changed immediately! Every time I was weak or heading in a weak direction I had a great positive outcome for God! One Sunday night I stayed over at a friends house, and instead of getting up and heading into the city with him, around 8am the next morning, I slept in until 11am. I got up and went to the station, feeling bad about sleeping in, and there on the platform was Ethan, the gang leader who cleaned St.Paul's steps with me but then disappeared until now (a couple of months later). When I got bored and went to the Internet, I never got there as I would bump into people on the way. When I was hungry and went to buy junk food I would bump into someone else hungry and end up buying the food for them.
One night I was sitting in the Alfred Hospital Emergency Department with someone, after riding there in the ambulance with them, and didn't leave until 1:30am. By that time all the public transport had finished and so I determined to walk back to the shed, about 2hrs away. On My way back through the city I bumped into a couple of guys and, after saying hello, I discussed God with them for and over an hour. They were still chatty by then but I had been up for two days straight, and was really tired, so I excused myself and walked on. Only one block later I bumped into a homeless guy I had just started making friends with and he also wanted to talk about God. So we chatted for half an hour, long enough to be friendly and not rude, before I made an excuse to keep going, as I was feeling exhausted by this time. In fact I didn't want to bump into anyone else and so I went up an alley to the city back streets to avoid anymore meetings. Of course in the next back street was another street guy in a wheelchair that wanted to talk and pray about the death of his father. I gave him a Bible and we read some passages together (there is really not much comfort or hope you can give someone for the death of a non Christian family member..). When we later went our separate ways it was 4am and I really was to tired to keep walking home for another hour (with the chance God was going to lead me to someone else..) so I decided to use most of my remaining funds and I hailed a taxi, slumping into the back seat, eyes wafting across the buildings as they sped by, on my exit out.
I have since had many many situations where God steps in to use my weakness for his glory. And yes I am careful not to be slack as a policy. I still always trying to do my best, it's just when I fall short God steps in and does good things. So when I am weak, he is strong, and I have learnt to trust further in him as a friend.
I used to think that Grace was about Jesus being a safety net. That once you were a Christian, it didn't matter if you muck up from time to time, as Jesus takes the penalty for you. But now I see Grace as an active relationship with God where he works with you for good outcomes. He not just carrys you across the sand, when you are too tired to walk, but he actively builds beautiful sandcastles along the way, as well.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
As I stood there I wondered if there was more significant meaning to Jesus's resisting the desert temptation of the devil to turn the stones into bread? In the Garden of Eden, Eve and Adam were tempted by food (from the tree of Knowledge), man fell, and the garden was closed.. Now Jesus in the desert resisted the temptation of food, man was restored and paradise was opened to all those that believe.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This morning I stopped by De Paul House (a detox center) where I am checking the waiting list daily, for a friend who wants to get off alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately these centers have waiting lists of a couple of weeks, which is frustrating when you meet a homeless addict crying in the street because he wants help 'right now'. I am hoping he hasn't changed his mind by the time a bed becomes available.. and once he is out, what then?
Then I thought about what God wanted me to do next? I walked down the street to the Brotherhood of St Laurence and and got out my mp3 player and start to sing along with some worship songs. There has been a lot of pain and brokenness coming out of their Coolibah Center (an aged drop in center) due to Christianity no longer being a part of the way things are managed and operated there. So I thought I'd bring a bit of Godly love back, by some Christian singing, outside.
After an hour a thin smelly addict came by (from the Fitzroy Health Center just a bit further down) and she sat down near me. Then she started crying, whining and banging herself against the footpath, in some sort of semi fit. I went over and asked if she was ok, but she hardly gave a response. So I sat down next to her and kept on singing. She settled down and continued to sit and listen for the next half hour, before she got up and walked away. I was reminded a bit of the story of David singing to King Saul to sooth him in his time of trouble.
I stood up and went back to my spot, continuing to sing, and a delivery driver walked by and encouraged me to keep going, he liked it. Later another man stopped by and asked me what I was doing (generally). When I mentioned helping a guy get into detox he smiled and said he was an ex-addict that had gone through detox and then a Christian rehabilitation program out in Albury called Granya House. It runs a six to twelve month program and he was now an advocate for it. He lifted up his top and pulled some brochures out from where he kept them tucked up in the front of his pants and handed me a few. We exchanged numbers, shook hands, and went back to business :)
All up I sung along with 52 worship songs over a 4 hour period, and then headed back into the city. I had pressures to be elsewhere this morning but I am learning the benefits of taking some time to sit still and listen to God, and then perhaps step out of my routine, and try something new.
Update: Just wanted to add Ephesians 6:19 "Speak to one another with psalm, hymns and spiritual songs."
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
As I go in and out of the State Library every few days, I have gotten to know one of the security guards here. Today we traded stories. He (knowing what I do) asked me for my testimony of what led me to this journey.. and in return he told me about the homeless people around the Library. (One man used to sleep in front of the Library doors every night, but was bashed there a month ago. The guard came across the beaten man and called the police and ambulance. The bashers were caught but the homeless man hasn't been seen since. I guess he doesn't feel safe there anymore.)
I went to court in the morning to support Dougy, but his cases were adjourned for a month. Then I played table tennis with a homeless man who just wanted a quick hit, as he hadn't played for 20 years. He really enjoyed it and we ended up playing for a couple of hours and he began screaming and swearing with excitement, before the center closed for the day. Then I took another street guy ten pin bowling, which was fun. Afterwards I came across Dougy in a back street where he was shouting at anyone in his range. He shook my hand and I asked him what was wrong? He said he was upset as he had just blown $170 at the TAB and then he headed off to State Trustees to try and get some more money..
