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.


  1. Good stuff Jack - love the work you guys do!
    Andrew Hamilton

  2. i think its amazing to see how God is using you on this front line. This is an encouraging story, thanks for sharing it Jack.


  3. Thanks Andrew and Chadd

    To our God be all the praise, whilst I'm not fit to carry His sandals He allows us to serve, yet serves us at the same time!

    Thanks guys for your encouragement, means a lot to me

  4. hi jack. i enjoyed meeting & talking with you at eagles mission last week. i couldn't imagine doing what you guys are doing! may the lord bless you & keep you, and make his face to shine upon you, & give you peace.


  5. Hi Allen,

    Thanks mate and thank you for the very encouraging words and prayer! It was good meeting you too.

    God Bless - glad you found the blog!

  6. Hi jack!

    Thanks for sharing your stories-inspiring indeed.. Thank God for that! He is truly great, much greater than I could ever imagine. God bless!