The following is a brief South Bank Ministry Update followed by an article I recently posted on MM entitled "The emotional Identity Needs "Santa" Cannot Fill". It is an account of a providential divine appointment with a precious young lady I met named Georgia
An Unforgettable Lesson From a Street Girl Named Georgia and Her Surprising and Astonishing Response To My Question that Affirms and Reminds Us of the Potential and Power of Our Identity Message
Intro: South Bank Happenings.
Before I share an experience that deeply impacted my life I want to give a little update on the SB ministry. The last Report (# 7) by Blair Andrew was posted on MM several months ago but that is not to say nothing has happened at South Bank since then! (The ministry has grown wonderfully. My fellow evangelist buddies (Blair, Mark, Morrie, Reuben) and I have had many wonderful rich conversational experiences since then. Sabbath afternoons we connect with many people in the wide socioeconomic culturally and religiously diverse demographic Brisbane. Some of our contacts have come back for more and some we have made friends with. In the heart-felt desire to reach lost souls by planting seeds of truth in the light of the glorious gospel, by God’s grace my friends and I have distributed hundreds DVDs, SOP books and other items of truth-filled literature.)
Although the words, “I’ve been so busy…” will sound very cliché and are often used as an excuse to not commit to something, nevertheless in my case it has been true! – Over the last 6 months I have been much busier than normal! Although I enjoy writing, I do not type with speed like some people (usually women :-) whose fingers effortlessly zip back and forth along computer keyboard. I like to really think about what I write and the way I write something, therefore writing up a blog takes me considerable time and commitment. I haven’t had much spare time.
One recent experience however compelled me to take the time to write! It was not directly related to South Bank nevertheless it was such a “bomb shell” to me that for a while it seemed to eclipse the other many beautiful experiences that I have had regarding some of our contacts at South Bank. I think in view of the world celebrating Christmas and many drawing their attention to “Father Christmas” it is a good time to share what I encountered.
The Need For Belonging:
The encounter was authentic and emotionally moving. (I mentioned it in conversation with Adrian about three months back - although the experience is still very fresh in my mind - and have wanted to share it on MM for some time.) In fact I have shared this with several people – friends and a few non-Christians – and as I have related the story I have been observing their reactions. In fact I shared it just last Sabbath at my very full local church during pre-service testimony time. (An identity message no one could argue with!) While relating the experience I asked a rhetorical question I typically ask. I then watched for the show-of-hands-reaction. The reactions I have witnessed so far only reaffirms the concept that those of us associated with MM hold very dear to our hearts: - namely, the great inbuilt desire for identity, the inward yearning for security, the longing for Sonship or, in the context of what I am about to share, the need for daughtership. Religious or not, this universally illustrates the innate desire, the deep inner craving of everyday people for Sonship or daughtership in the highest sense. I am referring to being adopted into Heaven’s family kingdom. In other words, in each and every one of us, some more conscious of this than others,……., there is the need for belonging the deep inner craving for FAMILY security - the need above all else for belonging and to feel loved! When universal human familes are bonded together in a loving and functional way, they model the heavenly.
Here is what I encountered.
Unexpected Divine Appointment:
After a very successful Sabbath afternoon outreach at a beautiful location in South Bank along the Brisbane river I was headed for home. When engaged in the SB ministry I customarily commute to and from Brisbane by train and so I made my way to Central Station. Reflecting upon the many wonderful experiences of the day I had not paid a lot of attention to the train schedule. I’m the sort of person that is wired in a way that unless I have a specific time appointment I don’t really care too much if I happen to miss a train or bus. If that happens I will sometimes simply pray, read or reflect over the day while patiently waiting for the next one. During peak hours, trains run quite regularly. Only this time after missing the off peak 6:33 train I would have to wait for would you believe two (2) hours for the next one! Hmmm. I wondered what I was going to do to occupy my time for the next hour and a bit.
What is there for an SDA to do in a city where the people on a Saturday night do little more than drink alcohol, watch or talk about sports, eat greasy meals perhaps with a little salad, in some dingy pub in a loud party atmosphere?
I decided anyway that I would wander down the street for half an hour or so and then return back to the station and wait for my train.
