We've just had our last Thursday evening Zac's coffee bar/soup kitchen before taking a break for the month of August. More than any other year previously, I think all of our volunteers will be glad of a breather, and the neighbours also.
It's been a rough eleven months, with repeated poor behaviour and violent scenes from many of those seeking support. Negotiating has become increasingly more difficult as many of the symptoms of the current drug use habits exhibit some pretty extreme psychotic patterns of behaviour. None of this of course is any different to what the city centre experiences across the board. But sometimes you can't help thinking, it's not just our guests banging their head's against the wall.
As well as taking a breather, the volunteers will also be taking stock and looking at how we can change things to improve the overall experience, without diluting a heartfelt desire to love those on the margins.
If there are occasionally any doubts as to whether things are worth all the aggro, I was served up a tangible reminder, just last weekend thundering down a German autobahn, that it's worth sticking with it.
On the road trip with fellow God's Squad members, to southern Germany, for the club's gathering of our chapters around Europe, it dawned on me once again, what an incredible collection of characters and stories we are. Addressing the club as a whole and looking at a sea of faces or taking a snapshot glimpse into my rear view mirror at the smaller group of twenty two headlights following in tight formation; the stories of the transforming grace of God abound. For some, vital signs of life have emerged from absolute carnage - precious tales of survival in a last chance saloon. Others have faithfully grafted in service and sacrifice for the Lord for years, there's some around now I call brothers, who when we first met hurled insults our way years ago. There are faces that are lived in, tattoos that are as autobiographical as any book, scars aplenty, many battles still to be won - but there is a tenderness of heart and humility of spirit that only comes from an encounter with the servant Jesus. Truly a pleasure to share the road with such pilgrims, especially when other aspects of ministry have brought frustration in recent days.