Ominous skies and a prediction of rain foreshadowed my return trip to Toowoomba today.
Driving back from Brisbane the little coward in me was quietly hoping that a storm would cancel tonight’s event while another part of me prayed that God would let the outreach go ahead.
I arrived in the Toowoomba CBD a little later and I saw that God had allowed the storm to skirt around the city. We were thankfully good to go.
Out of our 5 regular team members only Paul was available tonight and so the two of us meet at the Margaret Street McDonalds and prayed together. Paul is an amazing man of God and our team is blessed to have this quiet, knowledgeable and genuinely passionate bloke regularly join us.
We spent time in prayer together, which in 12 years of Street Outreach never fails to be an experience best described as that “electric yet calm” experience of being in the presence of God. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would do big things in the CBD tonight and that God’s would save and transform many, just as He graciously did for us whilst we were in the midst of our sin and indifference to Him.
We began the outreach by walking up and down one of the main streets of the CBD in Toowoomba (Margaret st) and gave tracts to people we encountered. Thursday nights tend to bring out a certain kind of person and whilst families are rare you’ll find groups of teenagers and groups of adults of various ages all milling about looking for things to do. You’ll also find a number of people sitting by themselves which can provide opportunities for conversation should the person in question wish to talk.
Our first conversation was with two younger women who were waiting on the side of the road. I offered one a “Good Person” Comic and was immediately met with the wary reply “Is it about Jesus?” When I said yes, she replied that she was not interested and upon further discussion told me that she had an “Italian Catholic” background. I asked her if she had considered her Catholic background now as an adult, to which she replied “Yes and I’m definitely not interested” with a fair degree of anger in her voice.
It is times like this when you can choose to pursue the conversation or not. There are no hard and fast rules..it’s rather how the situation “feels” and the person’s tone and body language. In this case we chose to pursue the conversation a little further and then wish these two women a good night.
I constantly second guess myself over these situations, yet the general approach we take is to risk “under-engagement” as compared to “over-engagement” which can leave the person with negative memories of pushy, Bible-bashing Christians. Instead, we want to leave hardened and overtly hostile people with a generally good memory of their brief encounter with us. It may become the only good memory of Christians they have and we pray that next time they may be more open to discussing weighty issues with Christians (either on the street or ones they know in their day to day lives).
Our next encounter on the streets played out very differently. Paul and I met a group of three middle-aged men who were standing around and talking. We came up to them and asked them “Have you gotten one of these tonight?” and handed each of them a tract. One of the asked “What is this all about?” and Paul replied it was about Jesus. This answer instantly sent all three men to reading our tracts with an intense interest. One of them mentioned “Oh wow! I go to the Church just up the street.” as he pointed to St Luke’s Anglican. He then eagerly went back to reading the tract. It was really heartening to see such a response from such an unlikely source and we pray that these men will have a genuine and undeniable encounter with God if they haven’t already.
The rest of the night passed rather quickly. It was blessing to be able to engage in this work and to met so many different people from different walks of life and share the awesome news of who God is and what He has done/is doing and will do for men and women even today.
We entrust the night’s efforts to God, knowing that not one encounter or one tract was wasted. He cares more about this city and about its people more then we ever could and we look forward to the ripple effect of tonight’s work into eternity as He sovereignly moves for His glory and our joy.