My Conversation with a Female Version of "Job"
While walking down the street heading towards the city mall, suddenly a stationary familiar form caught my eye. It was a young lady sitting, slightly huddled in a wheel chair positioned facing those passing by. There was a small cloth placed on the ground in front of her with a few scattered coins on it. (I clearly remembered this lady from a previous time when I stopped for about five or ten minutes to chat with her give her a few dollars, followed by a big hug telling her how precious and valuable she was.) Anyway, here she was again. I was happy to see her. So many people would just pass her by as though she wasn't there, and there have been many times when I have done the same only this time there was something inside me that felt a strange non-physical, non-emotional attraction to want to stop and talk with her. I thought to myself, this is OK I have quite a bit of time with nothing much to do, so why don’t I just stop, just pause for a few moments and maybe find out a little more about this young lady’s world. What’s going on behind “Georgia’s” expressionless face? Her countenance seemed to indicate a kind of innocence yet it appeared to be mixed with pain. I could read from it that she was a little emotionally numbed and guarded. At times she seemed to just stare into space toward the near distance - maybe partly due to the medication to deal with her "phantom pain" in her feet that she no longer has.
She seemed guarded and somewhat suspicious of people yet she must have trusted me enough by now to be willing to share. I felt as though I could freely and easily converse with her and she was non-resistive. Therefore I sensitively asked her a few non-invasive questions. She was willing to go back to her early childhood and unfold her story with me. The following details may not be 100% perfect but they are near enough to the reality. (I saw her again just last Sabbath and checked with her to make sure I was hearing her and interpreting her correctly. I also told her I was sharing her precious story with many people). Here’s in effect what she said.
At age 3 she lost her father, at age 8 her mother committed suicide, at age 16 she was raped. A few years later her partner (or husband???) to whom he fathered two of her children had suddenly left her to go off with one of her girlfriends. I said to her, "Georgia, you've really been through a lot haven't you?"! And if that wasn't enough there was yet more to come!
I asked Georgia about her current situation with the wheelchair and how long she had been confined to it. She said for only a year and a half. Apparently she underwent a surgical operation for her dysfunctional heart and problems occurred during the postoperative recovery phase when blood clots threatened to cause a heart attack or otherwise obstruct the circulation in her legs potentially leading to gang green which would be fatal. They ended up amputating her legs from the knees down to try and resolve this problem and that’s how she ended up in a wheelchair!
Without her recognising it, this girl's experience was the closest thing you can get to the experience of Job! - She was a female version of the man from the land of Uz.
Consider her traumatic trials again
Age 3: Lost her father
Age 8: Lost her mother to suicide
Age 16: Raped
Age 18: Partner left her and her two kids for her friend
Age 25: Legs amputated
Age 27: Living on the streets - little money, (very sparsly rationed out by the ward of the State trustee) No purpose, no security, no human or divine identity
Then while crouching down beside her I asked a question and the response Georgia came out with I would never forget.
Georgia's One Desire Above All Else:
I said, Georgia, “If there was one thing in your life that you could change, one wish that could be granted, what would that one thing be?” (At this point I ask people what they think her answer would be. I ask this question to everyone I share this story with BEFORE I tell them how she responded. Naturally their response is what they would say if they were in her shoes. When I asked this question at my church on Sabbath and asked for a show of hands as to how many of them thought she would say to have her legs back…. or more money…. or a better life off the streets, half the congregations hands went up.. for “legs”)
Without her giving it much thought, or choosing from a long list of “things” other than legs, Georgia’s non-contrived and simple response was almost immediate. It surprised, astonished and nearly floored me. I felt deeply humbled by her response. In fact I was a little ashamed of the fact that the answer I expected to hear from her didn't come! In a way I was superimposing what I thought she would say upon her. I was way off! In answer to “Georgia, if there was one thing in this world in your life you could have or change what would that be?” she said this:
“To have my mother and father back”!!!
This astonishing response of hers implied to me that the possibility in having her parents back was even more important to her than having her legs back or any amount of money!!!! (I no longer have a mother or mother. Unlike Georgia however, I do have wonderful sunny childhood memories of the warmth, love, security and nurture I recieved from my parents during my healthy happy childhood. My father did not profess to be a Christian but there was Christmas together, family meals together, family outings to the country or beach, conversation, laughter, surprises....security and love. And I guess having this foundation has gave me emotional wholeness, largely shaped who I am today and explains why my response to the question would be very different to Georgia's. Sure, I'd really love to have my mother and father back but I have had a very good start and so in all honesty if I were in a position like Georgia I'd rather have my legs back! I'd like your feedback on this blog)
After Georgia's dynamite response I paused for a moment to take it in. (I think she had little idea of the power behind what she said - and that's what made it all the more genuine and impacting.) I had a flood of thoughts going through my head…. followed by feelings that caused me to have to leave her and go off to think about what she said. I then allowed myself to acknowledge and validate my feelings at that point by letting out a few tears. I wanted to cherish that moment and retain the precious lesson God taught me (and can teach us) through her!!!! I knew deep down this would have great significance for Godhead believers and reveals the power of identity that some Trinity believers may try to trivialize and many do not understand or appreciate. The relational dynamic of the Father and Son within the Godhead, the beauty and security of God's never ending family kingdom is the heart of our message for a broken world. The gospel must supersede a role-play - it MUST be deeply relational in every respect or there will be no power or attraction in it. Even our human family identity, as seen in the example of Georgia, is more vital to many than having the daily freedom to be able to naturally walk about like most other people.
