Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bridging the Gap

The ministry of Street Chaplains is bearing more and more fruit as it impacts the lives of many. This includes the interaction with Perth's Police Force. Last Friday night was no exception. We met as usual outside Police headquarters for our rostered night on. One of the Chaplains had made a wonderful inclusion to our backpack. She had placed all the first aid supplies into a fold out kit, complete with transparent compartments, it was perfect. You could see all the supplies neatly in each section and thus quickly get to what you needed. I thanked her and praised God. I had wanted the first aid supplies placed into something like this. Rummaging through a large backpack was time consuming and difficult to see what you required, especially if someone is bleeding, overdosing or vomiting! The new kit was an answer to prayer. I walked into the police meeting beaming ear to ear.

The briefing room was full of police. Much more than usual and I wondered if there was a specific operation on with nearly forty police crammed into the room. The Operational Team Leader was a new Sergeant. He warmly introduced himself to us and asked about our specific skills. I told him we are all first aid trained, thus can care for the injured, clean up vomit, escort women to taxis or counsel 'troublesome' side liners. He was genuinely impressed with what we could do. Subsequently we were given a positive introduction to the entire shift, at which many senior officers nodded their heads approvingly. No doubt they had witnessed the Chaplains 'get their hands dirty' on numerous occasions.

We were asked to repeat our skills to the whole group. Feeling a tinge of nervousness I stood up and reiterated the medical side of things. Additionally mentioning we can wait with the injured for the ambulance, thus freeing officers to return to the 'fray'. Again we received nods of approval. As we left I briefly contemplated how I had only really mentioned first aid support rather than anything else. I put it down to nerves, it was a large police presence after all. We later found out that over twenty new recruits had been placed on duty at the last moment. Thus more and more of the force was being exposed to the Chaplains. Praise God.

Our first major incident was a call, by police, to a drunken young woman. We headed to Hay street and found her on a park bench. Her boyfriend was near, however, he was not really helping much. I knelt down placed my hand on her hair, the female Chaplain placing her hand on her back, stroking her caringly. I prayed internally asking God to get rid of the alcohol. I suppose I expected a miraculous intervention where God would zap the alcohol in her and she would revive. God had other plans. She vomited.

Lots of cheap red wine. Lots of it. As she vomited we cleaned her face, gave water and reassured her over and over that she would be ok. Eventually there was nothing left to come out. She recovered, got up, and staggered off with her boyfriend. Thanking us all, we received hugs and kisses. She must have been no more than 22 and a Canadian backpacker. The team of three walked off, we had bonded through the incident. God had used us and we were all encouraged.

Our team was highly experienced  One gentleman had served the Lord in Malaysia, Manchester and held theological degrees. The other lady had served the Lord for over 20 years including missionary time in Africa. I myself, no novice to mission, and also armed with theological training. Often the bonding of such teams can be difficult. Everyone knows what they are doing! And so this first incident brought us together. We were a 'team' now rather than individual servants. By the end of the night we would know why...

Two hours later we were walking along one of Northbridge's busy streets. Our lady Chaplain noticed some police across the road and so we ventured towards them. They were closing off the area with crime scene tape. A  man lay on the cold pavement with a blood drenched face. As we looked on an officer knelt over the injured man, gloves on, he was trying to talk with him.

Entering into crime scenes amongst the wounded, numerous police officers and flashing lights isn't exactly what I had expected as a young Pastor. I enjoy preaching. Well crafted sermons and people commending you for your exegetical insights! I love how God has a sense of humour. In the army I was comfortable with first aid.  And so God often places me in such situations. You are never comfortable though when it isn't a first aid dummy, but rather a living soul.

I sat down trying to contain nerves as I put the blue surgical gloves on. The audience had grown to over 20 police and the usual onlookers. The other Chaplains were thankfully reassuring me as I stepped in to the crime scene, pretending I do this all the time! I sat beside the officer and pulled out the brand new medical kit. Unrolling it in full view (for the first time) the officer immediately pointed at a gauze bandage and we began to work together. I was just managing to keep up with the Lord, the new first aid kit made perfect sense now. So did the initial talk at the police briefing! It looked highly professional for the Chaplains to step into such a situation, gloved and with medical kit rolled out beside the injured. Everyone could see the bold "Street Chaplain" letters on our backs as we lent over the bleeding man.

I passed the officer some saline solution and he cleaned the wound  then crepe bandage which I cut with some scissors. The other Chaplain came over and  while the officer was asking the injured man his name. When he replied, the Chaplain was shocked. He knew him! He knew the boy well, and, he was a Christian. We both realised God was intensely involved and tried to compose ourselves. The Chaplain was able to ring his parents there and then and speak reassuringly to the boy. When the ambulance arrived he escorted him to the hospital. The boy had been punched, however, he had hit the pavement and thus all were worried about spinal injury. He lost a tooth and had a nasty gash above his eye. Northbridge late at night is not the place for Christians to have a 'good time'.

