On January 10th our team set off for their latest Lantern Of Hope night mission onto the streets of London to find and meet people where they are actually sleeping to give out sleeping bags and a prayer. This is the story of their night.
We met at 01:00 tonight. The team consisted of Roelof, Roydon, Danny, John and Darren.
We headed of into London and arrived at our first port of call in Shoreditch. Here we met 3 people, a guy, a lady and a very friendly character who said he was ex- Navy - what a nice bloke!! It set the night off with a few laughs. We gave out 1 bag here.
We were then off to Old street and met 2 guys at separate locations. It transpired that both were called Michael. Both Michael's received a bag.
From Old street we travelled onto the Kings Cross / Euston station area. We couldn't find anyone and decided to head towards Holborn. As we turned off, we saw a homeless guy sitting on the steps of an old church. We pulled over and found a very friendly guy called Chris. He was accompanied by 3 other guys. Chris was an ex soldier and fought in the Falklands war. He was also a Christian. He offered to pray for us - and did so by praying the Lord's Prayer. He also shared with us his view on the time when Jesus fed the 5000. He believes that as Jesus passed one fish to another, and this was passed on again and again. This is how the love of God is now passed on, again and again. We prayed for him and he said "I will never forget your prayer and never forget this night" he was truly thankful and I believe he was encouraged. 3 bags were left for these guys.
We set off again and drove around the Holborn area and finally ended up in Piccadilly. 2 bags were given out to a couple of Romanian guys sleeping in a doorway off the main road, initially under 2 very thin sleeping bags. The one guy couldn't believe the bag was free, and thought he had to pay. There surprise was coupled with a bit of apprehension, but they soon realised - the sleeping bags came with no "strings" attached.
We left them and started looking for somewhere to grab a coffee. McDonalds was the obvious choice. Thinking we are heading in one direction, and finally realising our lack of knowledge of the local roads, we travelled via Marble Arch and Edgware road. A Google moment later and armed with a post code we headed towards South Kensington station where a 24/7 McDonalds waited for us.
On arrival it became clear how we were led towards a lady, sleeping rough on her own. She was covered with a very thin blanket and some cardboard boxes. Her frailty was very disturbing, but the hardness of the streets was visible in her assertiveness when we spoke to her. All we could offer was a sleeping bag and a bite to eat, and minutes later found she was tucked up inside. There was a puzzling and sad contrast between her suffering amongst the riches of South Kensington
After a bite to eat, we headed to Chelsea Fire station. The previous day Danny received some info about people sleeping there. The info was correct and we found 2 guys were sleeping there. Only one had need for a bag, and he was clearly very happy with the new sleeping bag.
Now with 2 bags left in the boot, we headed back towards Westminster. We found ourselves un-planned back in the same Piccadilly /Regent Street area as before. Taking a few narrow streets we found another lady on her own. Very fragile and extremely vulnerable she turned down a bag, but she gestured she needed food - she was hungry. This time of the morning there are very few open places, but Praise God, an Indian shop keeper busy with stock deliveries agreed to sell us some bits - albeit he was still officially closed. The lady was tearfully moved, and I hope our prayers of security and rescue will be heard. This was an extremely moving incident. Hunger and vulnerability is a shocking reminder of how poverty is a part of modern society.
We finally arrived at Westminster and Church without Walls. Sadly, we were 2 bags short today. We gave 2 out, but could desperately have done with another 2. We were however restricted by space, and I pray that the 2 guys and lady return next week for bags.
I can say, tonight was a really special night. I know God kept his hand over us and led us every single moment, the coincidences were just too big. The effects that the donations and efforts of those people who give towards AOUS is for the homeless people, is valuable beyond words. It saves lives, but more than this - you are part of God's mission that is reaching out to extremely vulnerable people.
It is frightening how many ladies we met tonight. These ladies are supposed to be the highest priority to be assisted by the local authorities, but it seems they have been severely let down by society as a whole.
Our efforts tonight is a mere drop in the ocean of what is needed to bring some comfort to a broken part of society, but with God's grace we will continue to do this. Everyone has a part to play, and every prayer is as valuable as every penny spent.
Our prayers and thoughts are with all the people on the streets, may God bring a change in their lives.