Friday, February 18, 2005

A Whole Lot Naive...

There was an email waiting for me. I looked at it but didn't open. I didn't want to consider it. I flicked through the rest of the mail. It's still there. I look, and I have that sinking feeling. The name I recognise - a colleague the manager at a homeless hostel; the subject - Joel Garner (making pasta with Joel; don't confuse it with Christianity and here.) I knew there was bad news. 'had to ask Joel to leave.... disappointed me ...' was the gist of it. I spent the morning avoiding the phone. I didn't want to hear the 'ins and outs'. I didn't want to hear failure. I didn't want my naivety confirmed.

Time goes and I get round to it and I hear the story of Joel.

Everything was going so well, engaging in the resettlement programme. Just a matter of time and he would have been re-housed. First step on the ladder. No problems until he teams up with someone in the hostel and together start supplying drugs. Caught in the act of bagging up their little parcels of booty. That is I'm afraid a straight dismisal in the hostel world 'do not pass go'.

I know he feels worse than me. I know he knows he has botched up, that he hasn't learned his lesson. I know in all likelihood he is back on the streets. But I really thought this was going to be a success story. You know the kind where in 20 years time he would be able to say 'you know it could've been so different'. I really thought even as I drove him to the hostel that all the failures were worth the moment that Joel came in and really wanted help and we helped.

Well I was wrong!

I feel somewhat deflated, somewhat disappointed, somewhat sorry for myself mainly because I feel a whole lot naive. Seven years of inner city ministry has caused a certain amount of cynicism, hardness, disbelief. I have seen traits in me that have become battle scars - distrust; doubt; suspicion even disparagement. Sometimes overwhellming, disabilitating. BUT my naivety has revealed something . An antidote, a sensitivity behind the inner city callouses. There is still an innocence.

I think of Joel and I hope there are more opportunities. I think of Joel and others like him that no doubt will come my way and I hope I will not lose that sense of naivety, that sense of vulnerability completely.


Sister said...

On Joel:
A quote from Henri Nouwen:
"Here we reach the point where ministry and spirituality touch each other. It is compassion. Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry. The purification and transformation that take place in solitude manifest themselves in compassion."

I think he put his finger on it, it is the only way I have found of staying able to trust, and able to resist cynicism.
Pax et bonum.

Sarah Eldridge said...

I just want to encourage you to keep up the great work you are doing. My parents are officers in the ALOVE office and speak so very highly of the work that is being done at Poplar. I also visited Poplar on one of my visits to the UK, and it really is a one in a million church community. You are leading the way in London's corps community work... you are a beacon of light in your community. There will be many Joels throughout your ministry, but please know, that your love and grace and belief in him got him as far as he was... his choice, albeit bad, was his to make. You planted a phenomenal seed into his life. Please know that for the rest of his life he will have a footprint on his heart because of you and your church community.

I'll be praying for you and for your ministry and sincerely hope to make it to Poplar on my next visit in May this year.

Much Love,
Sarah Eldridge
(Project 614 Melbourne)

Gordon said...

Thanks Sarah for your interest and encouragement - it was good to hear from you. Your folks are a big support to us so I can tell you are a chip of the old block - as they say!!

I'd love to hear more about Project 614 Melbourne - have you got a blog?