The next incidence was even more intense. The boys' brother was there. And all of a sudden he started to lose his sanity. He was weeping then would go into an uncontrollable rage. I stood with him trying to talk to him, then he began thumping his head against a wall. Hard. An officer came over and we both turned him around and sat him down. I then began praying (internally) as I kept my hand on him. Every few moments he would slip back into a rage. He was a very powerfully built young man and would tense every muscle. Two officers came over and all three of us interacted with him. You could literally feel the rage, it was like a volcano waiting to explode. We would try to calm him down, all the three of us holding him (me praying the entire time).

At one point my simple prayer to God was "God do something!" He then fell asleep... He literally fell over into a sleep! You stand there trying to catch your breath as you view the miraculous. One moment a young man is flexing every muscle going into an explosive rage, you and two large officers holding him, you pray "God Help!" and the man falls over asleep! It was all surreal.

He woke up a moment later and went back into the rage. Eventually the officers put handcuffs on him. I had to resist helping put his arms behind his back, stepping out of the way at that moment, a voice in my head said this part isn't your jurisdiction.. The police were genuinely thankful I was there, I knew that much.
I kept praying and eventually the boy seemed to come back to the land of the living. He had a large lump on his forehead and he didn't even know how it got there! No one was home during the rage - something else was.

The police took his hand cuffs off and I offered a tissue to blow his nose. He was gentle as a lamb now and talking with us. His older brother arrived and we felt we could leave. I said to the officer we are going to go. He immediately turned around took off his glove, shook our hands and thanked us. He wrote down our names and said he would be emailing his Superior to personally thank us for our help. We bridged a gap they cannot provide were his very words.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I went to the local Church tonight for a dinner outreach. Each Thursday a meal is put on for anyone who wants to come along. It is a blessing to serve others and enjoy the fellowship there. Full time theological study can be intense. Having a break to  put  into practice what you have learnt is greatly appreciated. Tonight was no exception. I often get the opportunity to share a Biblical message (between dinner and desert) however, tonight was a friend's turn.

He had emailed me during the week and asked me to source him some pictures for his proposed talk. One showing the detail of the internal organs of a human body and the other showing the separation of man to God and Christ as the bridge. I remember feeling annoyed at being asked to do such (I was busy with my own work for God) however, managed to suppress my selfish nature long enough to source the pictures for my friend. After I sent them I received two thank you emails and subsequently felt rotten for begrudgingly doing it given the warm thanks I received. We really ALL fall short of God's glory. Being truthful helps us see our need for God more and more - in every way.

On arriving at the Church I was quite excited.  I walked up to my friend and asked if he had included Scripture in his message? He is an avid creationist and as wonderful as that is often ramps up the creation rather than the Creator's Word. I felt the need to give a subtle and soft reminder of having God's Word included in his message. We only speak for about 5 mins as many that come are non believers and we feel best to not go over the top with preaching. We do, however, ensure that a short Biblical message or testimony is given each week. It's a nice balance.

Thankfully my friend was in no way offended and responded how about John 3:16? I said sure (I did feel though that it didn't really match with his message ). I walked off and asked God for some Scripture to give him. Immediately the verse "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made" popped into my head. I thought - Perfect! That will go perfectly with his pictures about the human body. I just had to find the verse in the Bible. The verse reference hadn't popped into my head. I flicked through the Bible Psalms trying to find it. I then went into the prayer room. We usually pray before everyone arrives. Another brother came in and I asked him if he knew where the verse was. Then the miraculous occurred..

He said Peter had just asked him where that verse was. Peter is my friend that was speaking. However, I hadn't told him the verse yet. I knew instantly the Holy Spirit was telling both of us simultaneously to use the same verse. The Bible is a fairly large book. So focusing on one little verse that just happens to pop into the head of two people at the same time? - GOD.

We found the verse and I excitedly told Peter. When I sense God's active presence I always get excited. The message was wonderful and not only did Peter state that verse but many other verses just popped into his head. At one stage he became a Scriptural machine, stringing verse after verse together. We both knew the Holy Spirit was at work. Peter hadn't prepared any of the verses he quoted. What began as having very little Scripture ended with extensive Scriptural quotes woven together perfectly by the Grand Weaver. The same Grand Weaver that wove us together in the womb.

 The same Grand Weaver to whom David said "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" Psalm 139:14

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Forgive Always

In a previous Blog I wrote about my latest assignment, on loving neighbor and loving your enemy. I had watched a series of films on the Jewish Holocaust. I then ventured into further reading of the historical events. God had not finished teaching me about love of enemy and forgiveness.

Love conquerors all. It is a power that far surpasses violence, dominance or revenge. A week after reading of Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi who had conducted horrific experiments on Jewish children, God was to challenge me incredibly. If you read in my last blog I asked God, "How can we forgive such things?". I even condemned the man for his ghastly deeds and sentenced him to hell. I felt pain in my heart for the defenseless children and the mother's tormented anguish at having their little ones torn from their arms at Auschwitz, I was shocked and distressed. Part of me wanted retribution.

Again humanity's capacity for evil confronts us. Relativism, existentialism, rationalism - beware the 'isms', they never give an answer for evil. Most certainly evil exists within us. Their isnt a religion on the planet that does not agree we are broken and have the capacity for evil. Denying evil exists is simply ignorance. Richard Dawkins would argue his Darwinian theory of natural selection, survival of the fittest etc. Ironically that view falls well within the sphere of Nazi socialism. I have since learnt Hitler was also an advocate of Euthanasia. Especially for the mentally retarded or disabled!