The day before Yesterday:
I took a street guy in a wheel chair to Credos for dinner. While there I got a call on my mobile phone from my girlfriend, who was in Darwin doing some mission work with the Bagot Community Indigenous Church. One of her friends had contacted her about a man that had a heart attack and was now in Box Hill Hospital. The man was unwell and urgently wanted someone Christian to talk with. I immediately drove out to the hospital and met him. I called my girlfriend and put him on speakerphone as she got the Bagot pastor and church to pray for him live, during the service. Afterwards the man told me he was born in Tanzania (to missionary parents) and I told him about the faith walk I did there ten years ago. I mentioned the missionary vet lady I had stayed with in Dodoma, at the time, and was surprised to find out he knew her as she was currently his neighbour, out in Blackburn North! We both felt it was God's plan that we meet. It's what we call a 'Divine Appointment'.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
First: it was getting cooler, and while it is easy to maintain a '24hr party' with hot days and warm nights, when it gets cold consistently, people start looking for warmth and shelter. Warren was the master of sleeping rough and not being bothered by the cold, he seemed totally immune to it. He was one of those gone when I returned from my week away sick. I always wondered where he had gone for the last six months. I had a phone number for his mum at her home in the country, he had trusted me with, but I was pretty sure he would not have returned there, and I didn't feel I could call her up without his permission, as there were probably issues there. Then just a few weeks ago, I found him on the street again. He was excited to see me and told my he had got himself a place to rent further up north, and was doing much better. He wants me to come up and visit him there as soon as possible. After a while we sat down on the sidewalk and he was shivering from the cold. I had almost forgotten about it with my thermals. I offered him one of my tops or a blanket, but he refused (out of pride) and just sat there for the next hour shaking. I said to him "the cold never even bothered you before?" and he replied that even for him "once you have had it good living in a heated flat, it's impossible to go back" (to not being bothered by the cold). Infact a lot of people are like Warren in such that they come in to the city over Summer, party all night and day, and then head back out to the country over the Winter. It's also as good as a holiday to have a mental break by leaving the city for a few months and just getting away while it's cold. This particularly applies to the indigenous community.
Another reason why people disappeared was that they went back to jail. BJ soon disappeared after he told me he was due back in court for assault. When I first met him on the street he told me about how hard life was to cope with (personal drive and responsibility) and he expected to have fun for a while, then 'muck up' and return to the safe routine jail. His own words becoming a self fulfilled prophecy.
Also, late March, I was told (from a reliable source) of an official Police crackdown in the area. In other suburbs you are allowed to drink publicly (such as Smith St Collingwood) but where it was banned around Swanston St in the city the police response changed from checking up on things every few hours, to an immediate response the moment someone sat down with a drink. Once I was sitting down at the meeting place and along came Robbie and he opened up a can of VB and along came the cops within 5 minutes. They told him 'there's a new boss, and we have to enforce the rules now..' I chuckled, as it implied they didn't enforce the rules in the past, which they certainly did. Which is totally fine in my eyes. They are there to protect the community and enforce the law, and it's probably in the community's best interests not to have excessive drinking and drunkenness around such an open public area of the city. Even Dougy was told he would be left alone as long as he didn't come up to the top end of town, and stayed away for months.
So people I had started building relationships moved on, and that was ok (I have caught up with most of them again at different points over the Winter), but it made it a lot harder for me to find people to sit and talk with. I felt the wind had gone a bit out of my sails, but it worked out well as my eyes were opened to another social group. Those street people that were no threat, not into any crime, but were hanging around all day and night, just chatting to each other. They were the Disability Pension group, and I started to get to know them.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I've just come back from the local shops in Balwyn (where I have been house sitting my parents place while they are away). When I sat down at a cafe for a drink, a guy next to me asked what my top(Cross on front / 24hr Church on back) was about? I explained that after an experience of going to Heaven and meeting God, a couple of years ago, the story of 'the rich man and Lazarus' [Luke 16:19-31] spoke strongly to me, and after 30 years of being a Christian and not taking any notice of beggars and street people, I decided to do something about it by direct experi-action.. and I lived on the city streets over summer and in a garden shed, through winter, to get to know and understand the community..
He replied "Don't punish yourself to hard, it's not your fault." and he then got up and walked away. I called out "It's something that I wanted to do.."
Punish? I thought as I continued to sit there.. This is not punishment, it is freedom. This Journey has been the most interesting, challenging and rewarding experience of my life! What was not my fault? Certainly that I had never taken an interest in the 'Lazarus people' was my fault, but was it my fault that they were there? Perhaps as a cooperate Christian, yes I did have some responsibility. (I am beginning to think that street people are there; not due to a lack of material support, but rather a lack of spiritual support..)
Time for some updates to let people know what's been going on..
Friday, June 29, 2007
Winter, my one biggest fear when I started out in the summer, and now it is here. To me it is 'the eye of the needle', expectantly the most difficult part of the year to get through on the street, and yet I am... ok! How have I coped?
