Dear Inner Circle,
There is always a stream of people visiting here to check us out and they're
Just before Christmas, a man from a world-wide, well-known
church agency was clearly impressed at the range of things that
we do. He saw people, struggling with long-term mental health issues,
working in the roof garden; he saw a small group
constructing a mosaic tile artwork on the roof. He saw some people learning to
cook with the herbs that they'd grown on our roof; he saw a discussion group for
Aboriginal people taking place. He saw a busy cafe with people of all shapes and
sizes mixing together as they ate. He saw a play group in action in our community hall.
He saw young people in our youth area cooking their own breakfast.
He saw street people being organised for showers and a change of clothes.
As he was just about to leave, he came to me and said something like,
"I love all these things that you're doing but what about God?" I was a bit taken
back by the question because I guess I was wondering which part of what we
do gave an impression that it wasn't about God. I've thought a lot since then
about what I wished I'd said in that moment. I've come to realise that I've learned
more about God in this place than I ever learned from any eminent scholar.
A 12 year old girl told me once that her dad used to have sex with her every day.
It mostly happened in the house but when her mother was home, her dad used to
drive her to a place near a railway line where there were very few houses.
At 12 years old, this dear girl had already had about 4 years of this daily abuse.
She told me how when she was being assaulted in the car, she used to pray and
ask God for a train to derail and run her and her father over.
She never understood why God seemed to lack enough mercy to put an
end to her humiliation. She told me about a rainy day when she was in the
car and praying that God would bring a train down upon the car. She told me,
"I could only see the window of Dad's car." She prayed that a train would slip
off the wet tracks and bring life to an end. "And all of a sudden, I got it" she said.
"I saw the drops running down the window and I knew it was God's tears for me".
A funny old sausage stopped me in the street on my way in today and asked,
"Is it ok if I call you Pastor, Minister?" I said, "You can call me anything you like.
Why don't you just call me Graham?" He said, "I just want to get my terms right,
Reverend. So is it Pastor, Reverend?" I said, "Whatever you like" and he said,
I might be the luckiest man in the world. A young woman came to see me yesterday
who I don't know and with whom I'd never had a conversation. She just decided
that this was the moment that we were going to meet. She didn't want anything
from me. A fresh little face that would pass for 16 years old any day, turned out
to belong to a young woman who was actually 21 years old. She told me a story
that pushed my imagination to the limit. Her first memory is around 4 years old
when she was admitted to hospital as a result of a sexual assault by her father.
It was the hospital admission that she remembers because there was nothing
noteworthy about the sexual assault. She thought of herself as something akin
to a self serve bar for not just her father but for all of her brothers and for the
odd partner of her mother. At 21 years old, she'd already had 8 years experience
in prostitution. She has not worked now for about 10 months but she reflected
that her years in prostitution were the happiest of her life because men wanted
her and were willing to pay money to be with her. We talked for perhaps
an hour and the astonishing thing was not the facts of this story but that for
some reason, this was the moment of our meeting. As we parted this dear girl
said, "Really, I'm lucky". I couldn't find much luck in her story but somehow
I think we both shared in some real luck at that time. When we parted, I was a
different man. I can't say exactly how I was different but I know I'd received
something of incalculable value. For a short time this dear person poured her
heart out and felt safe. For me, her face filled the heavens.
If you dragged me into every church in this city and I heard all the songs and
all the sermons, I believe at the end of the exercise I'd be asking,
"But what about God?"
Thanks for being part of this inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
The Wayside Chapel
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