Wouldn’t normally be a problem, but last week I was on the streets of London until the wee small hours, for three nights. November nights are cold and I’d intended to wear that extra layer of insulation. As it was I had to resort to stamping and jogging on the spot from time to time.
Each month, for a three-night stint, a team of about a dozen Jesus Army soldiers take one of the church’s double-decker coaches and stay out late in London’s West End, serving food and drink, talking to people about the gospel, and praying with those who would like us to. We call it EDP - 'eat, drink and pray'.
Arriving on the Wednesday night at about 9 o’clock, a couple of young brothers and I decided to grab the atmosphere with a few songs. One played the guitar, one the bongos; I just gave it full throatle. After we’d sang for a bit (old gospel medleys mainly – ‘I’ve got joy’, ‘I’ve found a new life’) I turned round and saw a grinning face.
One chat later, I knew the person behind the face was that of Peteris from Latvia. He’d come to England a couple of year’s earlier and worked in Milton Keynes for a time. But Peteris’s luck had ran out when he had a forklift accident and lost his job. He’d drifted, ending up on London’s streets only a couple of weeks before I met him. He was grateful for the hot drink and appreciated the friendly company. He also told me how, back in Latvia, he’d been to a Christian meeting and been struck by the warmth and genuineness he’d found there.
The night rolled on. Many chats, many hot drinks. But Peteris stayed on my mind – and sure enough, the next night he was back. We talked again and he introduced me to his friend Georgs, also Latvian; they’d met on the streets.
The last night was an exciting night for the team, as several ‘words of knowledge’ (things people had sensed beforehand would come true that night) had come to fruition. ‘Someone’s gonna meet someone with the same name as team members’ – check, that was Andrew (we had two Andrews on the team). ‘Someone’s gonna be drawn to a draw-er’ – check, Bethan found herself very moved by the story of an old homeless man, only finding out later that he drew pencil drawings (he drew one of her). ‘Portcullis House’ – check, we went there and had a significant encounter with an ex-gangster who knew his need of Jesus (the person who gave us this word didn’t know there was a Portcullis House in London, and certainly didn’t know it was the main office block for the Houses of Parliament!) And so on. It does add a sense of working with God.
Peteris came back that night and we talked more deeply about what it meant to follow Jesus and be a Christian. He drank it all in. ‘Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith?’ (James 2:5)
I was able to pray with him and help him pray his own prayer of commitment.
Frankly, there’s nothing better than that. I would go so far as to say that not even the birth of my own children quite compares with the joy of leading someone to new birth as they believe in Christ.
I put Peteris and his friend Georgs in touch with my friend from the Jesus Army in London. They stayed with them the next night and by all accounts are getting on well.
Being on the front line; serving many; sharing the gospel; I loved it.
Even without my long johns.
(Some names are changed. I'll put up some photos of the EDP tomorrow.)