Sunday, July 1, 2007

Times Like These

Church on the streets is hard. It just really hit me this week, following last Thursday’s bible study. Church is not a building, it’s not confined by walls or defined by a specific pastor or team of elders, any day or place. But when you hold church sitting on a busy sidewalk, with people off the street, it’s an entirely different experience. There are interruptions, people constantly talking, loud people passing on the street, the noise of trucks and cars, and the people who attend are often very distracted, coming and going, losing attention easily. I have no doubt that God can reach someone’s heart just as easily there, but it can be trying.

This past week was slightly disappointing; we talked to just a few people, some who rambled and complained or told crazy stories, many of which probably aren’t true. Clearly, they need love and attention and someone to care for them just as much as anyone else. It’s tough to think, however, that some of them have wasted their years on drugs and time spent in prison, and as a result, their minds just aren’t quite right.

I did meet two new prostitutes, and spent a few minutes talking to one who was noticeably upset. He told me I was pretty, which I assume is a pretty good compliment considering he spends his time trying to be a woman. I looked into his beautiful green eyes, sparkling against dark skin, and listened to him complain about how “Dutchess” gets more business and makes it harder for the other “girls”. Across the table, a man was complaining about the way he’s treating by cops, the corruption and hypocrisy he sees, and the foul ways he’s been treated by cops.

My emotions can be weird, I’m generally fairly unemotional, but moments of intense emotion come in spurts, often at random times. Last week, sitting on the sidewalk observing bible study, and again standing in a donut shop, I just wanted to cry. The sadness of so many of these people’s situation, the way they spend their lives, the hurt they carry, and the way they have to numb themselves to feeling so that they can stop hurting, is overwhelming.

After a short time at the donut shop, we headed out for bible study. Zoe came again, still not making an attempt at rehab or getting out of prostitution; a few other regulars came, and one new man who chatted with Matt throughout the whole service. We prayed together, but did not split into groups this week, just hung out and chatted afterwards, and a few people took off right after. I ended up talking to a man I had met the week before for about an hour, as he yapped my ear off about stories from his past, things about Jesus, and dirty jokes. A very nice, and apparently lonely man, but not much of a discussion.

Perhaps what stood out most about the night was driving home, passing an accident which must have taken place shortly before, as there were no cops and no traffic yet. We pulled over to help, and luckily a man who had formerly been an EMT was already there helping two young men out of an overturned truck, which now looked like a sedan. While Jen and I stayed with the car, two others went and helped out, prayed with one of the guys as blood gushed from his head, shared a bit about Jesus, and encouraged him to not let this event go unwasted.

These times exist, they will not stop us from what we are doing. As I quoted Robin in my first post, “Persistence pays off.” They’ve been at this for 3 years, and it’s come a long way. Sometimes ministry takes a lot of time, some pain, tons of patience and lots of sacrifice. I can see a great future here, and return each week with the excitement of what will happen down the road.

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