Recently I purchased a fold out poster for Street Chaplains. The final design chosen was a backpacker helping another climb a mountain. Its caption read - the path of life leads upward for the wise. The illustration wasn't exactly what I wanted, however, the Chaplain leader pointed out how Street Chaplains often come in contact with backpackers and thus it was appropriate. Neither of us could possibly have known how fitting these words would be.
10 th Dec, Saturday night, three Chaplains headed out to face Northbridge. It was a full moon, and tonight was also an eclipse. Superstition can play havoc with people's minds; I disregarded any such thoughts entering my own head. It is a large spinning rock that reflects the sun's rays - nothing more. That day, however, had been an intense one for spiritual disciplines. I literally prayed for hours. In blocks of 30 to 45 minutes. In between prayer I read Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews, 1 Peter and half of Matthew. Arriving at the briefing there was a heightened sense of God's Spirit. Either it was to be quiet night or a very busy one. The Street Chaplain leader opted for the latter.
We prayed specifically. One prayer asked for people to be guided to us by God's Spirit. Another prayer asked that our faith may be increased and at its increase that our renewed faith may be used more powerfully. We headed off in eager anticipation. There was a surreal feeling of joy and peace God was making His presence felt. We stopped at Drug Arm. Immediately all three of us were in conversations with people. The discussions instantly involved God. The conversations moved naturally with no animosity or aggression. God's Spirit was clearly bringing people to us.
We headed off exchanging warm farewells. Our next incident was a man being sick. Vomit is an integral part of being a Street Chaplain. After awhile you just get used to it. In fact it is often a welcoming sign. Soon the person will be a little more sober. This particular man was no exception.
We gave him water and a hand towel. Hundreds of people were watching including the bouncers. Rosy O'Gradys is a good old Irish pub were British backpackers really do their country proud by proving they are masters of mixing drinks. Then projectile vomit them onto the street. The young man came back to the land of the living. He thanked us.
The bouncer gave us the thumbs up and the nod. Gaining respect from bouncers is no easy task. Helping those who are vomiting is the fastest way to impress them. No one likes handling vomit. It is not sulphuric acid though and actually doesn't burn if you come in contact with it. More importantly however, is that some poor soul is retching his or her stomach up; a bit of compassion goes a long way.
Again we walked off smiling. Our little team was bonding warmly - fast. After walking a lap of the city we sat down near the cultural centre on the main stairs of a piazza. Two gay men approached us. One was called - Luke. We had just been discussing the recent announcement of the Labour party's approval of gay marriage. Amazingly straight after this discussion the men approached and asked our opinion of this very topic. We gently told them we didn't agree with it. Luke proceeded to tell us neither did he and that he was once an Anglican Christian. We chatted with him and he introduced his partner. They thanked us for our time and moved on. We had stood our ground but under a Spirit of humility, dignity and gentleness. Without yielding our beliefs and no aggression surfaced. God's Spirit was present. We were started to truly sense Him.
An interesting Bicycle Christmas tree had been erected in the area as modern art. We all agreed it was creative. One drunken man didn't. He decided one of the bike components was his own Bicycle. He then proceeded to vandalise the structure. We walked over. I placed my hand on him gently and asked him to leave it alone. He yelled abuse at me, then feigned falling on the ground yelling a Street Chaplain touched me.
Thankfully he was no longer destroying the artwork. He hurriedly left abusing us. Onlookers were happy we had stepped in and saved the art work. Walking off I left the backpack behind. In the excitement I completely forgot it. On return it was gone. So to was my car keys that I had placed in the pack.
We prayed. Then started to search. Nothing. I was trying in vain to trust God had reason for this. Including my car spending the night in Northbridge and all the hassles of getting new keys. I wanted to believe it would turn up. We then called the Police operation room and asked the camera department to check footage and see if they could see who stole it.
The police were sincerely sympathetic and very helpful. Within seconds over forty Police Officers were notified that the Chaplain's pack had been stolen. Police everywhere were asking if we had found it. One Officer stated I wouldn't want to be the person to have taken it - bad Karma ( I refrained from telling him that is Hinduism). I probably wouldn't want to be that person either however. Forty Police were now after him.
Christ often placed himself in vulnerable positions to allow others to help him. It empowered them. Over the years the Chaplains have done literally hundreds of good deeds in helping the Police. Tonight it was the Police's turn to return the favour. It was touching to see the entire shift's concern. Almost protective of us. To us, however, we could sense God was on the move behind the scenes. We started to be less anxious.
Whilst searching for the backpack we were led into dark nooks and crannies.
