After the ‘storm of the decade’ on Thursday, which closed the Forth Road Bridge, the Tay and Erskine bridges, and left 150,000 homes without power, the calm on Friday brought down a layer of snow. It had a clear, full moon, suggesting a cold night for Street Pastors in Hilton. In fact, later today there will be the last total lunar eclipse till 2014.
I set off for 7 p.m. and as I made my way down Culloden Road to the traffic lights, I hit my first piece of black ice. The freezing conditions had done their dastardly work and I found myself sliding towards the car in front with no escape route as cars were coming towards me. With a few yards to spare, the approaching cars passed and I pulled out to the opposite side of the road and slid slowly past one, then two cars, before the speeds matched sufficiently for me to pull back to my own side of the road, with more approaching cars still some distance away. I was very thankful to the Lord for His providential kindness, and the queue of cars proceeded down the hill at slower than walking pace, suitably spaced from each other. This absence of gritting the main roads is one effect of local government cutbacks. However, the Lord does not slumber nor sleep and I am thankful for my prayer partners who remember the Street Pastors.
After relating this escapade to my fellow Street Pastors, we prayed as usual before going out on the streets. Mark prayed that “we would be much-needed salt on the streets”. Stepping outside, the clouds had come over the moon and blanketed Inverness to keep the air warmer than it would be on a cloudless night which had caused the black ice. With snow lying thick on the ground, I had ‘double-layered’ and never felt cold through the whole shift.
Kevin and I took one route while Mark and Ellie went another. It was alarming to watch cars turning corners too fast in the snow, one driver turning a corner while holding and speaking into a mobile phone. Some were driving too close to the car in front, while some drivers had the wisdom to add the stopping distance of the following car into their own stopping distance, one of the best safety features that a driver can add to their repertoire. At the other end of this spectrum, one car driver decided to use the snowy conditions to do a 180-degree spin at a quiet junction.
After some street pounding, we arrived at the Hilton Community Centre to rendez vous with the others, only to discover a snowball fight among a large group of youths outside. It was light-hearted, and the entrance to the Centre was peppered by poorly aimed snowballs. The lads were putting more effort into power than accuracy, but one young lassie was so good, that I gave up counting after she scored nine hits out of nine on target! I commended her for her accuracy, which she seemed to take for granted. Human beings take so much for granted, without considering the wonder of our creation and of the God Who has given us our being.
However, a rowdy group of youngsters soon turned their attention to the passing buses and vans which made good target practice, better than targetting non-combative Street Pastors. Then they included passing cars, which eventually prompted the arrival of a police van. At this, the crowd of braves showed their bravery by fleeing into the Community Centre, reminding me that ‘the wicked flee when no man pursues’ Pro 28:1, because the police sat in their vans while Mark had a chat with them. Our conscience-struck youngsters then wanted to know what transpired in the conversation. Their God-given conscience was speaking to them although too many people will not listen to their conscience. After some more banter, Mark suggested that they should stop targeting vehicles and people who were passing to and from the shops, which they seemed willing to accept – at least for a time anyway. It was only afterwards that I realised that we should have channelled their energies into building a snowman.
While watching the snowball ‘fight’ I noted two features outside the Centre I had not noticed before. One was a sculpture with a coloured glass feature on it. The glass had been broken on both sides. I thought of a new definition for David Cameron’s broken society. A broken society is a society which breaks things. By this definition a lot of people contribute to our broken society – humanists break our morality, bankers break our economy and politicians break the social fabric of society itself. White collar crime can be more devastating on a whole society than a small-time thief.
In the play park outside the Centre I noticed another feature – a diagram of a clown juggling with his balls above an outline map of Africa. I am not sure what it is meant to represent. It may represent Europe playing while Africa is empty and desolate. If so, I am not sure of the appropriateness of a political message in a children’s playpark. On the other hand, it may represent Europe juggling with the assets of Africa which lies empty. If it is the latter, it is not quite true because at present it is China that is stripping the mineral wealth of Africa. This led to a discussion on China, which hosts the largest underground Christian movement in the world. Just as the world’s economic centre of gravity is moving from the west to China, the Lord is a step ahead. Chinese Christians have a missionary programme called Back to Jerusalem which aims to evangelise the countries between China and Jerusalem. This involves interacting with most of the major world religions: Taoism, Confucianism, Bhuddhism, Hinduism, Islam and finally Judaism. This Chinese vision is commendable and wonderful to behold. With millions of Chinese Christians, what may yet be in store for this area of the world?
Just then, Cliff joined us, having come from his Street Pastor shift in the Merkinch area of town, an area I covered before volunteering for the new work in Hilton. Cliff thought a good night merited being finished off with a poke of chips from the Hilton chip shop.
When we debriefed back at base, we had a good chat about the importance of developing Christians by interaction with each other. “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee” 1Cor 12:21 applies to individuals and to institutional churches.