church IS people
You might have guessed by now that I really liked Denver. The city is meh but the people are WOW! To finish the Denver part of this blog and this trip I want you to meet 2 more folks. Vivian and Lotti.
This is Vivian.
I went back to City Park on Sunday morning to help with the Homeless Communion again. I arrived quite early, about 11, and just watched as the under privileged of Denver gathered for both spiritual and physical food. It was a warm day so instead of sitting in the sun they just laid their bags in a queue and went to sit in the shade. As I stood under a tree and watched a young woman came over to me and asked, “Do you want me to pray for you?”
This shocked me, and I didn’t reply, she said again, “Hi, I’m Vivian from one of the local churches, I’m not Jehovah’s Witness or anything weird, I’m just a Christian – would you like me to pray for you?”
“Yes please” I stammered.
“What shall I pray for? Do you need a roof or some food?” I must admit this made me re-think my ward-robe, to her I looked homeless! I thought it was a Denver Hipster look but apparently it was Denver Dropout – oh well, it could be worse, I could have looked like a tourist.
“No thank you” I said, Im travelling through.
“OK” and uncorking a bottle of oil she anointed my head and prayed a simple prayer for a traveler.
She said “God bless you” and walked on. I watched, she went up to every homeless person there (about 90 of them by the end) and asked each one of them. She got about a 70% positive response but not once did she get any abuse or bad reaction.
With those who wanted she anointed them and prayed with them, chatted for a couple of minutes and walked on. She never asked for anything, she never seemed harsh or angry. Just a young woman doing what little she could to help spread the love of God.
It was oddly lovely to watch. She will never read this blog, I doubt I’ll ever see her again but I pray that God blesses her in all she does. If you have a faith, please include Vivian the prayer girl in your prayers too.
Meet Lotti – my new friend Lotti.
After the Communion service in the park I need to head to the House for All Sinners and Saints. I put it into Google Maps (my new favourite app by a mile) and it told me to walk two blocks and catch a number 20 bus which was due in an hour.
Off I went and found the bus stop. Sitting on the bench was a guy so I sat down and said, “Hi.” People seem to do that here.
He looked straight at me – “Did you just say hi to a black fella?”
“Ummm, yes I did.”
“Well Lord bless me, today is a good day!” He said. “Not many folks would say hi to an old black fella like me, are you sure you want to?”
“Yes, I’m sure, Hi, I’m Siôn.”
“Well Sharn (that’s how they say it here), it sure is good to talk to you, I’m Lotti.”
We shook hands. Well, no thats not true, I extend my hand, and so did he and then we did some weird synchronised swimming kind of thing with our hands and fingers and thumbs.
“Did yer get that?’ He asked.
“Show me again” He did. And about 10 tries later he was satisfied that I could do it. “Well done boy. Dap me.”
I looked puzzled – “Put your fist out like this” – I did, so he punched me in the hand. “That’s dappin’. We do that when you get something right.”
I’m a total social native now.
Lotti and I sat and talked for the hour the bus took to come. He found out I was a minister – “You ain’t like no white preacher I ever seen – they don’t talk to the likes of me.”
“Thank you” I said and meant it.
He loved the fact I had come from Australia but, “There are better things to do in Denver than talk to Lotti.”
You know what? I don’t think there was. He was a Veteran of Vietnam, he used to drive trucks for a living. He laughed a deep booming laugh ever time he could, he shared wisdom and stories in equal measure. He talked of his family and obviously loved them to bits, and they him. He spoke of how he hadn’t been to church for 45 years because he’d been told God didn’t have time for him and that he wasn’t good enough for the Kingdom. I lost it at this (as those who know me you can imagine), “What rubbish! God’s got more time for you than some guy in a suit who would tell you that. Did you go to Sunday School?”
“Every week, in my best clothes” he said.
“Tell me the stories of Jesus that you remember,” I said. “Who did he spend the most time with?”
He thought about that for a minute, a far away look in his eyes.
“Well, let me see, I remember something about sinners and lepers and some little tax gatherer up a tree.”
“Do you remember the story about the good church people he sat with?”
“No, sir, I don’t recall that one.”
“Because it’s not really there – Jesus didn’t go to the folks who thought they were good enough, the suits and the preachers, he went to where people didn’t think they were good enough.”
“Yes, Lotti I am, take this.” I gave him the little Bible I carry in my backpack for when my iPad runs out of battery. “Read the New Testament, that starts here. Tell me what you think.”
“I will” he said.
The bus arrived, we got on. He went and sat down. “Can I sit with you?” I asked.
“You wanna sit with me?”
“Of course I do”
We sat and continued to talk. This was his area, people he knew got on. He introduced me to them all. We talked and laughed, we ‘shook’ hands in that strange way he taught me. There were lots of daps and smiles.
About 20 minutes later Lotti looked up and said, ‘I missed my stop, it was five back that way.”
He stood and pulled the bell chord for the next stop.
“Thank you Siôn, it’s been a real blessing, and I ain’t used that word properly in 40 years.”
We ‘shook”, we dapped and then he dragged me from my seat and hugged me. With tears in both our eyes he got off.
He thinks he was blessed – ha – I was Godsmacked again by the God of mysteries and surprises….
End note – Since I wrote this on Monday I got a phone call from Lotti yesterday – he went to his his local church on Monday and spoke to the pastor who backed up what I said and Lotti is going on Sunday to church for the first time in 45 years. He promised to call me next week and tell me how it went. Please pray for Lotti too.
P.S. I just re-read this – Please don’t think this is story about my Great American Evangelistic Crusade and my amazing powers to save the lost and wandering or how holy and wonderful I am- it is not that at all, if you think that please read it again. It is a blog about how God reaches into everyday life and does HIS thing. All I said was “Hi”, I’m pretty sure my input stopped there – the rest was God, not me (except the hand shakes, that was totally me, and I can still do it!!).