On shift with Street Pastors
Since Inverness Street Pastors launched officially in January 2008 the teams have been out on the city streets and gaining valuable experience in interacting with the local community and the agencies which serve them.
LAST night, two of my Street Pastor colleagues and I set off towards the Merkinch area of Inverness to start the evening shift, which turned out to be a fairly quiet night.
The team comprised M (male), G (female) and me. M & G are enthusiastic workers in the Kingdom of heaven. We prayed before we went out and M asked Jesus to walk with us on the streets. This led to a discussion of how Jesus would have handled the angry woman who lost her newly-born son. (G and I had met her on a previous occasion with Street Pastors in Merkinch.)
We called into the new premises of a printing business which tries to help out drug addicts by keeping them busy. The premises are run by a former addict who has been drug- free for a year and who tries to recruit other users to a better lifestyle. R, who established the work, had rather sad news – a number of the drug addicts had been jailed earlier in the week.
Along now at the Clachnacuddin Social Club we spoke with a crowd of elderly people who were having a smoke outside during a break in the bingo session. “Getting a spot of fresh air?” is my usual quip in these circumstances.
Coronation New Testament
On venturing inside we chatted with some of the club’s customers: one had a 1953 Queen’s Coronation Bible at home. In what was a ‘role reversal’ the proprietor gave us a cup of coffee. (It is usually we who are buying coffees for those on the street.)
Leaving to have a walk around the Carse area we came across an old lady and escorted her back to her home nearby. She lived on her own. I told her that she didn’t need to be alone as she could invite Jesus into her heart and her home.
Love is spelt 'T-I-M-E'
It was a foggy night with few people on the streets so that we had time for reflection. We discussed various themes about hopeless lives. M told us about a youngster he meets who always has a bottle of Buckfast and whose home background leaves a lot to be desired. M said that love is spelt “T-I-M-E” and I said that love is a fluid which the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in the heart. Like water, it flows into every nook and cranny and we drink the love of God into our soul to refresh our spirit. This prompted M to share what he had heard about fruit. In what form is it to appear? Squeezed and pressed into wine! So I quoted John 15:8 and M added that this is the context in which we can expect answers to prayer John 15:7.
Thanks from a taxi driver
We walked to the end of the housing estate at South Kessock point. Along the way a taxi driver stopped to thank us for the good work that Street Pastors are doing. We discussed power naps and this led into a discussion on the Sabbath rest principle in the Bible. Some tend to work themselves to exhaustion, so that rest is a matter of necessity to them. God’s example Gen 2:2-3 teaches us to pace ourselves and His Sabbath rest is given to us in order to refresh ourselves and energise ourselves for Christian service. We are to come to our work refreshed, rather than arrive at our rest exhausted. The Sabbath commandment is about the work/rest balance in life. We reflected that the Greek word for ‘rest’ in Heb 4:9 is Sabbatismos so that heaven is an eternal Sabbath.
A father has concerns for his children
We finished off the night outside the Nip Inn on Grant Street talking to the people as they left the premises. This is where I met D. D was interested in talking, but more interested in a bag of chips. He had spent his last money on Guinness in the pub so I bought him a bag of chips. We had a good and serious chat while waiting for the chips to cook. The freeness of God’s salvation was news to him, as it is to everyone until they are told about it. It is native to the heart of man to think that he must earn the right to God’s favour. Salvation by ‘works’ is man’s natural understanding of religion so he needs to be told about salvation by grace. He was middle-aged and had two children in Switzerland. He was concerned about them so I pointed out that as a Christian I can commit these things to God. He knows where all our children are. He was quite pensive at this thought, so I encouraged him to pray and to learn the benefit of casting our cares on God. We hit it off so well that he thought we must be related. So I called him ‘brother’.
It was this encounter – my very last contact of the night – which was possibly the most profitable. However we don’t need to be over-anxious about not being as effective as we might like, as it is not unusual for God to leave the best to the end in order to test our patience.
The early Christians found favour amongst the people
As our shift was coming to an end we then walked back to base to finish off for the night. We rounded off by considering Acts 2:47 –“praising God, and having favour with all the people”. I often think of the common people hearing Christ gladly and surely this is what we desire for our communities. We were reminded by the passage that Jerusalem’s citizens were pleased to have the early Christians among them; this is a challenge to us in our day. With this thought, we finished our shift at 11.00 p.m. and went to our homes and to our beds. Meanwhile the City Centre team continued in their Street Pastor roles until 3.00am. All in a night’s work in the Inverness city streets.
Please pray for the work, for the team and for those that they meet. Pray that God’s love will become evident to those of our needy communities in a life-changing way.