First a few months ago my mum gave me a woolen beanie, on her birthday. That night I was talking to Goaty and he suddenly said "I like that beanie, I'll swap you for my cap" and reached out his hand. I straight away traded our hats and noticed how dirty, and slightly bloodied, his cap was and lightly put it on my head (but didn't pull it down tight because it was so yucky). Later that night I felt bad that mum had given me a special gift and only hours later I had given it away, but also conflicted as I felt giving a homeless person something I had to help them keep warm was also the right thing to do.. I went back to Goaty and explained to him the beanie had been a gift from my mum and could I have it back? He was very good and said he understood how special it was and thanked me for letting him wear it for the last couple of hours. Over the course of the next two weeks the issue played on my mind and in the end I went back to Goaty and explained again how special the beanie was and gave it to him as a gift. He said he appreciated it, although I doubted it as he has short term memory problems and often completely changes his clothes from week to week. In the meantime a friend gave me a different beanie which I have been using and I explained to mum what happened and she was understanding about it. A few weeks ago I had a hair cut (No.3 all over) and boy did I notice the cold then! but with the beanie on and hood up it has kept my head warmth trapped. Also a friend said the beanie and hoodie combo was true streetie fashion! Last week I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Goaty in different clothes but still with my mums beanie on :)
The thermal underwear I got at the start of march worked well over Autumn but failed when the real cold hit and the wind was cutting through. Thankfully I was given another tshirt, woolen vest, a second set of thermal underwear and a new pair of pants. The old pair wore out and tore open all around my thighs and bum area but I was so busy it took two weeks before I found the time to go to the shops and buy a new pair with a generous financial donation from a friend. For a wile I wanted to get another pair of brown pants, to keep my appearance consistent, but unable to find any I went and got some cargo pants, which I thought looked brown in the shop but turned out to be green when I was outside. But I have been really happy with them as the extra pockets around the knees have been really helpful, especially now that I carry a notebook, pen and was given a small complete Bible, which keeping in my pocket as I walk acts as my Christian tefillin (the Jewish act of keeping your scriptural beliefs strapped to your body).
So I am wearing 6 tops and 3 pants! The cold has been blocked out. I wanted to be hard core authentic and keep wearing the sandals, and for a while my feet seemed to cope. But when the temp started dropping below 10 degrees I added socks and finally I caved and switched to an old pair of brown runners, which have been a wonderful treat, and at first I felt a bit guilty about not being challenged enough by the cold, but after one night where I lost all feeling in my hands from numbness, I bought some fingerless gloves ($2) for the day, and was donated some full gloves for the night. Winter gear complete, I can now walk around the city without being bothered by the cold anymore. While other street people have also geared up for Winter I am surprised by the number of people who stand around in light open clothing and tell me that the cold just doesn't bother them.
What about sleeping?? Well the shed is just as cold inside as it is outside. I don't do any sitting around when I get there but go straight to sleep. So I quickly get into the sleeping bag with my thermals on and it is good enough to keep me warm all night.
There was a period of adjustment over the first few weeks of July where I was really struggling with the cold, and I also wanted to take some time out from my normal routine to do some Bible study and meditation. I thought of staying at the Mother Theresa's men's refuge for a couple of weeks but they have a night curfew that conflicted with some commitments that I still wanted to be available for. I prayed hard about it and God answered by providing me with a Hotel room for two weeks! A street friend who lives with his dad has a gambling addiction which he spends all his disability pension on. For extra money he begs in the street with a sleeping bag by his side (as a prop). One night someone came by and offered to put him up in a hotel room for two weeks. My friend took up the offer but when he saw it was just a simple budget room he preferred his own bedroom. He tried to refund the booking to get the money to use for his gambling habit, but there were no refunds allowed. So he was about to tear up the voucher and throw away the room key when I sat down and he offered it to me. It was a real blessing, being in the CBD being able to rest and come and go as easily as I pleased. It was also funny as people were asking me how I was coping in the cold and I would say 'Oh, I'm in a hotel..' Actually the best thing about the room was not the warmth.. it was the light. Being able to lie there at night and read my Bible for hours before going to sleep was fantastic. I worked through Romans and both Corinthians books, and even had some good talks in the TV room with a girl who was into Scientology (you know.. the Tom Cruise Religion).
Funnily enough when I got back to using the shed this week I found it very homely and restful. I have located a candle, I got from a friends wedding a month ago, and was able to start reading Galatians ch2, in which Paul meets most of the Apostles for the first time in 14 years. The only advice they gave him in his ministry was: to remember the poor, the very thing he was eager to do.
Monday, June 04, 2007
First, I felt God saying to me in Mid February that the daily diary nature of the blog should not continue past the first three months. the blog started out as a personal record of what would happen if you did the 'Rich man' challenge and do a Faith Walk, trusting in God's providence for everything materially and spiritually. It was also a communication tool to keep my family and close friends advised as to where I was and what I was doing. As I went along people found the blog interesting enough that they passed it on to others, and soon the readership grew beyond what I expected and felt comfortable with. I was uncomfortable that I might be discussing peoples personal stories in too public a forum (despite using pseudonyms) and it might cause people on the street concern if they found out. Perhaps it could even cause a backlash that would not make it possible to continue. A number of people who work in the 'streets' area told me they had read this blog, and so the chance of this happening was quite real. From a positive angle, I was also pleased to discover there were cultural connections with those I thought had no interest and relationship with the homeless. After praying about how to handle the situation I felt God saying to limit the daily story to the first 3 months but I intend to continue on beyond that with personal reflection and general updates.
The second thing that happened was that my routine changed and God kept me so busy that I didn''t even have the time to finish the last entry of the first three months (until yesterday), and while yes I was that busy, and yes I could have sacrificed some sleep to do an update if I really wanted to, I had a negative gut reaction to it until now.
So I am happy to let you know I am still going strong, happy and learning as much as ever; still out here and I will have an update as to what I did over Autumn very soon.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
I slept most of Thursday. When I got up I went and sat on the couch, in the back yard, and thought about the frustration of reaching out to all those guys about Alpha, and none of them turning up. When my mate came by I asked him his opinion about the different types of thermal underwear and to my surprise he said he had an extra set he didn't really need, and went and got them for me! Well my wondering about whether synthetic or wool was best was resolved, he had one of each. Some blue synthetic pants and a brown wool top. That night I headed out to hear a friend's band play at a pub, and so I put the thermals on to test them out. They worked well except the woolen top was prickly against my skin, and so I did a little switcheroo and put my t-shirt on under the woolen top, and it was fine after that. Walking back to the shed that night I found the thermals were very effective in keeping me warmer, although it wasn't winter yet..
