Saturday, February 28, 2015

Widening the Tent Pegs

The winter internship has been going on for four weeks now, and it has been a whirlwind. I had forgotten how different it is to staff an internship as compared to a DTS. I am leading the media track this internship, which means teaching lessons in photography every day. We also go to Camden, Soho, and Notting Hill for evangelism and intercession every week. On top of that, the team is helping to start a ministry of feeding the homeless in Notting Hill, which means training with some nearby nuns. We also got to participate with the council of Harlesden, the area of London where one of the base houses is, to provide the entertainment (and therefore to do evangelism through stilts, music, and face painting) for a community event on the 14th of February.

I love the times of evangelism that we do, because it means that we get to build relationships with the people in the areas of London that God has placed on our hearts. We go into the Portobello Road Market on Saturdays and visit the same stall owners over and over again, sharing life with them and telling them repeatedly about the God who created them and loves them. In England, it takes quite some time to build relationships and invest in people to a point where they are willing to hear more about God. Over the past few visits to Notting Hill, I have gotten to speak quite a bit to Maria, a jewelry maker from Austria, to Michelle, an antiques collector from England, and to Crystal, a trans-gender musician who used to live on the streets and is struggling to keep performing with new licensing laws.

The most difficult evangelism that we do is in Soho. We go every week to partner with a church and hand out teas and coffees. The evangelism always begins with worship, which helps to focus us on doing it to glorify God. Soho has cleaned up a lot since I began going there in 2012, especially after a lot of the brothels were shut down a year ago, but there is still a lot of brokenness visible there. I've talked to a lot of people who struggle with confusion: sexual confusion, confused identity, confusion about their purpose in life, and more. These are the conversations that tear my heart wide open. I cannot give them correct answers to their questions, because my wisdom and experience are limited by age and culture and past experience. I can only offer them love and the possibility of God, who created them and loves them beyond any earthly love. I know that the love of God can transform lives. And I pray, I pray, I pray that they will know that the love of God can transform their lives.

One of my jobs during Soho evangelism has been to go down to a massage parlour to get hot water for the teas and coffees, which means wading through Buddha idols and clients and the women and lady boys (It's a Thai massage parlour) who service the clients. I have been praying for years to have the opportunity to talk to them, and when it was presented to me unexpectedly, I was unprepared for what I saw. I have come to the realisation that it is not my job to heroically go in and save them. I don't know the situations that they are in; in fact, I am only just now, after several weeks, at the point of being able to have conversations with the people who work at the parlour. The first week, when I saw the small corridor where they sit on the floor and wait for clients, I couldn't remember how to breathe. I knew that I couldn't cry, so the only thing I could do was pray fervently as I waited for the kettle to boil.

God has been widening the pegs of the tent that is my heart. I have done nothing to deserve the sheer honour of talking to all of the people that I encounter in evangelism. I am still amazed when they are willing to open their hearts and pasts to me, a stranger on the street. It is still a challenge to swallow my own self justice and understanding to let God be magnified inside of me. However, I am so, so thankful that God is using me. I make mistakes, I trip up in conversations, I snap at my housemates or behave selfishly or any number of other things, but God still uses me. Some days, it hurts to talk to people who are hurting and who spew that hurt in words of anger, or who ignore me like I'm not even there on the streets with them, but it is worth it. It is worth it for the absolute privilege of bringing my Saviour's name to the streets of London.

Soho Evangelism: