Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Spirit at Zac's

As always you can guarantee that I colide with Christmas with a huge mix of emotions. Absolutely love the idea of celebrating the birth of Christ - 'God with us' - human frailty and God stuff altogether. Actually quite appreciate the way the symbolism of the pagan festival was given new meaning by Christians - very new testament that, using shapes and symbols that are familiar to make a connection. But I really struggle with all the plastic crap and the commercial circus - so many diversions pulling against so many good intentions....

Anyway, Christmas cheer is well on the way at Zac's. We thrive and survive on a lot of goodwill from many friends and supporters throughout the year. Some of it comes from the local community, especially at this time of year. We've had donations of goods from pupils at two schools (Gowerton Comp and Penclawdd Primary), numerous individuals, The Mermaid Restaurant, the Market traders and the Uplands Diner. Infact last night the Uplands Diner put on a meal, after their usual hours, for some of our street community associated with Zac's. Was a great evening and I was personally very pleased to meet the staff who have been raising a bit of money towards our efforts over this past year.

We also had to say goodbye to Bob, (pictured), as we buried him last friday - which wasn't so cheerful, (except when someone's trousers fell down - and I don't think I've ever seen that at a funeral and I'm sure Bob would have been very amused!). Bob had been a regular at Zac's and had been 'on the road' for many many years - it was an honour to give him a dignified send off and to walk along side his family and many friends and staff from various agencies that had supported him. We shall miss him especially at Zac's on Christmas day when about 25 or so will gather for dinner.

Preparations are well under way for the additional meals on the 25th and 26th December and it continues to be great occasion for all involved and is reflective of the great atmosphere the rest of the year at all the different gatherings and mealtimes at Zac's. I am also reminded daily, that the Christ of Christmas began his human experience as a homelesss refugee....

I still love the lyric from Bruce Cockburn's Cry of a tiny babe:
"Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe"

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's when life is messy, confusing and questioning the 'God with us' of Christmas past, present and future rolls up his sleeves and puts his boots on.

Twenty years ago I could never have imagined just how many times I would have had to lead people through a long and difficult road to the point of 'goodbye' as departed loved ones are buried. I have learned that to be entrusted with that responsibility is indeed a significant place to be - they are places of immense pain and trauma, sometimes anger, conflict and guilt - and sometimes there are glimpses of hope and sense of peace that goes beyond explanation.

In the past few days I was asked to assist in leading people in a memorial event, for the local drugs project, for those who have died from overdoses, today something similar in the city centre, with many from the 'street community', as we planted a rose bush at his 'pitch' . Directly following that I met with the family of another from our community, who spent somewhere in the region of 25 years sleeping rough, who's funeral takes place in a few days.

To remember those we love and miss continues to be important, whatever the circumstances; to take people by the hand and lead them through the darkest of days is not only a responsibility and a duty, but can also be a very sacred time - sometimes even the most delicate of connections and the most fragile moments of faith are the most tangible and significant. It's when life is messy, confusing and questioning the 'God with us' of Christmas past, present and future rolls up his sleeves and puts his boots on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meanwhile in Bangkok . . .

I've made mention before of precious opportunities of visiting the slum community of Klong Toey in Bangkok at the invitation of the Barker family and also Rod who works along side them with UNOH (Urban Neighbours of Hope).

This morning in Australia on a breakfast show, they had a wonderful interview broadcast giving some great insight into the work they are involved in. You will find the video here

Take a few moments to watch it . . .

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Back In Swansea . . . and Reading . . .

It was good to be able to return to familiar surroundings at Zac's Place after the recent foreign sojourn. The three week period was the longest I have been away from Zac's since it began over eleven years ago and I am so impressed with everyone there with the way it all ran - especially on the Tuesday night tribal gatherings. Contribution from a wide variety of our regulars, speaking openly and honestly about their life and faith, took relationships to another level and encouraged all involved. It's also a measure of how much the group has matured and sharing responsibilities is now a hallmark.

Today has seen a different side of activity at Zac's Place. In partnership with our friends at the Big Issue Cymru, The Cyrenians, Swansea Drugs Project and The Wallich (who manage the breakfasts for rough sleepers at our place), Zac's was used as a venue for a Health Check Up for many of our collective friends. Over fifty people came throughout the day for; flu and swine flu jabs, blood pressure checks, blood sugar level checks and benefit from the services of other health specialists such as dentists and chiropedists. What made this occasion different to other years was the involvement throughout the day of medical students from the Swansea Medical School Graduate Entry Programme who also found the experience very beneficial - and i can testify that being a guinea pig at the sharp end wasn't so bad after all!

I hit the road again this weekend returning to take part in the 24th Annual Reading Toy Run, on Sunday, which I was involved in founding with my closest of mates back home. It's an event that can attract over 2000 participants and one where I try to bring relavent Christmas message. I'll also be speaking at Sindlesham Baptist Church (near Wokingham) prior to the run. Monday sees a change of gear back in Swansea where I'll be contributing at a Remembrance Event for those lost through drug addiction; raw emotions, fragile souls and tough questions will all mark a special time, (3-5pm on Mon 7 Dec, St. Matthews Centre, High St. Swansea)

A mix of people and variety of circumstances ensure that the journey continues in it's usual colourful chaos and to a greater or lesser degree, often involves tending 'wounds' of one sort or another.