Last Saturday I went to a prayer and awareness day run my Reach Out Network – name for the activities run by my friends Paul & Jackie Atkin. The aim of the ministry is to reach out to those on the fringe of society, in particularly the homeless helping them to overcome addictions and other issues as well as talking about Jesus with them.
Paul began by telling his own story. I was stuck by how an important part of his conversion involved facing his own mortality. He realised that not everyone in his local graveyard had died at an old age. In fact there was quite a spread of ages. Later He had known members of his own family die. And over the years he had known eighteen rough sleepers who had died.
During the day there were a number of presentations by organisations that are working together in this ministry to the homeless. Steve, our church elder, introduced Church Alive commenting that we all have different styles and that we are all learning to work together and to see each others ways of doing things is just as 'right' as our own. We heard the amazing story Sally Livingstone of Livingstone House whom God had told to “pick diamonds out of excrement”. We also heard from Betel – a rehabilitation community based in Birmingham. They described themselves as 'contemporary monastic' and explained how they enable their members – many of which have been rough sleepers – to work in the community's businesses.
Paul then interviewed a shy chap who was sitting next to me who turned out to be someone who was currently homeless. Paul asked him how the church could best serve the homeless. This chap explained that friendship and acceptance is what people want, as well as an opportunity for a change of life. He pointed out just how unsafe sleeping on the streets is especially if it is not with some others that you trust. And at the end of the day he and a couple of others, who we have known for sometime, indicated that they wanted to become Christians.