The Loving Presence of a People of Prayer

Vancouver.  Downtown East Side.

My first day.

The sky is grey.  So are the rundown buildings.  So is the crush of humanity on the sidewalks.

I trail behind Aaron as we weave our way through the crowd.  We’re passing the bottle return depot, local entrepreneurs lined up toting large bags of recyclables.  Cans are big business, it seems.

“Watch your stuff” he warns.

I tighten my grip on my satchel bag as we break through to the other side.

Aaron points to a room high up one of the many slum hotels in the area.  “That’s where we had our five years of 24-7 prayer for the neighbourhood.  You can see the main drug dealing corner from the window, so we could stand there and pray for our friends when we see them.”

Aaron and his team of Salvation Army soldiers and civilians don’t see themselves as missional.

“We don’t see ‘being missional’ as sustainable.  We’re incarnational.    We’ve moved into the neighbourhood.  We’re here to stay.  We’re here to love our neighbours and pray for them.”

To Aaron and the 614 community have all moved into the Downtown East Side.  They live in local co-ops and shared apartments.  Aaron, his wife and four children live across from the Hells Angels strip club.  Many work part time jobs in the community, often with the multitude of agencies that serve the desperate needs in this, the poorest of postal codes in Canada.  They make friends with the prostitutes, the drug addicted, the down and out.  By the end of the first day, they are my heroes.

My last day.

I head over to the coffee shop I’ve been frequenting each morning.  Part of the way to make friends in a community is to have a routine, so people know where and when to find you.  As I arrive, I bump into Anne*, as I’ve done almost every day this week.

“Someone stole my coffee!  I put it down for just a minute and someone grabbed it and walked off with it!  I can’t believe it!”  She is flustered.

“No problem, let’s go get you another one.”  We head into the shop and smile at the baristas, both of them “614-ites”.  I comment on the beautiful blue dress Anne is wearing, and find out that this morning her boyfriend is graduating from his recovery program.  We chat over coffee and then she heads off to celebrate with him.

A little later in the day my friend Caitlyn and I pick up a cake and head up to where our other friend, Dan*, is volunteering at a Support Centre.  “I’m glad to be able to give back.  They’ve done so much for me.”

It’s his birthday, and 614 is his family.  “Mmmm, black forest cake,” he tucks the box away.  “I’ll share it with the kids program later.”

Loving God and loving your neighbors.  Being the loving presence of a people of prayer.

Below is a video clip of Aaron talking about incarnational living…

*not their real name – wanna protect their privacy

Yes!

Summer. 2010. I am sitting in my back garden, watching my plants grow. Spending
a lot of time there doing a lot of nothing, burned out from years of breaking up hard
ground in prayer ministry and years of personal hardship on the home front. So here I
am. Resting. Watching and waiting. Listening to what God has to say. Getting a little
cranky, because I had been listening for four months, and He hadn’t seemed to be in the
mood to talk.

Finally, I feel His word touch my heart.

“I want you to spend the next season investing in the next generation of prayer leaders.”

“The young ones, Lord? How on earth is that going to happen? I’m not cool enough!”
I groused. “If I plan a prayer meeting, fourty year old ladies come – at least that’s what
has happened for the last 10 years! We’ve been trying to connect to young adults, but
they’re not interested!” Like Sara of old, I laugh at God’s outrageous plans.

I say yes anyway. His directions don’t make any sense to me, but what else am I going to
say? He is, after all, God.

Yes. It’s amazing what big things get released by such a little word.


Fall. 2010. I am standing on the deck of a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Wind whipping
my hair about. Sun warming my skin. The captain of our ship stands at the prow – net
in hand. “These are the kinds of nets that the disciples would have used, back in the day.
Though they wouldn’t have caught any fish with them at this depth – they were only used
for shallow water fishing”. He flings the net – it glints on the water, and gets pulled back
in, fishless.

The nets were for shallow water fishing? Waitaminit! On the day that the disciples
weren’t catching anything, Jesus told them to go out to the deep and cast their nets!
The deep water, where they normally wouldn’t catch anything. All of a sudden I
understood Luke 5 completely differently. God wasn’t telling them to simply try again
– He was telling them to try something completely different. Something that they knew
from experience wouldn’t work! I can just imagine the guys in the boat. Weary and
waterlogged. Discouraged and disgruntled. “He wants us to what?” They look at one
another, shrug, and point the prow away from shore. They say yes. There is that little
word again. The spiritual transaction that sets in motion events larger than they could
ever ask or imagine.

Spring. 2011. Somehow I am neck deep in young adults. I don’t know how it happened,
but all of a sudden they’re calling me, and texting me, and poking me on Facebook. I’m
logging many hours at the Mulberry Café (and drinking way too much cappuccino),
sitting across from young men and women as they share their heart for the Hamilton and
their longing for a deeper, more vital prayer life. I buy myself a big chunky thumb ring
– just to be a little cooler. I’m having more fun in ministry than I have ever had in my
life – the air is electric with excitement and pregnant with Divine purpose. God, who
had been silent for so long, is ordering my steps, speaking new instructions to my heart
almost every day. Sometimes unlikely things. Outrageous things. Things that I can’t
imagine how they could ever work. But you know what I do?

I say yes.

Southern Hospitality ~ Prayer as Family

hos·pi·tal·i·ty

[hos-pi-tal-i-tee]

1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
3. a core value of 24-7prayer.com and their “Boiler Rooms/Urban Monasteries”
See also fam·i·ly   [fam-uh-lee, fam-lee]

I spent much of last week at the USA National Gathering of 24-7 prayer.com, and got my first taste of Southern hospitality.

Re-routed due to tornadoes, our flight arrived late to Tulsa International Airport.  Waiting for us was Jordan and his dilapidated van.

As the ailing vehicle roared and sputtered down quiet streets, Jordan introduced us to the basics of speaking Oklahomese.  “Gollee!”

When we arrived at our billet’s house, our orientation continued.  Kirk and I asked the question that was foremost in our minds, post-Joplin tornado disaster.  “Where is your basement?”

“Basements?  No one here in Tulsa has basements – if the storms come we’ll all just meet in the bathroom.”

Tornado un-preparedness aside, our hosts warmly welcomed us into their family.  Their two year old, Daisy, adopted me as her very own Jill.

The next day when we arrived at the conference, we were adopted by many, many others.  Many many many others.

I’ve never seen the “Spirit of adoption” work horizontally before, and never heard it articulated as such.  But let me tell you, these 24-7ers know a thing or two about family.

Check out this warm hello from two of the National Leaders:

These guys don’t just do prayer meetings together.  They do life.  In the context of the “Boiler Rooms”, or Urban Monasteries, they eat together regularly, meet in each other’s homes, and love their neighbors together.  They aren’t about adding another meeting to an already busy schedule, delegating prayer to the “to do” list.

They are about being the loving presence of a people of prayer in their communities.