My Walkabout by Debbie Street

Christ thanked me last Saturday night. I had been talking to a man in his mid – forties sitting on the steps near a deserted street. When I turned around three youths were stood behind me, one perched precariously upon what I presumed to be a borrowed bicycle. They asked for the sandwiches but declined the coffee. I wished to get back to my conversation with the older man on the steps as he had been homeless for 17 years. But one of the youths was asking about the donuts I was rooting around for, in the bottom of the food sack. As I produced my booty one of the youngsters caught my attention, his eyes shone with a joy and freedom that was totally incongruous in relation to the situation. His hair was matted, greasy and bedraggled. His body was weary in its stance, worn out by a continuous exposure to harsh weather. He took the donut, an extra sandwich and a banana, and then, thanked me. The thanks were not related to the powers of a mere sugar donut; they held a confidence brought about only by an eternal appreciation. This homeless youth was filled with Christ’s spirit, and his appreciation spoke to me of Christ’s promise: his eternal provision and care for all who turn to him. The youth may have been speaking; yet it was Christ himself who was thanking. The journey around the streets on a typical Saturday is a blur of lights, a whirlwind of people and vehicular traffic. Shouting is interspersed with short snippets of loud music as you proceed along the route. Jostling through the hubbub of party goers and smartly clad bouncers you find a moment of calm. A homeless person has found a quiet place to sit, and perhaps beg, from the people hustling past to join the partying throng. They are usually huddled in coats, sleeping bags and hats sitting on their belongings like errant statues, waiting, waiting… As we arrive their eyes light up in appreciation: This article by one of our volunteers, Debbie Street, gives a real flavour of a typical evening on walkabout around Manchester City Centre. ‘Oh great, coffee please!’ ‘You haven’t got a sandwich have you?’ ‘Ham please’ ‘Cheese and pickle’ ‘Have you got a bag for that?’ ‘Thanks’ ‘Thanks’ ‘Thanks so much’ Sometimes a chat follows, sometimes it is time for us to move on. Often a member of the partying Manchester crowd appears; ‘Oh you guys, you are so good’ this is frequently uttered with a somewhat slurry tone. Sometimes the tone is harsh and sarcastic; ‘These homeless have more money than we do! Why are you wasting your time?’ On returning to the van, just before 11pm with empty food bags and lighter flasks, our hearts are uplifted by the sounds of singing: a joyous sound of mixed broken voices and Steve Brown’s guitar, alive in worship. It is a huge cry of joy within a city of varied beats and vibes, but its tone is distinctive, different in character to the money making clubs and bars. The van is a hive of renewal, as relationships are fostered. Conversations started over soup, sandwiches and coffee materialise into deep prayers for sustaining healing and a yearning to reach out to Christ. The worship and prayers form an oasis of spiritual peace. How can this be a waste of time? At 11pm the evening closes as the van moves off for home. Relationships gained are not deserted, as the very next morning the Church minibus appears to take all interested to the Sunday morning service. The opportunities for healing are as varied as the problems encountered, as Christ meets each homeless person exactly where they are. The evidence for this is as equally varied. Just ask the testimonies of the many people who return to speak about their healing, when they come to one of Steve and Irene’s many ‘Thankyou’ evenings.