In each dark corner we encountered Aboriginal groups of men. Everyone of them was helpful and concerned for our pack. One man asked us to pray for his injured finger! We quickly sensed God was using the lost pack to guide us like chess pieces around His chess board. Leading us to where He needed us. It was surreal keeping up with the Spirit's activity. On entering one of these gangs they had looked aggressive, that is until we talked to them. Immediately respect and sincerity was their response. God was removing all fear.
Walking down the street still keeping an eye out (this now an hour later) two police asked did you get your keys back? We didn't know what they meant. They then told us "Oh the pack has been found we just heard it on the radio". Praise God. We were ecstatic in thankfulness and so to were the police - beaming smiles all round.
We hurriedly headed to the central station. On arriving another Officer with a Smile as wide as a Cheshire Cat handed us our recovered pack. The police had found it thrown in a bush. Every Officer on that shift knew that the Street Chaplain backpack was recovered. And everyone knew God had something to do with finding the stolen item so quickly. I opened the pack. The medical kit had been rummaged but nothing was taken. And...the sixty five dollars of Street Chaplain money was also completely intact in the side pocket. God blinds the eyes of who he chooses! Even the money was there including my keys.
We were literally aglow with joy. We could also see God's plan in the whole series of events. Challenging our faith, involving the Police, leading us into dark little corners, and then praying for people within those corners! This however was just the beginning. God was simply warming up!
Not long afterwards we approached two Police helping a man on the concrete. He was bleeding from injuries to his face and head. The ambulance arrived but couldn't find us. The other Chaplain ran off to alert the Ambulance. By the time he arrived it was 400 metres away in the wrong direction. Amazingly the officers invited the Chaplain into the Ambulance to guide them to the scene. On route He was able to explain the injuries and incident. A trainee Officer was at the wheel and so the mature mentor was thankful to the Street Chaplain. Another solid connection made, this time with the Ambulance Service.
Our phone rang.
The Police were calling us to the Central Station. Four backpackers had just had their car stolen and the Police asked if we could help them! On the phone I stated at the least we can give them some sympathy. The Police were thankful for the support. Leaving the injured man we headed off - the Police and Ambulance Officer thanking us. Rather than praying we suggested we would wait and pray for the car in front of the backpackers. Then if the car was found - God would get the glory - not coincidence.
Now our faith was really being tested. You could almost hear God say "If you can believe I can find a little backpack, do you believe I can find a backpacker's car?". Backpack Poster - Backpack - Backpacker's car. Surreal enough?
On arriving at the station four young European Backpackers greeted us. Their car with all their belongings - including their backpacks was stolen. We decided the first thing to do was to give them the money we had. We were amazed we even had it after our own backpack had been stolen thus it was the least we could do to help them. We then told them of how God had helped us find our own stolen Backpack. We told them that if even just one of them can believe then we also believe God can help find your car. They were reassured as we reiterated the story of our own Backpack being retrieved after prayer.
There in front of Perth Western Australia's central Police Headquarters the most amazing miracle occurred. Three Chaplains and four young European Backpackers bowed their heads and prayed to God in the name of His son Jesus Christ. We prayed the car would be found and all said Amen.
Then the miraculous happened.
No sooner had we said amen than a Senior Officer walked out of the Station and said "We have found your Car". Literally ten seconds had transpired.
The young female backpacker screamed and placed her hands on her mouth. The three men teared up immediately. Of course the Chaplains were also amazed, we tried to keep our composure at such a powerful sign of God's interaction. They nearly kissed our hands. We continually told them thank God, you now know God is very real. They tried to give us the money back but we told them God wanted you to have it, He loves you very much.
They were in shock. Joyous Shock. As we turned to leave one of them said "You are real angels". A Police woman across the street witnessed the whole event. Including the prayer and immediate response then adulation afterwards.
I prayed in tears the next morning. That people's eyes would be open. That they could see how no earthly coincidence could orchestrate such an amazing series of events. We three Chaplains pray that the eyes of those that hear this story may also be opened. That your faith increases as much as ours did.
Jack Jones, Editor of The Christian Network and Street Chaplain - http://www.thechristiannetwork.com, Australia's most comprehensive Christian Web Magazine.
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Hope everything is OK, Sara! I will miss the chlaleng todoes, but I still have my book to help me along! Your question though is one that convicts me daily- what does my family see in my behavior and is it what I expect out of them? I would like to say that they see me as a Godly woman, doing everything in God's glory. But that wouldn't be the truth. I take this as a daily chlalenge, to show the presence of God in everything I do, even when I'm just at home w tith my family!! Chores and to do lists can wait- life goes too fast not to soak up every moment.
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