I’ve been spending this past weekend with the remarkable people of Street Hope Saint John.
When I say ‘remarkable people’, you might be a little surprised. Most of them struggle with addictions of one kind or another. Some freely admit to living with mental illness, and some have spent time in jail. Some have come to a real faith in Christ, but have reoffended and ended up in jail again. ‘One step forward, two steps back’ is a reality for many of us Christians, but it can have serious consequences if the old life you’re struggling to get free from has involved confrontation with the law.
Nevertheless, when I said ‘remarkable people’, I meant it. This weekend these folks have welcomed me into their community. I joined them for a community dinner at Stone Church on Friday night, served by the people of the Anglican church in Pennfold, NB; the Pennfold worship band played during and after the dinner, and a lot of the guests were obviously really enjoying the music. On Saturday morning there was a pancake breakfast at the Street Hope fellowship room in the basement at Stone Church, and on Sunday night a worship service called ‘Hopeful’, at which I was privileged to lead some singing, and later to preach about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
I wish all my readers could hear these folks pray! They don’t use flowery language or ‘Christianese’, but they do cry out to God about the life and death issues that they and their friends are struggling with. Faith, to them, is not a luxury; they are well aware that only the power of God can bring them freedom.
Leading this community is my old friend Reed Fleming. Reed and I were both trained as evangelists in the Church Army in Canada, which is now Threshold Ministries; Reed has served in isolated communities in northern Ontario and Manitoba, at the old Church Army headquarters in Toronto, and on the staff of Taylor College of evangelism in Saint John. While he was at the college he started the street ministry that became Uptown Church and then eventually Street Hope, Saint John. I appreciate Reed and his wife Linda (who was also in college with me) so much for their love for Christ and for the people they serve with. I say ‘serve with’, rather than ‘serve’, because Reed’s vision is to nurture a community of people who reach out to serve others, not just to be served themselves.
You can find out more about Reed and the folks at Street Hope Saint John here. Please pray for them, that they will continue to find freedom in Christ, and that they will continue to share the love of Christ with others.