Lantern Of Hope is our new outreach programme where a group of volounteers go out onto the streets after midnight until the early hours looking for people who are sleeping on the streets in need of a sleeping bag to provide them with one to fulfill an immediate need.
This is the story of our first night:
It was the evening of 6th March this year that five guys and I set off for London on our first Lantern of Hope expedition. We met at St Luke's Church at 23:30 and after prayers to our Lord Jesus for help, guidance and protection we set off. We were all a little worried about what the night may bring as none of us had taken this kind of leap of faith into the unknown before. We parked our two cars up at the Embankment and picked up some sleeping bags and walked along the Embankment & then into town. The evening was in full swing with people heading in and out of nightclubs and the noise was loud with people shouting at each other. It was a little intimidating to be honest with you and I wondered about the people living on the streets after all if things started to turn nasty we could all head back to our cars and escape the situation. People sleeping on the streets didn't have this advantage, they would have to face it alone "Hungry, cold, scared and tired" how my heart felt for them.
We all went to Charing Cross train station and asked a cleaner if he knew where the homeless people stayed during this time of night with all the mayhem that was going on around us. He showed us an area at the rear of the station and we found a man trying to sleep in a very worn sleeping bag. We asked him if he wanted a good warm sleeping bag, which we had, and the man accepted it. We asked if we could pray for him and the position that he found himself in; he agreed and we all prayed to Our Lord. He told us his name and said that he was a S.A. Soldier who had found himself on hard times in London. We all left him feeling good and on a real high because we had made a difference to his life and we had prayed and re-introduced him to Jesus.
The Team headed back to our cars and headed into town further and eventually stopped outside a Salvation Army Night-shelter asking a member of staff about possible places around London to look for homeless people sleeping? They sent us back to the Embankment near Westminster. Approaching the area in both cars we felt disappointed as there was nowhere to park. Suddenly, for no reason, two cars pulled out into the street leaving two parking spaces which we took up. The team got out of our cars and took some sleeping bags and were going to head towards the underpasses as instructed by the Salvation Army. The team walked along the embankment and for some reason I headed towards the Ferry Jetty I walked along it assuming the team was behind me checking the boats that had been moored there to see if anyone was sleeping in them. I looked up and noticed that the team were still on the Embankment, to my horror, I now felt very alone and to be honest a little afraid. I'm not a particularly brave man but something pushed me to carry on looking for someone despite now hearing every creak and noise coming from the Jetty but I felt calm as I'm sure The Holy Spirit was walking right beside me keeping me Safe. I'd checked everywhere!!
On the Jetty and found no one to help and was feeling a little dis-spirited when heading back onto the embankment instead of turning left I turned right as I approached the exit barrier I noticed a figure laying on the floor in a very old and tired looking sleeping bag. I approached and called out, no response. so I went and got the team and explained that I had found someone. They came down with me and once again I called out, the figure moved this time and to my surprise it was a woman who looked cold, dirty and very frightened with all the team looking down on her. Some members left and I explained that we had a new warm sleeping bag which would keep her warm and dry. Maria was from France and she accepted the sleeping bag and was so happy to accept our prayers. Right in that moment I relished that God had answered all our prayers how lucky both I and the rest of the team had been - our prayers answered before our very eyes Thank-you Lord Jesus!
The team split up after this some going home for some well earned rest. Other members spent the evening driving around different parts of London giving sleeping bags to other homeless people and offering prayers. Later some members attended Church Without Walls and it was very special because we had spent the night without sleep offering prayers to the homeless and showing people the difference that life makes when you allow Jesus into your life. Some team members came back to St Luke's Church to report back to church members who were attending a Men’s Breakfast
I didn't feel tired I felt exhilarated what a wonderful evening I had just experienced I felt such joy at what we had achieved with our first ever Lantern of Hope Expedition. I Can't wait for our next night out.