Yet, amongst such cruelty God was to guide me, lovingly and patiently to a Saint. A real one. Not simply someone that professes to be a Saint because they believe in Jesus. Rather one whose actions point to that of a Saint. There is a difference. Eva Kor is her name. I didn't know this woman existed until a week after writing my last blog. Thus hopefully you will see God's guidance and teaching unraveling. Teaching me about loving even your enemy and forgiving always.

"Eva Kor is a survivor of both the Holocaust and of the twin experiments conducted by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. She and her twin sister Miriam survived Auschwitz, and then moved to Israel. While Miriam stayed in Israel, Kor met and married Holocaust survivor Michael Kor, before moving to Terra Haute, Indiana with him. There, she created the CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) Holocaust Museum. " Rin Wilhelmi (read about her here)

She had forgiven her tormentor. She had publicly forgiven him and thus found the true freedom we receive  in forgiving others. I wept, I wept profusely. God was speaking to me yet again. I could hear Him. His words were clear enough. "If she can forgive Dr Mengele and she suffered through it, how much more should you forgive?"

Christ's words have never been truer in the power of Eva Kor's forgiveness. "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do".

God Bless

Monday, May 2, 2011

Perfect Direction

The last few days seem to have been spliced together in an editor's production room. An unfolding script, orchestrated by God, to produce a harvest. I publish this blog post smiling, still basking in the afterglow which I hope to share.

Some friends had come to see me and handed me a video, a contemporary rap message of the gospel. It was well executed, modern and cross culturally perfect for a younger post modern audience. Its arrival was timely, that week I was to share my testimony at a teenage concert of over a hundred people. Another friend had invited me to speak there, and somehow I knew people were going to be saved. It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord directs us, even when we don't know He is doing such. Part of that is making yourself totally available to His will, rather than one's own.

I wanted Souls.

I wanted to see people saved. I showed the rap message to the concert organiser. He was instantly thankful, for he knew it was an answer to prayer. He had asked God how he could move from a concert setting into a Christian testimony seamlessly without distracting from the flow. The audience was primarlily15-18+ and so attention span was limited. The arrival of the video was profound. We both sensed God's hand in it.

I sat and watched it over and over. I then thought, I need to show some pictures to support my own testimony. Photographs that would be inspirational and add impact to the verbal account. I gathered some old shots of me in Cambodia as soldier, parachuting in the special forces, the fast cars and girls, the travel and the drugs. I then designed a display theme similar to the video. Again creating a seamless flow. By the end of the week I was excited. I truly believed people were going to be saved.

I needed Bibles..

I went to the local Christian bookstore to buy 20 Bibles. When I arrived they were having a 20% storewide sale. Another God sign. I purchased the Bibles and thanked God for the discount. The concert was the following day.

I had forgotten to arrange a projector. A friend sent me a text and stated I have a projector for you. I hadn't even asked him. I left for the concert without a projector screen. I asked God to provide one. When I arrived another friend said you will need a projector screen. I said "yes I do". We jumped in a car went to another Christians house who produced a brand new projection screen. It was still in its box! I thanked God again, I was really getting excited by this point.

People started to arrive and the hall filled out. Some other Christians arrived and said they were doing a drama. The 'everything' drama. I knew it well, it is my life! God was directing everything in perfect unison. From the Video, to the drama to my testimony, the Bibles, I was somehow managing to keep up with God's presence as He weaved everything together.
The crowd was noisy, I started to worry they wouldn't pay attention. Negative thoughts were pounding me. No one will give their life to Jesus, You are going to look like a fool if you ask. At that point I knew it was Satan. I wanted someone to pray for me. Ten minutes later a trusted friend appeared from Bible college. I didn't know he was coming. I smiled walked up to him and said pray for me I am giving my testimony and I am to ask for people to be saved. He prayed earnestly.

The drama captured the young audience. It told of how we run after false things and get detached from God, to the point of suicidal thoughts -  again a mirror of my actual pre conversion life. The video was then displayed. Powerful speakers projected the message and the young audience connected with the genre the Gospel was portrayed in. My Testimony was next. When the presentation concluded all were clapping as I stepped onto the stage. By this point you can only trust God and let go, fear is no longer an option.

You hardly remember what is said. By the end I was standing on the stage and asking people to raise their hands and give their lives to Jesus. At which point they would be given one of the Bibles (holding the box aloft). Nobody. Not one hand. I was not giving up. I asked again. My heart pleading. Nobody. Then, slowly, in the front row, a young man of about 17 raised his hand. Joy burst into me. I praised God and jumped down to hand him a Bible. Then the next hand, and another, another, a group of young girls, an older lady, another young man! By the end 19 Bibles were given and all the new converts were called into a back room where we prayed together, beaming smiles all round.

Only 19 of the Bibles were taken of the twenty. Why? Because I left one at home! I only had 19 out of the twenty with me. Which was the precise number required. Perfect Direction.