A funny thing happened. In the morning, before I headed off into the city, each of the house mates stopped by for a chat at different times, and each one told me that I was welcome to use the shed whenever I wanted, for as long as they were there.. wow (I later checked with my mate and he confirmed they had not discussed it with each other). So I now had the warmer clothing and shelter if I needed it. I really felt God was speaking to me through this that provision had been made for me to continue on with my journey through the Winter.
Later I was back at HJs and the manager noticed me at near the counter and said "weren't you the guy I wouldn't give the water to? I have since thought about it and decided you were right, I should have given you the drink." I thanked him and said not to worry about it.
In the evening I went to my friends place for our Friday night tv catchup. He asked me if I was going to have a shower and I explained I was still on my food/washing fast until the ten days was up (tomorrow). He offered to wash my feet for me (on account they were a bit smelly) but I said that would still be breaking the rules of the fast I had set myself. Over the next couple of minutes I thought about it some more and decided that the purpose of the fast had been to receive guidance from God as to whether to continue the Faith walk beyond the three month period, and I felt that I had received that answer in the recent provisions. So I felt comfortable about ending it a day early and went and had a shower, followed by a hot dinner :)
I visited my family for my Dad and brothers combined birthday get together, and relaxed. I thought about what God would have in store for me as I continued on. Since the first 3 months had now come to and end, and I had decided to continue on through Winter, I thought it most likely that I wouldn't need to rethink my direction until probably December 07, a year later from when the Journey began..
Monday, April 23, 2007
Just a quick note to say I am ok and all is well.
I will force some time into this week to do some sort of catch up post! Briefly, I have been getting to know new groups, helping out others and discussing God with many people. With colder temperatures I have switched to using the Poustinia (retreat shed) as a main sleeping spot, but with so much happening I still do quite a few all nighters.
God Bless you in your lives :)
UPDATE: Monday07 May
Um.. every time I headed to the internet that week something happened and I have been full on busy walking, talking and meeting people all day, every day, since then.. but I AM free tomorrow arvo (if 'He' lets me) to do some blogging then... I hope...
UPDATE 2: 08 May
Nope.. After visiting dad in the hospital, I walked back into the city, taking a 'different' route to get to the internet but bumped into Jason and we came to the library to play a game of chess.. which is important since it's our first meeting since the police incident. (Tomorrow I plan to find a computer outside the city..)
Monday, April 09, 2007
In the morning I was sitting back at the meeting place and a couple of teenage street kids came and sat with us. As the number of adults hanging around was dropping away Warren's authority status was rising and he saw himself as becoming a little bit more of a father/authority figure to the younger kids. He told a couple of kids to go with me to the Lazarus center for a shower and change of clothes, and when we got back he ask me to escort him there also.
Later I walked down Lt Bourke St to all the camping shops to check out the thermal clothing. There seemed two types: synthetic for about $40 a garment and wool for about $80 a garment. They both give about the same warmth but the wool lasts much longer, doesn't get as smelly and wont melt onto your skin if you're caught on fire. I wondered if it was worth trying to raise the money for the more expensive wool and just how warm was it? Could I sleep rough without a sleeping bag with thermal underwear? I also was a bit concerned with the fashion as even though it was an undergarment I would still like it to be brown to fit in with my other clothing. Perhaps being on the street I shouldn't really be thinking about these things.. I should probably use the charity clothing like everyone else although I didn't want to get some jacket that would cover over the cross on my windcheater, but I could get five or six t-shirts and wear those underneath for further warmth.
At 6pm, back on the Steps, Amy came by and gave me a Bible. It was a big NIV Study Bible, to heavy and bulky to carry around the streets, but it was all she had available and so I thanked her very much and thought it would be good to keep at a location I regularly visit and use it there. Bibles can be found at some churches around town, if you needed to check one urgently. But not all churches have Bibles available, which I find perplexing. Imagine wanting to check verse or just do a bit of quiet reading and then walking into St.Francis's or St.Pauls (and others) and not being able to find one to read, even when asking a staff member for one (as one friend was disappointed to discover). God's word not available in his church.. say what?? Well I can understand not wanting to leave lots of Bibles around to be stolen (as I had just experienced) but it would be good to have at least one available on request. Perhaps it's just not a request that comes up often enough, or there might be another issue I'm not aware of.. In any case we live in a capitalist society and so you can always head to a bookshop and buy one, or (as in my case) pick one up from the Hard Rubbish around the suburbs. I found a small green Gideon's New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs that fits nicely into my pocket. Although it is really only half a Bible it suits me for the moment as I am reading through Acts.
After Amy left I sat and waited for the guys I had invited to Alpha to rock up at 6:30pm. I had invited about six guys but would be happy if just one came along, and I hadn't done the course myself so I was interested to see what it was like. Well 6:50 passed and no one had arrived and I started feeling disappointed. Just then BJ walked by. He was with another guy who walked into the station. Excitedly I asked him if he was coming to the dinner discussion group and he said he was busy right now but he was happy to go when he got back later that night around 10pm. "But it's on right now.." my voice trailed away as he headed off into the distance. Oh well. This is a lesson I have learnt a few times since; streetys are not very good with appointments. You need to strike while the iron is hot, they are very 'now' motivated and a delay can be an opportunity for distraction and a change of focus.
