Monday, April 23, 2007

Busy Busy.. all good :)

Hello friends,

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

Wednesday 7th March

A while back I slept in front of the Axxa building and thought about the corporate wealth issues there. And a while back I mentioned the Salvos had a big outreach bus with computer terminals and DVD theater inside for street kids. Well guess what? They're in bed together (a pun of homelessness irony), through sponsorship, and thus the bus is known as 'the Axxa Bus'!

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

Tuesday 6th March

You can sleep lying down and you can sleep sitting up.. but the other day I was so tired I fell asleep standing up! (on a busy sidewalk for about half an hour.. anyone could have bumped me over but they didn't.)

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

Monday 5th March

There is a high rotation of people through the city area. Even people I peg as regulars move on to other places. I don't get to say goodbye but I do get to say hello to many new people that arrive or just become more noticeable as my eyes are opened further. And people constantly surprise me by breaking the stereo types I initially place them in..

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.