Saturday, 13 July 2013

Crayford Way

We're back in Leicester, and the weekend promises to be different.   However, we don't manage an early start.  It's Barrie's 70th birthday in a few days, and Harriet has organised a party.  Chris decoys him away on the excuse of a Saturday morning walk.  On their return at lunchtime, the house is full of friends, family and food.

When Mary and I finally arrive at Springfield, together with Lil and her electric truck, no-one answers the door.  They're all in the picturesque back garden.  Tea's on the menu, but Barrie's birthday buffet indulgence means we decline.  I settle down in the bay window with my laptop, and the sisters chat.  Clive and I pop out to visit a former member in his local flat.  The number of young guys around has dwindled, and I know Clive's facing discouragement. 

Later in the evening we pile down to the city centre for some 'Free Healing' evangelism.  I'm in the back of the minibus feeling slightly disinclined towards the venture.  The remainder of the saints are in 'Vision and Action' hoodies.  I'm wearing a Jesus Army jacket - new style.  "Hmm, pretty retro," commented Andy as we left the house.  Half the reason I wear it is that I feel the cold as we near 11.00pm.

I watch the reactions of the restaurant and bar customers around the outdoor tables as the new livery of the minibus passes slowly by.  "I'm not feeling like I'm warming to this," I quietly pray.  "You don't have to feel either way - you're going because it's My initiative;" I sense a reply.  "And it may not be a success... In fact, you without Me can't possibly make it a success," the intuition continues.  No, of course, healing - it's preposterous.  "There's no guarantee, even, that you won't get roughed up."  True.  I have, after all, signed up for being dispensable, even disposable.  Somehow I find purpose and meaning in being out on these terms.

We split into two teams (three and four) and trek round the pedestrian zone.  Lesley engages a guy in conversation while the rest of our team  chats to the regular busker with his electric violin.  Lesley asks me for the price of a burger, and she duly reappears with food for the guy.  Later I see him going into McDonalds.  On the next street she greets a long-haired barefooted reveller. "I'm Lesley."  "I'm Jesus.  You lot are all believing the wrong thing," he charges.  I feel sorry for the guy, if only because he's likely to get his feet cut on broken glass round here.

Half an hour on, and the other three are deeply engrossed in conversation with a young Asian who's proving very interested.  I pray a bit; and watch the taxis go by and the night-club touts stamping wrists for after-hours drinks.  It's now past our rendezvous time, but no rush.  I get accosted by a swaying character who wants me to buy him some chips.  He promises he'll pay me back.  I'm not impressed.  "Actually, I'm with these friends," I nod. "And we have to leave."  It's now the guy's turn to be not impressed, and he staggers off muttering.

Back at the Clock Tower we learn that the other team's met up with some previous contacts.  It's all been a worthwhile time.

Sunday morning is a military exercise.  We plan to spend the day in Netherhall in the north of the city.  This means: the morning meeting; lunch at the Community Centre; the afternoon gardening or doing tip runs; or round the local estate or chatting with folks; finishing with a barbecue in the Centre car-park.   We pack every vehicle with PA kit, catering stuff, gardening tools and rubbish bags.  It's sunny and already hot, and we're all wearing our London Day green tee-shirts.

Richard's primed me that he'll leave the whole meeting in my hands.  Clive, as if to make amends for the previous time when the limited hall booking brought the meeting to an emergency stop, asides, "Preach as long as you like today, captain." 

We're 'going acoustic' again.  It's working well for the congregation.  I comment that Sheffield's just resorted to amplification and a voice mic again.  I've picked some songs that I can confidently play too, and the worship and congregation participation swings along well.  We even finish in reasonable time.  There's a good sense of ownership in the scene; and 'adult' vibe that wants to play a part.

I find I'm caught up in several conversations, and miss first the lunch and then the large gardening team setting off.  I follow the tracks from Lil's truck across the recreation ground and grass verges, then catch the sound of the strimmers in action.  Working on invitations they've exchanged before, the saints are spread out along Crayford Way.  

The local residents are mucking in.  We're throwing piles of rubbish bags of grass and privet clippings into the back of the Jesus Army Help Unit.  It's a hot high-summer afternoon.  Folks chat easily.  After an hour, Caleb takes the Help Unit to the Recycle Centre and I jump in.  As we wind across the city, I sign the tipping permit, and try to get my bearings.  The Centre is buzzing with purposeful de-cluttering.  We have a bigger than average payload and Caleb races for the best parking spot. 

Unloading the bags, dust blows back into my face, but we work quietly and efficiently.  I like Caleb.  Our families lived together in Warwickshire in the way-back-when days.  New fatherhood has rounded his character.  The trip's taken longer than we expected, and Clive rings to find out what's happened to us.   There's plenty enough rubbish waiting for a second tip run, and we load up again.

The gardening team's finished and transferred over to the barbecue at the Community Centre.   The younger guys have made a good job of the cooking, and the salad's great.  Mary's had quite an adventure, having been invited into the home of a Palestinian family.  She was served chai tea and traditional rolls, like small pancakes, freshly prepared by the grandmother.  Now she's sitting chatting to a lady from Somalia.  In her sun hat she looks for all the world like an archetypal 1950s missionary.  Andy picks up a guitar and we round off the day's adventure with some praise songs.  Yea, there's been plenty to 'Bless the Lord' for. 

Driving home I chew on the pros and cons of using the weekend this way.  It's been a good challenge, and good to share the saints' energy and imagination.

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