The time is 6:33am, according to my laptop clock. My phone is dead, my eyes are tired and the rest of my world lays asleep less than 100m from where I now sit near the outdoor BBQ. I would prefer to be inside, but the camp kitchen opens at 7:30am.
I’ve been up for an hour now. I’ve done some washing, dressed and made myself presentable – complete with a Cookie Monster beanie for warmth, even if I’m not wearing shoes. If you know me, you’d be aware, it’s pretty unusual for me not to be wearing shoes.
But here I am, shoeless.
It’s also very unusual for me to be outside at this kind of hour.
Yet here I am, outside at half past 6, shoeless. One of several changes that have occurred over the past week.
I’m on Summer Project. This wonderful, intense, life-altering two-week evangelism session Student Life is so fond of. Although, with temperatures like this, I’m not sure I’m feeling the ‘Summer’ part. It’s so cold my mood ring hasn’t even registered that it’s on my finger… Honestly, I’m not sure know how I feel about that.
I’ve just completed a week of hands-on evangelism, talking to the wonderful people of the Central Coast on beaches, in shopping centres and at the pub. Now, I’m on a weekend away, ‘project within a project’ at Norah Head Campsite.
I’ve never been camping before. I’m not sure I like it. True, this is a very controlled environment where the only wild animals I’m encountering are a family of rabbits and some tired twenty-somethings playing Bonanza. Nonetheless, I’d rather photograph nature than live in it.
But sleeping rough on the cold hard ground last night – or that is, what little sleep I managed to get between negotiating rocks and sticks and dirt and pain below me – has given me a more profound understanding of how the homeless community spend every night.
I live in Narara (pronounced Nuh-RUH-ruh) which is just 5min from Gosford and Wyoming either side. These suburbs are full of those who would spend their nights on park benches. I don’t know the circumstances by which they came to be in that position, and in all honesty, until I had experienced half of what they feel, I didn’t care.
Lying on the merciless ground gave me insight into the sufferings of the world’s hardest affected, but I’m sure many around the world would have traded their every worldly possession to have slept in the near-comfort of an enclosed, waterproof tent, like I was fortunate enough to do.
More than ever my heart burns for the homeless and destitute. More than ever I don’t know how to reach them.
It has bothered me that during the course of this trip, we Student Lifers have made a way for the affluent areas of the Central Coast: Crowne Plaza Terrigal, Shelley Beach Country Club, Avoca Beach, The Entrance.
Of course I believe that everyone needs the love of Christ in their lives, but I’m reminded of Jesus’s words: “It is not the healthy that require a doctor, but rather the sick.” (Mark 2:17)
What about the brothel workers I serve at work? What about those who are now dealing drugs just to keep the landlord away for another week? What about the teenagers with middle-primary aged children? Does Jesus not care about these people?! Or are we just afraid to be confronted by them?
I brought a friend along to the camping trip this weekend. We were friends in high school. She’s kept in contact with some of our classmates, and it breaks my heart to hear of the saddening state of their lives nowadays. Drug addiction, unemployment, alcohol abuse, broken relationships, unwanted children, domestic violence, sex changes – and we’re barely even twenty. Things couldn’t get worse, right?
They are certainly the sick people in my community. I have the answer that can cure their pain, but I’m ashamed to say, I don’t know how to administer the vaccination. I’m frightened.
For the past two years, I have wrapped myself in a Christian bubble, mixing only with those who have found Christ and live in the knowledge of Him. All the while, I have prided myself on being cross-cultural, engaging with the culture of sinners around me. But I fear I’ve been lying to myself. There’s a world of hurt just beyond my fingertips, and I’ve done nothing to reach into it.
It seems oddly appropriate that my iPod is playing The Killer’s Losing Touch right now.
What a depressing thought.
I’m reminded of the great and faithful Corrie ten Boom‘s words: “To travel through the desert with others, to suffer thirst, to find a spring, to drink of it, and not tell the others that they may be spared is exactly the same as enjoying Christ and not telling others about Him.”
I may be weak in this moment, but He that lives inside me will equip me to speak the words that will heal the pain. We are His ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21) and that is not a title to be taken lightly.