Post by On 27 June 2014

These eyes see beauty

The sun is rising and I have just got home. Tonight has been a mixture of praying, helping and laughing..


It was a fairly steady pace in terms of quantity of calls…

The first call came from someone who had found a drunk guy by the ice cream shop. Whilst two of the team went to collect him, I jumped in the van with my partner and drove to pick them up. Usually on van calls, the person gets in with no queries, or they are not in a condition where they are able to communicate…however, this guy seemed to change his mind on our arrival, and two more laps of San An (via the one way system), the team had convinced him to accept a lift and he got in.

Faye and I went out for our hour and were strolling down to the edge of the area we walk around. This is a stretch near the beach, and is slightly further afield than the West End grid, but I like to make sure I head down there regularly. En route we were called over to a couple who needed a bit of help. She was fine, but he was certainly at the end of his night. Some Spanish guy was trying to flag a taxi down, but each one slowed down only to speed away when they saw how drunk the guy was. As I was phoning to arrange the van, the Spanish guy began to ask who we were…when I said we were Christians, he pointed at the pair and said (in Spanish) ‘but they are sinners!’…I said ‘we’re all sinners’. He seemed shocked that Christianity would associate itself with sin; ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ floated through my mind, as did the noise of the couple to hand, and we left to get the van.

Arriving back to join the couple. I pulled over; the way our van is set up we have two seats together and a gap where the third should be. The sober woman shuffled across the first seat, onto the second, and then promptly off the second and straight onto the floor in the van. The team were trying to wrestle the drunk boyfriend into the available seats, and none of us had been paying the sober girl much attention – until that moment. And as compassionate, caring, sensitive 24-7 members would do, we all fell about laughing! Fortunately she did too, picked herself up and helped to drag her drunk companion onto the chair.

Becky was out chatting with one guy who was insisting that she baptise him there and then. He was asking whether she had any holy water, and seeing our water bottles, asked to use that. Sensing that a baptism whilst he was drunk in the middle of the West End may not be what we’re going for, she talked him through the idea of repentance, and maybe that he could use the idea of water as cleansing…one prayer later and they found themselves trickling a splash of water onto his forehead as he enthusiastically encouraged them to splash his whole face with this ‘holy’ water. Meanwhile Becky is reiterating to all those around that ‘this is NOT baptism!’…

In our last hour we mooched out into the West End and this lovely girl came up to us, asking for prayer and telling us some of her story. It struck me again tonight how much of a privilege it is to listen to someone as they share themselves with you, a random person in a t-shirt who is associated with vomit, oranges, brownie Thursdays and prayer. Each night I meet some truly amazing people on the West End, tourists and workers alike.

Lately, for one reason or another, I have begun to feel very defensive of the West End. The workers are our community and the people who fill these streets every night are my friends, and image bearers of God. It’s like if you had an ugly baby – I imagine as a parent, you would know it is ugly, but you would love it with all your heart anyway. And when someone else sees the beauty that you see in it, your love increases because someone else sees it too! You understand when people call it ugly, and wouldn’t hold it against them for expressing their opinion, but you know that you see beyond the visual to the treasure beneath.

The West End gets a lot of slack and bad-mouthing, but I love living and being in this place. It has been said that ‘the eye that sees beauty shall often walk alone’ – I am grateful for the companions who see the beauty behind the ugly here – our teams, our supporters and all of you who read the blog – thank you for choosing to see the beauty with me.

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