Monday, 9 November 2009

church in the park... awesome day!

November 8, 2009

I got up this morning at 4:45 and boiled 2 dozen eggs. Then I went to church-in-the-park/ basement and it was so neat! And I learned some amazing things! Thank You, Papa!

So when I got to church-in-the-park (aka church-in-the-churchyard-and-basement, lol!), I started setting things up. Pastor P came in and told me we can start using the stoves in the kitchen! Yay! So I can make up cheese biscuits, bread dough, etc, at home, and bring it in and put it in the oven to bake! I can also make porridge there! Even boil eggs there! Yay! Looking forward to that, instead of always having to make it at home, and bring it with me (since I usually walk, and it’s a half hour trek, and the weather is cold now, everything ends up cold, which is not so great! It will be awesome to be able to provide hot-from-the-oven/stove stuff!)

So I was digging around to see what was available for today. Coffee, black and green tea (quite a few people happily taking a couple tea bags home as well), hot chocolate, juice (well, made from powder…). B was outside cooking hot dogs on the campstove grill. Inside, I put out brown and white bread, and Eggo waffles by the toaster (with a variety of toppings, of course). Also instant oatmeal packets. There was no milk, so one of the guys donated a couple townies, and another guy hopped on his bike and went to the 24-7 Store to get some. Also dug around in the fridge and found mandarin oranges, apples, homemade cookies, some Hallowe’en candy. And also put out the boiled eggs. It was a feast! Everybody (almost 120 folks turned up! It seems to grow every week!) sure enjoyed it!

It was such a beautiful morning. Very little breeze and almost clear sky – nice when the sun came up . Most of the folks were hanging around outside, but would come in periodically for coffee and food, and to warm up. It seems to me like a lot of people are hanging around longer, instead of just “eating and running.” About 7:30 or 8:00, a teacher and 4 students from a local middle school arrived with bags and bags of clothes they had collected, after hearing about homeless people, and wanting to help out. They spread them out on at least 6 or more long tables, and all the folks came in and joyfully dug through the piles of clothes. There were a lot of winter items (jackets, hats and gloves, warm pants, sweaters, sweat shirts, etc) and they were so happy to get them. A lot of people are still sleeping outside, even though it is November and the weather has been pretty cold (below freezing some nights) and wet. There seem to be more people still sleeping outside in November this year, than in previous years.

One lady, who is in a wheelchair following a stroke, was delighted with all the pretty, feminine clothes she found. She filled up the big bag on the back of her wheelchair, smiling from ear to ear. She said it was like Christmas! She couldn’t wait to go home and try on her new wardrobe – dresses, skirts, pants, blouses, sweaters, even pyjamas and underwear. She was SO happy! I was helping her pick out items, but pretty soon all the students joined in to help, and then even some of the guys helped.

People were happily choosing clothes for themselves – but then someone else would need something they’d already picked out, but couldn’t find any more – and those who already had picked out those things for themselves, would dig into their own piles and share what they’d found with the others! They also were picking out clothes for people they knew who couldn’t make it this morning.

As often happens, one of the men came in, concerned because no one had seen one of the street guys for several days. He talked about it to Pastor P , who promised to check the hospital and make some calls. The family on the street really do look after each other!

Of course there are some people who don’t get along very well with some other people – but everyone understands that at church-in-the-park you leave your disagreements behind. Because it is known to be a safe, family kind of place, a number of these “dislike relationships” have over time turned into good friendships!

About 8:30, a pastor who is also a ventriloquist arrived, and everyone sat down for a show! It was really entertaining, lots of good jokes and laughter… but also a clear message of the peace and happiness God brings into lives, and encouragement to get into God’s Word, and come to know Him.

About 9:15, after cleaning up the hot-dog set-up, as well as the table of free Bibles and some other Christian literature, some folks came inside and helped clean up there as well. More and more people are pitching in to help set up and clean up. It used to be really on Pastor P’s shoulders a lot of the time, with some help from 3 or 4 volunteers, but more and more the street community themselves are really pitching in and sharing in the work.

(Oh yes! Someone had donated a bunch of reading glasses – and people were happily trying them on. Little things like that make a big difference in peoples’ lives).

Then those who wished to do so, sat down around some pulled-together-tables (Pastor P would love to get some couches!) with their coffee. After prayer (which also happens together at the beginning of the morning, individually or in small groups throughout the morning as people need it, and again together before everyone leaves), Pastor P brought some teaching. He had some new business cards, and he handed one out to each person. On the cards were listed, besides his contact information, some verses that are key to Another Chance Ministries. He read each verse by turn, and explained why he had chosen it for the card. At all times, people were free to ask questions or make comments.

Some of the new believers really have no “background” in the Bible or Christianity at all. They ask some really basic questions, and it is neat to hear Pastor P and others explain things in simple terms that they can grasp, using examples related to their own lives…. Questions like “ Why are some words in this Bible red?” … and “Well, if that is who Jesus is, then who is Christ?” (which led on to an attempt to simply explain the basics of the concept of the Trinity!), and, after Pastor P was reading the passage about the “woman caught in adultery,” the question, “Why did they only go after the woman? Men are worse adulterers!” (which led to a discussion of 1st century society… and then to present day differences in religious beliefs and in different societies… and how Jesus’ teaching on equality before God really upset(s) a lot of people!). Finally, the young woman who was asking these particular questions begged, “Stop! Stop! That’s all I can absorb at one time!,” and everyone laughed and agreed! This is typical of “church services” at church-in-the-park: while Pastor P more often than not has a “teaching” “planned,” the Spirit of God often takes it in some interesting directions or a different “plan” altogether, and Pastor P is very sensitive and open to that (but also very wise in recognizing things that are “rabbit warrens” and keeping the conversation and teaching from going those directions). Also, of course, not only Pastor P answers and teaches and shares; others are also free to contribute, and do. No question or testimony or other sharing is looked down upon, from any person (although purposely silly comments and questions are quickly dispensed with). Also, everyone is always encouraged to take a free Bible with them when they go, and to dig into it, learning from God’s Word themselves, and getting to know God on an on-going personal basis, rather than just depending on the teaching at the gatherings.

By the way, the verses on the Another Chance Ministries card are:
Matthew 22:39 “… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 8:21 “… My mother and My brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.”
John 8:7 “…He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone…”
1 Corinthians 13:13 “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

And these verses do reflect the emphasis of the part of God’s family that is “Another Chance Ministries” (aka church-in-the-park!)… a gathering of believers and seekers – and anyone who wants to come and experience the family life that is found in Jesus. By the way, people who come to know Jesus from experiencing this street ministry, often go on to also become part of other “churches” in the community (all part of “the church at Penticton, of course!), while still taking part in church-in-the-park, and continuing to reach out to, and be part of the street-level family).

(You can check out the website at – the site is a bit in need of updating, but it will give you a picture of this family).

So… we had to pack up about 10 am, because the generous folks of St. Andrew’s Church, who so generously offered free use of their grounds and their fellowship area (dining room, washrooms, kitchen, even an office space for Pastor P!) – were gathering together to do some choir practice before their own church service, and to set up for their own coffee time.

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