Of course, I have compassion for the poor and people with special needs! My church reaches out to them and my family give in many ways. For goodness sakes, I, of all people understand what it’s like to live with mental illness in the family. Don’t I smile and talk to homeless people? Sometimes I even buy them a meal.
One day, Jacko (pseudonym) invited Rex and me to have afternoon tea at his place. This was not the first invite, but it was the first time we’d accepted, mainly because we had run out of excuses. Jacko lives alone with his pets. His spouse is still doing time in prison. We met Jacko through a mid-week church gathering that caters to the marginalised in our community.
That afternoon, we let ourselves into a spacious lounge room. A bed sat next to a couch. Jacko was sitting on his favourite chair. I gagged quietly at the smell in the house and walked around while commenting on a few pictures hung the wall. Rex relaxed onto a sofa chair while I stood trying to follow the conversation, breathing as lightly as possible. I offered to make tea for everyone just to get away. When everyone had their cuppa and Tim Tam in hand, I had no more excuses to remain standing and parked myself on the only sofa chair available. I shot an arrow prayer, ‘Lord, help.’ I lowered myself slowly and perched on the edge. The stench was horrific. While the others talked and laughed, I wondered when it was polite to take our leave. I gave Rex the eye, and we said our goodbyes.
In the car, Rex said, ‘That wasn’t so bad. I enjoy his company. He is an interesting fella.’
I’m clearly not suited to pastoral home visits, I thought.
Right at that moment, a Bible passage from Acts 10 came to mind. It was Peter’s vision of all kinds of animals being lowered from heaven in a huge bed sheet and God telling him to eat. Peter refused even though he was hungry because the animals were unclean. I laughed it off thinking, ‘that’s silly. I’m not like Peter.’ But, I felt a pinprick from the Spirit that like Peter, it was my attitude that was unclean.
On Sundays after church, my family usually takes mum out to lunch. This Sunday, my son Giles asked to invite a couple of his friends from mid-week church, the one that Jacko attends.
‘Not today, son. Dad’s away so I just want to keep it simple, OK?’ I was really trying to avoid prolonged social contact with them. By the time church morning tea was over, that annoying little voice in my head said, ‘Why not? Remember the big bed sheet?’ So, Giles invited his friends over.
At lunch, I found out how one of them had worked hard from the age of fifteen, came to Christ at seventeen, how he was an alcoholic many years ago. His Christmas wish was to fix his car so he can get to work again. The other was adopted because his mum was a drug addict. He was fund raising for his friend to get to his father’s funeral in NSW.
That week, I attended the mid-week church gathering. It grew out of a small LifeGroup in Rosebud, where a handful of people met at Dave’s house. Dave has lots of tats and a chequered past. He was looking after his elderly mum and bringing up his son. Along his journey, Jesus became real to him and he stayed in fellowship with Christian friends.
Today, it is thriving with many marginalised being drawn to Christ, baptised, and blossoming in God’s love and the care within this Christian community. Some bring their friends along to join in their spiritual journey, many are won to Christ and in turn, invite others. Some are being discipled in leadership.
As I wandered into the activity centre, we could sit anywhere along the tables that were arranged in a large circle. One woman with unkept hair and a sweet demeanour gave thanks and we enjoyed a delicious two-course meal cooked and served by volunteers. Some stayed on after the meal for ‘Couch Time’, involving sharing, music, and cheering each other on along with Bible discussion. It was well structured, fully participative, and informal.
This movement has been growing since it began a few years back and many Christian leaders have been coming to learn how to do it in their community.
I came away feeling blessed to see my son playing his harmonica at Couch Time and being part of that family group. God is growing a movement of the marginalised in my neighbourhood.
Photo: Rex and Suan Lee Campbell
By Suan Lee Campbell
Suan Lee is a Power to Change missionary serving in the community through our church movements strategy in Rosebud, a coastal town on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. This story highlights how the Holy Spirit began to change her perception to the marginalised in her neighbourhood.