Posted by: theacres | May 29, 2011

compare and contrast

Another Friday night street pastoring in town didn’t bring about any major incidents, but it did give us time to have some interesting conversations. Some of them were quite involved and a subset were thought provoking and have made me ponder over the last few days.  It occurred to me that some were opposites, but shared common themes.

The team was slightly depleted due to illness, so the five Street Pastors hit the town as a posse, this meant that we had to be a bit cautious about not appearing to be too much of a gang as we went around.

We were crossing the beer gardens when one of the team spotted a Blackberry on the floor.  We wondered what to do with it and were in the process of dialing a likely number when the phone rang.  It turned out that a young person had lost it in the park and one of their friends was calling to see if it had been found.  It was one of us who spotted to it first so an RV was arranged for a few minutes later.  While the other trio went to find the owner, we got into a conversation with a young man just a few yards away.  He’d met with SPs previously and had been telling his friends about them.  He explained to us that they had been hanging around the gardens because they were too young to get “in” anywhere and the police were paying them unwanted attention.  After speaking to us he promised he’d tell his friends that we were nothing to do with the police and if they needed help they could call on us.

Now we come to the first set of contrasts.  We’d taken a slightly unusual route and checked out an area we don’t usually go to. As we were walking back towards town we met a gentleman who was eager to find out what we were doing, and why.  He told us that he’d been a reiki practitioner for over twenty years – he believed that it was Jesus practiced reiki in order to heal people.  As we spoke he told us that he was a spiritual man who believed that “love” was the most powerful force in the world an that was his view of what god was.  He was looking for some way to volunteer and make a difference to people’s lives.  He’d been offered an opportunity to go overseas  and build an orphanage.  From the things he said, he was basically looking for someone to tell him what decision to make, to give him some direction. We said we weren’t able to provide that, but we knew someone who could.

He then told us that his wife was (or had been) a Christian.  Her father had been a church warden and had abused her when she was a child.  He said that he was unable to use the name of Jesus in connection with his beliefs because of that, because of what people had done and used his name.  As Rob Bell says in Love Wins, he’d met a Jesus that wasn’t the one i know.  We spoke for a while longer and he was grateful for it.  He said how much he appreciated what we did, and wished us well.  We prayed as we walked away that he would come to know the Real Jesus.

I compare that encounter to one later in the evening.  We were called over to a group of three girls and two guys, one of the girls wanted a pair of flip-flops. One of the guys then started quizzing us,  asking if we believed in God, and if we did, could we name all the books of the Bible?  During the conversation that followed he told us that he had been a criminal since he was twelve years old and claimed that at some point he had broken into a vicarage, where he found porn mags.  “How do you explain that, street pastors?”   We said that people are all human, and we all make mistakes.  I thought at the time “maybe you’ve met the wrong Jesus”

The guy continued to question us, he said that he had a faith and could name all of the books in his holy literature, he was confrontational and at times abusive and rude, to my eyes he was trying to belittle us in front of the girls (who incidentally were trying to stop him being rude to us, so i don’t think it was working), and also to provoke a reaction from us.  He wanted to test our knowledge of the bible, and asked us what the passage about it being “harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of the needle”.  As it happens i was reading my son a story just hours earlier which explained that the “eye of the needle” was a gate in a city’s wall, and told this guy as much  The guy on the street said he was impressed with us knowing that.

He was clearly an intelligent young man, he was articulate and seemed to have a good reserve of knowledge. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he was confrontational and abusive.  Nevertheless, we pray that he encounters the Real Jesus. Hopefully our conduct and restraint will have made an impression on a young man with potential.

As we walked away he was shouting after us that he was a drug dealer and he made a great deal of money every day, he pulled something out of his pocket to prove this fact, it may have been a wad of notes, but from where i stood it looked like receipts.  Perhaps the dealing world has got more professional of late… i don’t know how much of what he told us was true, how much he actually believed and how much was front.  It doesn’t matter, God was with us, and he helped us find answers. We pray that they were the right ones.

Later in the night we saw our next two contrasts.  One young lady was clearly distressed and was being talked to by a group of guys.  We went over to see if we could help.  It turned out that she had lost her iPhone and her world had ended as a result.  She was acting very distressed and cast the contents of her bag asunder a couple of times.  The guys were gentlemanly and helped get all her stuff back together, cash, cards, etc.  We saw that she had enough money for a fairly lengthy taxi ride if required.  We asked if there was anything we could do to help, she ranted and raved and said there was nothing anyone could do because she’d lost her phone and everything was finished.  Was there anyone we could ring to come and help her out? She shouted a name a couple of times, but wasn’t able to give us the number.  We established that her phone had been insured and could be replaced the next day, she had enough money to get home, and she wasn’t in so bad a condition as to be unable to remember where that was.

We had a conflab with the other SPs, during which the girl tore off and threw back a cardigan to one of the guys.  She wasn’t wearing a great deal underneath it, but apparently that’s how she’d started the evening.  Ultimately she refused our help and went off in a taxi with the guys – she knew one of their sisters, it transpired.  Our offers to help were thrown back at us, and she was quite rude at times.  i was uneasy at the time about the way it panned out, but looking back i feel that she was possibly attention seeking.  A lost phone had caused a lot of grief. i pray she got home safely and without anything to regret.

The contrast to this was another young lady we met at nearly 0400.  She was with friends, and again not wearing a great deal.  The other crew engaged her and spent some time searching through her bag and belongings.  We went over because there was a call on the radio that a passport had been left at a fast food joint, we thought it might be hers.  It wasn’t, she’d lost her bank card.  Much searching ensued, we revisted the cashpoint she’d been to earlier to no avail, and started to hunt up and down the high street.  She was upset, but it was getting to the point where we could probably help her no more.  We suggested that she cancel her card when she got home and order a new one.

A group of guys stopped us to say that they thought we were doing a great job and we should keep it up.  High fives all round. At that very point i looked down and there, directly at my feet was a cashcard.  Praise God! We checked with the young lady, and she gave us the right name from the card.  We returned it to much thanks, God made a difference in that girl’s life that night.  We pray that she doesn’t forget.

People meet Jesus at different times and in different ways.  Sometimes it’s really Him, but other times it’s not the Jesus I’d recognise.  This street pastors shift has reinforced to me that you never really know where someone is with God, and that’s fine.  We shouldn’t treat people any differently regardless.  Whether they’re peaceful or abusive, appreciative or dismissive, God loves them all.  I pray that i am able to too.

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