I decided to head off to Alpha anyway and was glad I did. There were a few people there and we started with a dinner, which included these great big steak and potato chunky pies. I hadn't eaten for a week but had always planned to eat the dinner at the Alpha meeting as I felt it was more important to join in and share a meal with the new people gathering, so it wasn't the end of the fast but just a momentary respite. We then watched an introduction video and talked about the course outline and its scheduling. Everybody seemed happy and it seemed relaxed and accessible to anyone interested in an introduction to Christianity. At the end there was some left over food and I took two of the chunky pies back into the city with me to share with someone else.
There were not many streetys around when I got back and Wednesday is also a good night for the provision of food, and so there was no one really hungry or interested in the pies. I hung around until midnight and then I wasn't able to find anyone I knew to talk with so I decided to catch the last tram out to Clifton Hill and stay for the night in the shed there. I got on board and sat near the front, a few stops later another young guy got on and asked the tram driver if he knew of a HJs, anywhere along the route, where he could get a burger. The driver informed him there was no place open for food between the city and the of the line and the guy then came and sat on the tram steps next to my seat. I offered him one of my pies and he happily took it and started eating. He thanked me and said he hadn't eaten for a few days as he was homeless and lived in an old empty church out in the Northern suburbs. As another person walked past he said "hey this guy gave me food and he didn't even know I was homeless!" I gave him the other pie as well which he said he would have for breakfast and we talked further about homelessness and a bit about church. As I got off the tram I looked back and the homeless guy raised his arm above his head and punched his fist into the air, holding it there, as the tram pulled away into the night.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
In the morning I stopped by the Life Center and had a closer look at the Nescafe Vending Machines down the back (Coffee, tomato soup and hot Chocolate drinks). They're always very popular, too popular, which made me suspicious as I didn't think this many people had that much money to spend on hot drinks.. On closer inspection they're FREE!!! Oh.. my.. Lord.. all this time and I didn't realize..!! No wonder they're popular. I have one, Hmmm.. chocolate.. with winter coming this will be very handy, no wait. Now I feel a new battle of self regulation coming on.. Damn you temptuous Satan! Damn you to Hell! (where you belong ;)
Next I went for an interview for the TMA paper(The Melbourne Anglican). The new ArchBishop (doing a good job getting out there talking with people) had suggested to the media dept I would be 'an interesting person to talk to'. I was a bit surprised at first, I was just out happy doing my own thing and didn't think anyone in the upper Church echelons would notice or be really be interested, at least not from a positive perspective.. They probably think what's this dodgy character doing messing around in this area of theology with out a Doctorate under his belt? But no, they were very friendly and wanted to do a feel good human interest piece. So despite my general inability to articulate my ideas well verbally, the interview was good and the article came out in this months (April) edition and it covers what I'm doing very well (and nothing was taken out of context, so score one for the Christian Media!).
In the afternoon I had my bag stolen, which for me was everything I owned! (Although they left the bucket and cleaning materials) I really only blame myself. To get into the State Library you are not allowed to take in a bag. There are lockers, for a dollar a day, but with no money I needed to find a stash spot outside while I was in there. Stash spots are places you hide stuff which most homeless people have all over the city, so you don't have to carry your sleeping bag and things around all the time (which also marks you as a homeless person). One charity offers free lockers but they're too far out of town. For a couple of months I had been leaving my BROWN COLES CARRY BAG with sleeping bag and BLACK NIV BIBLE WITH WATER MARKED RED EDGED PAGES WHICH I BOUGHT IN TANZANIA TEN YEARS AGO behind the sign at the entrance of the Swanston St Cross Culture Church of Christ opposite the Library. That had been working fine as the Church had not been open during the day and there was no pedestrian activity in the area. But this week RMIT University had started using the Church hall as a lecture theatre and so now hundreds of young people walked right by that spot all day. I should have realized the change in circumstances would create a higher risk, but oh well, that's the thing we all love.. hindsight. I spent hours searching the surrounding bins in the hope whoever took it would see there was nothing of value in the bag and maybe would dump it nearby, but no luck. So as you're probably already thinking.. I hope the person who took the bag reads the Bible in it and gets something positive from it, and bless you (Jesus says to love your enemys, and that's a challenge that could take a lifetime.. so I'll start by verbalising it in my mouth and see if it connects to my heart later on..).
In the evening things were a bit better as a friend had another sleeping bag for me and the Steps Outreach girls said they would bring me in a replacement Bible the next night. Almost back to normal, thanks! After they left there were a few people sitting around and they decided to go behind St.Pauls to drink some goon and they invited me along. We sat around and started singing songs, a disaster for me as I don't know any complete songs to sing?! I know plenty of choruses but not the complete contemporary songs, except U2's Helter Skelter and a few Church songs, which they seemed happy to hear, but I'm sure they were relieved when I switched to just drumming on my bucket and using my scrubbing brush to make some whooshing noises.
Around 1am I took a break and headed back to the Library to look some more for my bag, but again no luck and I went back to the gang and found one of the guys, completely drunk, had gone to take a leek and fallen down the stairs and smashed his head open at the bottom. The guys had picked him up and carried him back up to the top and layed him down on some cardboard boxes. There was blood was running across the ground so I grabbed my sponge and ran down to McDonalds, soaked it with water and dashed back while they called an ambulance. As we cleaned his head we saw a round chunk missing from the back of his head and someone said they could see a bit of his brain. The ambos turned up and took him away and things settled down again. Warren turned the cardboard over and lay down, the card board was an invaluable insulator not to be discarded on this very cold night. The other two also lay down on some cardboard to go to sleep but I stayed awake, not willing to sleep in an area with people I didn't know but also not yet tired enough to head off. So I just sat for a while.
