Friday, 28 May 2010

Street ministry - questions for Papa

May 27, 2010

Yesterday I went with K and Pastor P to Oliver to do barbequed hot dogs (and pigs-in-blankets and cow-patty-cookies) with the folks who come to the weekly food bank. We had lots of hot dogs and goodies - and every bit got eaten, very enthusiastically.

It's a different crowd there than here in Penticton, even though the communities aren't far apart. Quite a few young francophone Quebecers (ones who come out in the summer to work in the orchards and vineyards, and decide to stay), a lot more women than here, and overall, people of varying ages, including couples, moms with small children, all kinds of people. Pastor P barbeques out in front of the foodbank (and free stuff) place, and the crowd eats and visits while standing in line. It's a very friendly atmosphere, but Pastor P says the food bank was about to close down because of fights, drugs, etc, before he - and YOU! - came.

Pastor P was having a wonderful time with his family there. He was right in his element! These are people who are more often simply hard-up, rather than suffering from addictions, mental illness, and such. They live in a more rural community where jobs are fewer, and more seasonal, related to agriculture and tourism. They hang around longer, too, as they aren't rushing off to the liquor store or whatever. And of course they are there for the food bank, as well as for the barbeque, and especially for time with Pastor P and the family and You! Oh yes, another interesting difference: since the food bank is just open the one day a week, a lot of people from the community are dropping in with donations, so that's another kind of interaction. There really does seem to be a broader sense of community there.

Had a chat with K about my thoughts for "timing" for our Sunday street gathering time. This is a thing I've wondered about: when we do a big "feeding time" first, lots of people just "eat and run" ... and then we have clean-up time... and everything relational just seems to get fractured, and so the gathering to spend focused time with You seems to become almost an after-thought. People are tired, or have other things to run off to, and few stay. And we end up with maybe a quick little "teaching" (and not much discussion) - or even just decide to let it slide till next time. It wasn't like that at first; lots of people stayed and the discussion was great (but we didn't clean up first, we just started talking together, and there was still food and coffee available, and some people would carry on their own conversations, sitting on the other side, and others passing by would stop for coffee and decide to stay. But now it seems like we are under pressure to clean everything up first, which really seems to signal an "ending."

When I read in your word, like in Matthew 14:14-21 and 15:32-39, it looks like You spoke to the crowds first, Jesus, and then fed them. (In the early church, eating was very often part of the gathering time, but it really isn't clear in what "order" (if any in particular) eating and more formal meeting took place (and the meeting wasn't formal according to our standards, apparently!). Anyway, I was wondering if maybe we just had coffee available at the start (and maybe some light snacks, fruit slices for example) and had our prayer and discussion and such then, and then begin the barbeque or pancakes or whatever when more people have gathered in - and by then, people would maybe have questions from the discussion which was already happening, or at least more of a sense of Your Presence (because a lot of them are new believers, or don't know You at all), and we could really share You while we mingle during the eating time... and maybe people would feel more like it was a "family" kind of gathering instead of a "soup kitchen" and maybe more of them would hang around, and after the food was finished we could maybe continue on with discussion and such?

Maybe it doesn't really matter "how" or "when" though. Maybe I just need to have my own heart better prepared. I know I don't spend enough time "up front" with You. Maybe now that it's nice now, weatherwise, I could go really early and sit there and spend time with You ... and other early arrivers could join us (You and me!) if they wanted. And maybe we also need to have more "community" prayer at the beginning... What I remember from earlier times was that several people prayed. And then we'd have more prayer after awhile when more people arrive. Now it seems like just one, or at most two people pray at the very start, and anyone else who is there just listens...

I do think our big rush to "clean up before service" is a problem, though. I suppose maybe we do it because we are using "borrowed space" in a "church" yard, and maybe some of the church folks feel uncomfortable if we don't have everything all tidied up by the time they arrive for their morning service. But Father, I'm wondering - how far do we go to "accomodate" their "comfort zone"? They want us to be there, they see us as their "mission," but they do seem to want us to do things in their terms quite a bit. Father?? Can you please guide us in how to respond to this situation? Change our hearts, if they need changing (they always do, of course...). Maybe we just have to stop depending so much on their "facilities"? It seems like the street family are happier over at the park, anyway, even if it means they have to walk a distance to public washrooms, and the coffee is in thermoses and not as hot and fresh! (Okay, I'm happier there, too, I admit... And Papa, I do NOT want this to be all about me. If it is, please show me... and change me... please? thank You!) (Your will be done!)

Well, Father, it's already 6:30 am and I do want to get to Your word before it's 7 am and I need to make breakfast for hubby. I have been hearing from You already, of course, but I want to make sure that what I am "hearing" is from You, lines up with Your recorded word, not just (or even mixed up with) "my" thoughts.

Oh... and You know I always love to really "hear from You," personally... but I seem to get in a hurry and not stop to really listen. I think I have to get to sleep by 8 pm so I can get up earlier!

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