I asked her again last Sabbath to clarify what she told me a few weeks back. I wanted to make absolutely sure I got the facts right before I CONTINUE to share her story, her answer to the question was much the same,
“To have my family (mother and father) back”
I then asked her, “do you mean your mom and dad Georgia” and she said yes. Only this time I took it a bit further and asked her why.
She said “to get to know them …..”
"To get to know them..." It is the season of the year where the world is celebrating Christmas and people have an opportunity to "get to know" our everlasting Father in heaven and the life they can have in His only begotten divine/human Son. Typically Santa Clause, or “Father Christmas” often eclipses and distracts people from the true Christ. The old white- bearded-man dressed in red, black and white is a distraction. Unlike Christ, he is not a satisfying and enduring “Father to the fatherless”. He gives children wrapped toys and trinkets from his sack based on performance (“You better be good…you better be nice….” without providing power to be "good" and "nice") while Christ gives us life not based on our works but through His grace. Unlike Christ, Santa cannot grant forgiveness, redemption or give spiritual life. Unlike Christ “Santa” cannot provide peace to the soul, and unlike our Christ our “everlasting father” and Savior “Santa” cannot adopt the fatherless into any significant family.
The story of Georgia reminds us all of what we have in being eternally adopted into the family of heaven. It reminds us that if having the security of earthly father (and mother) means so much to people then what must their need and deep inner longing be for a heavenly Father! It reminds us of the power that resides in the gospel Elijah message! It reminds us of what the true need, hunger and thirst of every soul is – Christ our divine/human “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6)
The Elijah message is to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers….” (Malachi 4:6) and I propose this will ultimately include turning the hearts of the fatherless to God the Father and to Christ who is both the divine eternal Son of the Father and the Father of our redemption.
Under the moon light of night I turned into a secluded city square where I let out a few more tears. I was conscious of time and I couldn't afford to mis the last train so I dried my eyes and headed back for Central. On the way I would pass Georgia again and I thought to myself I really need to share the everlasting gospel with this precious rough diamond. I knew this could be risky however, my confidnce arose in the fact I knew I could present it in a context she'd be familiar with - the need for a father, the need for a family!!!
One Father Dead, the Other Alive! I came back crouched down and said something to the effect of, “Georgia aside from all that you have ever heard about God (I said this based on something she said earlier) aside from all the religious lies and traditions that misrepresent Him, I want you to know He is far more loving and beautiful than what you could ever imagine. God will be a Father to you. He is the kind of Father that knows everything about you and loves you intimately and doesn’t condemn you. He knows your pain.
If ever you feel lonely, discouraged or depressed, whenever you are in trouble you can turn to Him and call upon Him. He is there for you.”
After I said this I watched for what her expression would tell me. She seldom smiles, yet now her countenance lit up and a smile came to her face. Her relieved expression brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face. It was one that told me a seed had been planted and a heart and she had been touched, at least to some degree, by the Elijah message.
I went away from that experience knowing for certain that she had given me far more than what I had given her (a little time and money $10.00 some words of affirmation and encouragement and another hug). Although I hope she remembers and values what I shared regarding the treasure we have in Christ.
During the heart of the conversation with Georgia a few thoughts crossed my mind. I was thankful that although God did not bless my lack of attentiveness in failing to scrutinize the train timetable, nevertheless, He was able to turn my tardiness into a most providential "divine appointment"! I went away being VERY thankful that I missed my train. I knew that had I arrived to Central Station platform only two minutes earlier I would have boarded that train and left for home yet I would have missed out on those precious moments in hearing Georgia’s story even though she was completely unconscious of how it would impact my life and the lives of those I have shared it with.
When encountering people in our everyday lives let's remember that behind every sad or even apparently happy face, there is a heart longing like Georgia, a heart that desires the security of a father, and more than this a heart that yearns for adoption, a heart that longs for security and love and didivine connection with our heavenly Father and Son.