It’s been a few weeks since we last trekked out on a Friday night to a city centre. Then, it had been Nottingham and we’d taken our new outreach vehicle (the ‘untamed’ bus) with us and gotten back at 5 in the morning. This week the word was London. We had guys there already doing some scheduled monthly outreach and some of our boys wanted to join in on Friday night. Wasn’t massively looking forward to it it must be said. It had just gotta be done, the lads needed to follow their hearts and feel supported – besides I need to get out more!
So we’re in the gate at the farm, we’ve just had tea and the 4or5 of us going down assemble there with our dear old Maria hovering around with her little bottle of ‘annointing’ oil ready to pray for us before we leave! She does so, going round the circle in the way she’s done here on a Fri night for as far back as I can remember. Legend.
Then we’re off, grab a box of our new JesusArmy street wear (modified Ecko jackets) on the way and bundle into the mini-bus picking up various other keeno’s en route, finally hitting the M1 about 8.30pm.
The journey was an event in itself! My guitar was on board and someone picked it up and started a song and we didn’t really stop that flow until we’d reached the city.. singing, praying, tongues & interpretations, faith getting released all over the place.. it was gonna be a good night! The infectious excitement was beginning to rubbing off on me. Some of these lads are still carrying it from the whole youth camp thing that went down this summer when a bunch of em totally found God, got baptised and now live seemingly raring to go and looking for every available opportunity to express their faith and push their boundaries. Reminds me of a radical young man I once knew!
We get to London, it’s nearly 10. Elco navigates me in to Leicester Square (after all these years of going down I still run the risk of getting lost!).. The ‘untamed’ bus is already there doing it’s thing. The lads (& Ruth) pile out and a couple of us disappear off to try and find parking. On to a semi-pedestrian side street, crowds parting round our slowly moving vehicle like the red sea! Once again it’s Elco to the rescue and we stick it in a side street somewhere. I squeeze the bus into a gap and jump on to the pavement. The guy immediately walking past nods at us and I say ‘ello’ and grab the moment. He must have recognised the bus (all liveried up in our JesusArmy stuff) cos he says he’d met someone earlier that day too. Turns out he’d lost his job, his place & his girlfriend the previous week and was completely down on his luck. I liked him instantly, friendly, genuine, outgoing, Polish lad, I’d invited him back to stay with us before I’d even thought about it! He jumped at the chance to help him out and that was it, he was with us.. we hadn’t been out of the vehicle 5minutes!
‘Gosh we can go home now’ I turned to Elco laughing.. ‘our jobs already done..’
God moment #1
But nothing could have been further from the truth!
We picked up our crew once back at the ‘untamed’ bus, took a while cos it was so hectic and they’d already begun to disperse but then we were all together (bar one, didn’t see him again till we were going!) and made our way up to Piccadilly with the vague idea of making some noise by the statue or something.. Got as far as Maccy Dee’s on the corner of Leicester Square (someone was desperate for the loo) and hung outside for a minute. I was jamming out a few chords on my guitar as you do and then suddenly there was this black girl standing in front of us trying to finish her mouthful, it looked like she was about to say something she seemed real interested and then a couple of her mates appeared out of the crowd and tried to drag her off..
‘not right now… common.. we gotta go..’
She’d been pulled down the street but then broke away and came back pointing..
‘I wanna sing with you-oooo-ooh’ she blurted out and in the most divine voice I think I’ve EVER heard face to face!
Think cross-over between Whitney and Rihanna….!
We were all like ‘Whohhhh..!!
She’d grabbed hold of Ruth for like 2seconds and then that was it.. whisked away into the crowd, we’d never see her again..
I was shocked. Moved in an instant! What just happened there?!
I couldn’t get it out of my head.. couldn’t get that voice out of my head!
Ruth told me later that had been the highlight of her night.. That briefest of exchanges, that touching of hearts, that human connection.. She said that as she’d reached out to her, the girl had instantly teared up..
God moment #2
Piccadilly statue. Lots of people despite the cold.. Everyone got stuck in.. There were some boys hustling, doing their business one in particular caught my eye. Had a good chat, seemed kinda conscious, prayed with him.. he carried on doing his thing. Little bit later I intro’d him to Sam and got him to tell him his story of finding Jesus, pretty fresh stuff, it did the job. We prayed again, this time I put my hand on his chest and invited the Holy Spirit to come into his life.. Something was going on. We swapped numbers. Good kid, definitely something there, we liked him.
God moment #3
Lots of good interactions going on all over but we called it a day about 12. I was conscious some people had to work the next day and didn’t want to style it out. Jack announced that he wanted to buy everyone a McDonnalds so back we went. The place was heaving even at this time of night. Probably one of the busiest restaurants in the world I’d guess, right on the corner of one of it’s busiest streets.
We managed to secure a table and crowded round about 8-9 of us, while some of the boys went to get food. Out of nowhere there’s this guy in front of us, he’d just picked up my guitar without me noticing and now proceeded to try and give us a show! (The thought had already occurred to me that here was a ready made audience but I’d dismissed it on the grounds of likely eviction.. but now this guy was proving me wrong!)
His efforts were.. interesting!:) Then he passed me the guitar.. my turn apparently!
No pressure then, what a moment.. ‘which song..’ (scanning internal database.. search engine whirring.. ‘song with grip and atmosphere)
Ah.. ‘His blood is precious’.. perfect!
The singing guy had now managed to squeeze himself in at our table along with his mate who’d given up trying to extricate him and joined the party!
I launched into my song complete with soaring chorus at high volume!
…’And so I worship Jesuuuuusssss… Laaaammb of God….’
The guys now sitting down were joining in with the rest of us.. heads began to turn, people gather round.
I played another song cos they wanted some r’n’b ‘You’ve made a difference in my life’ a testimony song, then we got down to it..
‘I wanna believe but the rational part of me wants proof’ my man was saying..
‘Right, we’re gonna pray right here right now for you to experience Him’ I replied.
That was it, hands laid on, find the words, focus on God’s spirit, God’s love.. that’s it, that transfer of life, of energy..
I’d finished praying and went to take my hand away but he didn’t move.. sat there, eyes closed lost in the moment, oblivious to the hubbub all around him.. I left my hand there.. just let him receive, drink in that sense of presence. Finally he sat up.
‘I felt it’.. he said.
God moment #4
We swapped facebooks, he’s at PricewaterhouseCoopers.. You can meet anyone and everyone in London.
It turned out this was the second time he’d bumped into Christians that day and been prayed for I think. Amazing.
It took quite some time to get back to our bus, by now we were buzzing hard and kept stopping to talk to people, stopping groups of people as a group, singing or whatever. You just know when you’ve got it (and when you haven’t incidentally!) cos you’re like gliding on this confidence that isn’t really your own, the life of the town, in charge of situations, able to merge with the moment as it presents itself. God moments.
I point to the red cross on the back of the jackets as we leave the last group of black lads open mouthed on the pavement having just worshipped with them..
‘Remember.. it’s Jesus Army’ I tell them
We won’t forget.. they reply..
Once again I’m in love with London, see the potential for movement, ache to make stuff happen in this great people centre, alive with possibilities..
Once again it strikes me how incredible it is to be the Jesus Army. Never more obvious than when it’s doing this kind of stuff. A church for its time, resourced, ready, relevant.
We’re waking up to our future. Let’s do this
I’m increasingly conscious of our need to communicate far more effectively.
John Griff (local Beeb radio presenter) – who actually has me on his show this coming Monday – told us recently
‘You guys need to get your message out there.
You have a great ‘brand’ and a great ‘product’ but first and foremost people need to know what you’re doing.
Good works speak for themselves.’