About 3am a gang of five teenage guys came by. They were very friendly and knew Warren and Angela, who went back to sleep after having a quick chat with them. One of the guys was Dirk, who beat up Dougy the other night, the others I didn't know. I chatted with one guy(Mick) who showed me the many scars on his arm where he cut himself when he was bored, and he also said he enjoyed it. We talked for a bit and then the guys were deciding where to go next and got into an argument. They were telling Mick to 'piss off' but he didn't want to leave and so they gave him a countdown from 10. He still didn't leave and so one of them, a hugely overweight guy, punched Mick in the face. Mick went to swing back but missed and connected with one of the other guys in the face, and suddenly it was a big brawl. There was punches and shoving among the gang from all directions. I shook Warren awake to let him know what was happening but he took one look and rolled over back to sleep. As I sat and prayed the fight moved away and down to Flinders St. Every couple of minutes they would stop and there was some shouting and then more punches were thrown again. It went on for about half an hour.
Angela got up and went down to see what was happening. After a few minutes I also went down to where the brawl was to check that Angela was ok and she came back with me and lay down to go back to sleep. As I sat down again it moved out of sight and around the corner. Then I looked up and saw the huge guy walking back alone towards me. His face was red with welts and his top was soaked in sweat. I stood up and he came over and wrapped is arms around me and started crying. He said he needed some blessing and so I prayed out loud for peace and forgiveness as he gripped my shoulders tightly. After a few minutes he let go and sat down for a moment. He was quiet and then said "I've sinned". It seemed a powerful and significant moment, then he got up and walked away. A few minutes he came back with Dirk, and Dirk came over and hugged me tightly and started crying. I hugged him back and I was a bit surprised at what was happening. Then I looked at the big guy and he circled his hand suggestively.. right, prayer! So I prayed for Dirk as well until he calmed down. Then he let go and they headed back out into the night.
I sat for another hour thinking about what had happened. I was amazed how God had put me in such a position where I could be an outreach to some guys at 4am down the back of a city alley, not something I would have considered a few years ago. Angela got up, unable to sleep anymore because of the cold breeze. She asked me to walk down to the station with her and as we walked she told me she was going to catch the train out to 'anywhere' for a few hours. The trains start at 5am and are warm and out of the wind, so you can sleep on the seats before the morning rush hour and get back off when it arrives back in the city. She asked if I wanted to come along but I have a general rule for myself not to leave the city as a part of my street work, so I said goodbye and headed back to the alley. Dirk was there and trying to sleep next to Warren with some cardboard sheets pulled over the top of them for further warmth. I too was freezing and got some cardboard for myself to see how effective it was. It was good for insulation from the ground but on top it had little effect and the chilled wind always found a way through the barriers I erected. I lay there for a while longer before they both got up and we headed back to Swanston St. We all stood against the pub wall and yearned the morning sunshine to warm us up, bit by bit, painfully slowly. But it was warmer, and I fell asleep.
Monday, April 02, 2007
I was sitting in the usual spot and an indigenous guy(Sam) and girl(Angela) came and sat next to me. They were well known by the others but it was the first time I had seen them. Sam had a guitar and a friendly smile, and I talked to him about the busking he did (despite one broken string). Then he started asking me about God. He told me when he was a young child he was with some foster parents that had taken him to Church and through Sunday School he had become a believer. He really loved God and wanted to know more about him, but this had been nearly impossible as through his teenage years he lived with people in a non Christian part of the indigenous community. He still tried to be Christian when he could but he also participated in the violence and crime that sourounded him and felt somewhat guilty for it. In effect he was caught between two different worlds.
I told him that's what most Christians have to deal with, struggling to live a Christian life in the midst of many different 'ways'. It was just that the contrast between his beliefs and his people's culture was probably more confronting than what many other people experience, especially as he didn't have anyone to support him and talk with (that I knew of). I told him that as he cared about his faith, tried to make a difference where he felt able and was remorseful when things went wrong, then he was a great Christian and God would love who he was. We talked for a couple more hours over a range of Christian topics and even Robbie entered the conversation when we talked about Creation. We then spent some time in prayer together, sitting there, and afterwards he sang a couple of songs he had written about God. He was actually very talented and one of the others asked him who's song it was, expecting him to mention some well known name. As he left he gave me a hug and I told him to come and chat anytime and then he went off to do some more busking. We've caught up a few more times since. He's one of those people that just makes you smile when you think about them :)
Around midday I was just taking a break, sitting quietly on the silver seats down the middle of Bourke St Mall, and thinking about the issue of continuing on into the Winter. Another young guy came and sat next to me, opened his lunchbox for a sandwich and said hello. We chatted lightly and I spied a Bible among his things. I decided not to ask him anything Christian and just enjoyed feeling free to chat about regular stuff, knowing we were both bonded by our faith but not having it dictate a need to discuss it. In this way rather than warriors meeting on the battle field discussing tactics, stories and how to conquer the land; we were just a couple of fellow citizens chatting in our world.. at some point 'your kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven...' should change to 'your kingdom is on Earth as it is in Heaven...'
He mentioned that he worked in a clothing shop nearby, and I asked him where I might go to look at some thermal underwear, as I wanted to be warmer at night as the colder winter weather was approaching. He told me there was a string of camping and outdoor clothing shops down Little Bourke St, just past Elizabeth St. I thanked him for his advice and he headed off back to work.
