John is one of the many characters who come into our church looking for community. His life has not been easy and he is a captive to his own failures. He sees no way out. Frequently we help him with food, sometimes clothing. Mostly we just sit and chat, and give him the respect he feels he does not deserve.
One day John limped in. Outside it was raining, it was cold, and he had obviously been walking for some time. As we shared coffee and talked I could see that he was in pain. I noticed his limp so I asked him if his feet were alright. 'You want to look?' he said, almost daringly. 'Sure.' Shivering, he struggled for sometime with his boots. As the boots and then his socks came free, I saw his feet were a sodden mess, rubbed raw by wet leather.
We had a good conversation. We talked about his life, his adventures on the road, his mother (whose death had seen him turn to alcohol) his young family who he left because of his shame. Eventually his boots were dry and we had found some clean socks; he was ready to move on.
Seeing him struggle to put his boots on again, I knelt to help. Looking down at me, his face screwed up in mockery, he said, 'The trouble with you Christians and the church is that you are full of bullshit!'. For several moments we simply looked at each other. I was winded. I said, 'I'm sorry you think that, John. But tell me one thing I have got to bullshit about . . .' I was insistent: 'C'mon John, one reason . . .' No reaction. He just got up and limped out.
I went about the rest of my day with mixed emotions, sorry that our conversation had ended in such an abrupt way. Thrilled that I had learned the lesson of "grace centred mission". Mission with no strings attached.
A week later, having finished my stint of market ministry selling the War Cry, I wandered back to the hall. Crossing a street, I saw John. He looked awful. 'Heh! John, are you alright!', I called. He looked me and then simply said 'No! I need the Lord.' We sat and drank coffee and John gave his heart to the Lord.
I saw John today and he was sober....!