Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A "Cruel Summer" - But God...

Please note that I have to take a little time to polish the following up. I tend to go from past tense to present tense etc... Unfortunately I have to eat and then get to a meeting and will have to make corrections later.

I was rereading my journal entries from my time in Vancouver and stumbled on this one from Sunday, June 14th, 2009. It is an account of what transpired, over about an hour, on my way to a new Bible study on Hastings Street .

God has once again reminded me of man's depravity... and His grace.

Because I was 45 minutes early I had to wait outside the Sky Train station. While waiting to be taken into the city I met 2 Somalians and a Congolese.
Though these were some very tough looking guys, I decided to ask them about themselves in order to learn more about how they viewed the world.

The two Somalians were former soldiers in the Somali army and the young man from the Congo was also a former soldier for his former country. All were self proclaimed killers; not just soldiers but killers. As I spoke to them you could not only see the hatred of the Somalian who appeared to be the "leader" of the group but you could almost feel it as well. He seethed with rage. The other Somalian also seemed very jaded but much more willing to talk. I feel that this young man and possibly the man from the Congo will be the easiest to reach if I am ever able to meet him one on one.

[They seemed like a pack of wolves waiting to devour what ever came into their path.]

Though it was about 7 a.m. the Somalian who was the most talkative had just finished fighting someone else, while at a party that aparently was still going on somewhere near by. He was bleeding and his shirt had been shredded.
Some more young men who were former Africans who had been at that party came stumbling up. I knew that it was best that I made a quick exit due to the potential for violence. I then hopped a bus and took it into the city rather than waiting around.

I arrived at Hastings (I was actually 1 block away) and because I was early for the Bible study I went to get a bite to eat at the McDonalds. This is not your "normal" McDonalds though it looks like one from the outside. This McDonalds is not a family friendly McDonalds. In fact it is not the "average person" friendly McDonalds. As I entered McDonalds, behind me was a screaming woman. She was not screaming at anyone in particular (just the person that existed inside her head). She continued to rant and rave, flailing her arms as she proceeded down the street. No one seemed to even notice her... no one noticed because this is normal everyday life on Hastings.
As I approached the counter, before me was a woman so messed up on drugs that she was literally bent over so far to the side that her hand was dragging back and forth across the ground as she tried to keep her balance. Her cognitive capabilities would not have allowed it any type of "contact" with her.
Keep in mind this is not your everyday woman. This is a person that was at one time some daddy's little girl who now lived on the streets. In order to support her addiction she had to sell herself.
A security guard who worked on that block came to escort her out because she would not move (was not able to move) from her place in line which was preventing customers from ordering their breakfast. He basically picked her up and carried her outside (as she screamed and kicked) and graciously sat her on the ground by a tree so that she could lean against it. She quickly got back up and ran/stumbled her way back into the McDonalds only to be confronted by a second security officer. Seeing both men she ran/stumbled (while leaning sideways) out of the McDonalds and across the street to another homeless lady who put her arm around her and escorted her down an alley. It is quite amazing to see how many of the homeless take care of one another.
Another homeless lady came in and began to dig through a tray that someone had left on the table looking for something to eat. She was singing the wrong words to a song that was playing over the speakers and was dancing like someone from the 80's would. As I observed her she was dressed like some women who lived in the 80's would dress.
As this is going on a man leaves the McDonalds and starts angrily yelling at me through the window. Thankfully he keeps walking down the street as he is cussing at me.

The singing lady is now dancing at her table.

A homeless man pushing a cart peers in the window and sees the tray that had been left on the table and comes in to see if he can find anything to eat. Not finding anything he walks back out and pushes his cart down the sidewalk on to find something else to eat.

The dancing lady comes to me and asks if I am a Christian (I am reading my Bible). I tell her that I am and she says that she is too. She said that she attends "Glad Tidings Church". She then tells me that her name is Stephanie. My heart was already heavy for her and grew even heavier as we visited. I found that Stephanie had come to live on Hastings 20 years earlier. She was now homeless and had to prostitute herself in order to maintain her drug addiction. Though she looked to be in her 60's, she wasnt much older than me (41). Twenty years of exceptionally hard living had not only almost killed her but would soon kill her.
While I was talking to her, a wild eyed, desperate for a fix, filthy young man came up to me and requested/pleaded/demanded that I give him enough money to make a phone call. I told him that I didn't have money for a phone call but would be glad to buy him something to eat. He forcefully expressed his desire for the money so that he could make a phone call. I told him again, very firmly this time, that I didn't have money for a phone call. Stephanie then called him by name (which I cant remember) and told him to leave because he wasn't going to spend it on a phone call but on drugs. He then told her that he wasn't trying to squeeze anything out of what she might be getting from me and she told him to leave right then because she wasnt trying to get anything from me and that I was her friend. We talked for a while and she answered many of my questions about Hastings. One that sticks out is her answer to my question regarding a man in his 30's who was pushing an empty shopping cart down the street. She told me that he was going "thieving". I asked her exactly what that meant and she said it meant exactly what it suggests. He was going out into the city (I saw many people doing the same thing during my 5 months in the city) with the intention of stealing anything and everything he could so that he could take it back to the streets and sell it in order to buy drugs.
Because Stephanie told me that she was a Christian I decided to probe a little deeper to find out about her apparent faith in hopes that if she was a prodigal daughter, God might deliver her from her lifestyle and bring her back to Himself. It seemed as if God were already adding to the new Bible study there on Hastings. I was saddened to find out that she was only a cultural Christian. She had no idea who Jesus was nor why He came to the earth. As I began to explain the Gospel to her, beginning in John 4, like the woman at the well, she began to change the subject. She interrupted me and told me who her favorite person in the Bible was (Abraham) and then excused herself as she danced her way out of the store singing some 80's hit. Was it a Bananarama song?

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