Late that afternoon I was back sitting on the Steps. A guy(Luke) sitting nearby said hello and started chatting. His teeth were broken and I noticed they didn't reach the top of his gums.. so they were false teeth and even they weren't in very good condition. He said he was homeless and had just arrived in Melbourne half an hour ago. He normally lived in Bendigo but since his pet dog (and only friend) had died he came down here because of his grief and desire to get away from the location of his pain. It had been a few years since he had been to Melbourne and I updated him on where the charitys and food vans could be located. We chatted for a while about his dog and he became a bit distressed that he didn't bring a photo with him to remember her by and to show people. He talked with such emotion about her that at first I thought I might have been confused and perhaps he meant a person, but no, his attachment was to his pet. I guess when you don't have any other relationship a pet can be just as important as anyone else. After a while he got up to go for a walk, he said he was ok to find somewhere to sleep for the night and thanked me for talking with him. He said he now felt a bit better about coming to Melbourne.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Sydney has services but I'm told it's a cut throat rat race where the general friendliness between the street people down here does not exist. You're on your own and the threat of trouble is much more likely.
Queensland has a police state reputation where just being homeless (and nothing further) is likely to draw their attention and ask you to leave the city. I have even heard of the police/city setting up 'no go zones' for homeless people.
Tasmania, I'm told, has almost no services at all, and so if you don't have a friend to support you then it's 'move north (to Vic) or die'. Consequently most Tassy cons come to Melbourne once they're released from prison.
Adelaide is the only other city with a reasonable reputation and so when people have had enough here, and want a change, they generally head in that direction.
IN THE MORNING I got up happy that my fast was going well (after last month's trouble) and I didn't seem too dirty or smelly yet (note: I did decide to wash my hands after going to the toilet). I walked down the street to the Steps where I was due to meet a guy and take him along to St.Martins. He didn't turn up last week and so despite his re-commitment last night I wasn't too surprised when he didn't turn up this week either. The funny thing was he said the Holy Spirit told him to go to Church with me, so the fact he didn't turn up twice leads me to question if he was hearing God at all because if you heard God clearly tell you to do something, you'd do it, right? Or perhaps God was just using him to get me to go to the Steps because..
I sat down next to Goaty and noticed he had a particularly strong sharp smell. Then he took out a Methylated Spirits bottle, poured some in with his coke and took a drink. I wondered if drinking Metho was a contributing factor to his smell? Metho drinking (and Chroming) are more frowned upon by the street community than any other form of self abuse. Goaty was thinking of going to Sydney for a while as he had recently offered Robbie some Metho and one of Robbies friends was so angry about it that he bashed Goaty and threatened to continue to do so if he didn't leave town.
While we talked another guy (I had not met before) called Colin rode up on his bicycle. He was about 35 ears old, scruffy, haggard and unshaven. He talked about how he had previously been an alcoholic and metho drinker, but now recovered. He showed me a picture from three years ago when he was happily married with three children. The photo was torn at the side (to remove the image of his wife) but the image of himself was an amazing improvement on how he looked now. Not in terms of time and aging but with the comparativeness from a clean happy neat shaven business executive to the worn out life devastated shambles of a man that stood before me now. His character marked in a way that would take a lot longer to heal than it took to be hurt. I wondered what had precipitated such a dramatic slide into the abyss?
I asked him about his bike and he told me he rode it around as he wasn't able to drive a car because he sometimes got convulsions. That sparked my interest! A month ago I had a conversation with a guy from Church, who told me he had epilepsy, about the story where Jesus had cast out the demon from the convulsing man (when the disciples had been unable to) because he said that demon was only exercisable through prayer and fasting. Was it a suggestion that epilepsy could be demoniacally related? My belief has always been that any illness could be a cause of either a demonic influence, sin or a natural disorder and thus I generally pray across all three areas when I pray for someone's healing. But I had been keen to examine the issue of epilepsy and demonic influence further, and now I was with someone that possibly had that affliction and I had also been fasting for a few days and..
As we sat and talked Colin suddenly began to convulse and I asked him if he wanted me to pray for him and he said yes. He reached out and grabbed my hand, gripping it tightly as he shook. Without any further thought or analysis I closed my eyes and prayed for him to be healed of the convulsions, praying across each three areas of causation but focusing specifically stronger against any demonic attack or influence. It wasn't a long prayer and as I finished, and opened my eyes, he as sitting there calmly and he thanked me as the convulsions had gone and he also said he 'felt different'. Great! I was a little surprised how simple it was. I just said a prayer and he was healed, and if there had been anything demonic then there was certainly no 'Hollywood reaction' to deal with. Prayer, faith, action. Cool.
We talked further and he began to go on about astrology, which seemed to be somewhat of an obsession of his. When I suggested he should tone down his interest in astrology and trust more in God for his future he got very defensive. While I thought an obsession with astrology could be a foot hold for demonic influence, I didn't mention it out loud, but it strengthened my suspicions. I was a little annoyed that after some successful healing prayer he was not willing to listen to my advice, but I was later reminded that Jesus's healings were acts independent of teachings and without conditions (other than sometimes a request for silence). Colin was happy and I was happy that God had worked through the experience, so I felt pretty positive about it. I talked about God a bit further and then headed off to St.Judes for morning Church.
IN THE AFTERNOON I came out of the State Library and saw a small crowd gathered around a speaker. It was the speaker's corner where anyone can get up and talk about whatever topic was on their mind. One Jamaican looking guy started talking about Christianity and the threat of sin and Hell. I recognized him as Samuel from the 'Way Of The Master' course I had done last year. It's an evangelism course focusing on highlighting sin and the threat of Hell as a motivation to becoming Christian. Their idea is if someone only becomes a Christian for the happy positive reasons then they will fall away when the struggles and disappointments come, but if they become a Christian because of the threat of Hell then they will endure through the struggles and disappointments to avoid hell and get to Heaven. I saw the logic in it but it wasn't for me as I am shy enough, raising the issue of God to people, with out also having to come from a heavy sin/Hell approach that is likely to polarize someone straight away.
