I was having lunch one day and sat down at a table with two other men. Just as I was about to start my lunch a man in the corner of the restaurant stood up and started to move from table to table demanding money for food. He was a large man and poorly dressed, not very clean and somewhat inebriated. I watched transfixed as he moved from table to table wondering all the time what my response would be when he came to our table. Some people tried to ignore him which made him angry; he began to shout. Some gave him a little money in order to make him go away. Soon he came to our table. He turned to the man in the suit--he looked rich. The businessman told him to "go away." Well that wasn't quite what he said. "Whoo!," he turned to the other man. Quietly he drew up a seat and sat the man down. He, like me, had not yet started his lunch having watched the man come from table to table. He went up to the counter and fetched another plate, some cutlery and a cup of tea. He returned to that table, passed the tea to the man. Then, taking his lunch he carefully divided it in two and shared it with the other man. There they sat talking and eating together in sweet communion. This was a moment that changed my life. I don't know if the man who shared his lunch was a Christian but I do know that Jesus was there giving dignity, hope and help to a man who was angry and broken.
I was walking down a street in Glasgow. It was Thursday night and I wasn't working on the streets that night feeding homeless people, caring for the street girls(prostitutes) at our evening refuge center. My mind was off work when suddenly I met Lisa. She was one of the street girls who I had come to know, a friend. She hadn't seen me for some time and so she came rushing over and gave me a big hug. I felt myself pull back. What would people think if they saw me, a minister, being hugged by Lisa? Then I thought to myself, `Is Lisa only my friend on my terms, on my territory, in the Christian refuge center, or is she my friend?'. In the city, Jesus calls us into compromise, not to compromise our faith but perhaps to compromise our reputation `friend of prostitutes and sinners.'
I hadn't seen Gena for some time. She was one of the oldest of the street girls. It was strange that she wasn't on the street. Then she came back. I asked her where she'd been and she told me her story. One of the other girls had been out of her head on drugs. She had left her two children at home along with the dogs. Gena had gone to the house and kicked in the door to find the children, hungry and all messed up. They were covered in excrement from the dogs. She took them home and burned their clothes. The little girl went to the hospital. The doctor gave her medicine for the wee boy and she kept him at home instead of working. Every two hours or so the boy would soil himself and she had to change him and put on new clothes. She looked after him for two weeks. She told me the story. It was no big deal for her. I found myself asking, "Would I do that?" Often I learn lessons of love from those God has called me to love.
The night the new Royal Concert Hall was opened in Glasgow our City Mission Night Patrol vehicle was out on the streets of Glasgow. Around 250 people sleep rough on the streets every night. We call it skippering. That night all the dignitaries and visitors to the city were coming to the opening. The police stopped our vehicle and told it to get off the streets. "There are no homeless people in Glasgow tonight."