I wondered if it actually worked but after he finished talking he came over to say hello and he had another guy(Mark) with him who had just become a Christian through that method of approach. In fact I met Mark in the city again three weeks later and he showed me a pone video of him getting baptized in a lake the previous weekend. He was now out and about (on his own) looking for people he could talk to about God! So while the method was not for me, I have to be happy it works for others and it is bringing more people to God. I was reminded of St.Francis and St.Dominic. St.Francis focused more on preaching through actions and St.Dominic focused more on preaching through words. Both men lived at the same time, founded Orders and met each other a couple of times. When someone says their way is the only way, then that becomes a problem (except for Jesus, of course).
IN THE EVENING I was sitting with a group of guys and Warren gave a new guy some coins towards the cost of getting a new cask of wine (termed as a 'Charge' or just 'Goon'). Soon after the guy said he was heading off somewhere else. Warren asked for his money back (since it wasn't going to be used for a cask) and the guy turned angrily and spat "you want the money back!? what do you want me to shank (stab) you or something?!" and he reached into his bag for a knife.. It took Warren five minutes to talk his way back down from the threat. I sighed. This is how cheap life is on the street: $4. More healing is needed..
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I hung around in the afternoon and chatted with some street kids. Up until now I had talked mostly to adults, the kids were more closed off in their own groups and gangs, but as a regular face around I am becoming a more familiar part of their world.
In the afternoon I was chatting to a guy(Don) who was recently out of prison, dealing in a little bit of prescription drugs, and slept rough next to the police station, for safety. As I was heading off to CoH for the evening, I asked him along and he agreed to come. We had a bit of dinner and their was a talk from a visiting pastor and Christian guy who was a reformed ex prison tough guy. He asked a few questions during the talk and later chatted with them in private. Then they came over and we talked further and he said he was interested in coming to Alpha on Wed night. That was a positive experience and so the evening was looking good.
Around 2am I was chatting with Dougy and then sat down on the street against the wall for a break. There were a lot of street people about, and Dougy got into an argument with one. She was a little teenage girl(Sally), about 13, who claimed she was pregnant (not all pregnancy claims are true, sometimes girls claim it to gain sympathy, attention or protection because of their 'condition'). As they argued Dougy threatened to have her bashed by another woman, and then he came and sat down next to me. A short time later a tall older teenage guy(Dirk) came up and started abusing Dougy for his threats against Sally. Dirk's mates egged him on to attack Dougy but he was hesitant because of the cameras in the area. But Dougy, still sitting, started abusing him back and challenging Dirk to hit him. Dirk then obliged and whacked him three times to the head and then danced triumphantly as Dougy slumped over onto the pavement moaning.
I was surprised Dougy had not got up or defended himself, perhaps he was looking for a way to get to hospital, or feeling the need for some pain as a way to deal with a recent family loss he had been upset about. I wondered if I should have tried to stop it, a little disturbed at sitting next to someone while they got bashed, but as they were both looking for a fight I felt I should stay out of it. Now it was over and a police van drove by and Dirk got in to drive back with them to the station for a chat about what happened. Dougy was quiet, it hadn't seemed that bad, so I patted him on the shoulder and asked if he was ok. No response, he might be lying there too upset to sit up, but I decided to get check him out further. As I moved around to check his face I noticed a lot of blood had spilled out of his mouth and down his chest, making big red patches splotched all over his t-shirt. I tried to rouse him but he seemed unconscious.
Another person saw the blood and called an ambulance from their mobile phone. As we waited I tried to make him a bit more comfortable by lifting his head off the pavement and putting my sleeping bag under it. Another guy came over and told me not to bother helping him. he said if I knew who Dougy was then I would know he wasn't worth helping. I continued on and the guy was quite serious and i thought he was going to physically try and stop me helping Dougy. I got up and, seeing my cross, he said "Hey, I'm a Christian too but don't help him", and I said "I help anyone, right or wrong, if you piss someone off and get beat up then I'd help you too". He said that he knew I was trying to do the right thing but in this case it wasn't worth it. Now I was shocked, that I was arguing with another Christian about whether to help someone?! I explained to him the story of the woman about to be stoned to death for adultery, she was guilty but Jesus still intervened to help her. Then he backed off and let me attend to Dougy's situation.
When the ambulance crew arrived they saw it was Dougy, checked he was breathing, and then stepped back to talk. They said they couldn't help him as he was now banned from all ambulances and hospitals because he was too violent to their staff. Instead they called the police to come and take him away. They stood and waited about half an hour before the cops arrived and they said they were unable to take him in that condition. The ambos then agreed to take him if he was handcuffed and escorted with a couple of officers coming along with them. They agreed, lifted him up onto the stretcher, cuffed him and drove away.
That was about the last I have since seen of Dougy. The story went around that he had threatened a teenage pregnant girl and so he was not welcome in the area anymore. A few different people threatened to beat him up again if he ever came back, and even Robbie (his main drinking buddy) agreed he shouldn't come around anymore. I guess Dougy got the message somehow, as I didn't see him for the next week, until I ran into him at the Salvos for lunch. He was sober, friendly and happy to see me and we played cricket in the alley. He said he had been hanging out over at St.Kilda and he was like a completely different person, one that everyone seemed happy to be around. I wished he could realize how much better it was for him (and everyone) to be this way. But then someone asked him if he'd like to go get some wine and have a drink with them, and off they went. I haven't seen him since and with no phone or way to contact him there's not much I can do about it. Even the cops came and asked me the other day if I had seen him around, so he hasn't stumbled into them recently either (in the city or over at St.Kilda), which makes me think he may have headed out to the country for a bit. After investing a fair bit of time and effort with him it's hard to let his situation go and just pray to God that it may still improve, but that's part of what being a Christian is about: having hope for others when they don't have any for themselves.