I met Peter*, originally from Ireland, at our night shelter about three years ago. No one is allowed in the shelter if under the influence of any substance. Peter, an alcoholic, found it hard to keep to this rule, but realised that it was for his own good to do so. Winter is cold, and he had been on the streets a few nights.
Peter was quite open about his struggle with drinking, though he is a very closed and reserved person. He realised that a major influence on his drinking was his choice of friends, and he did not want to go down the road of drinking again.
The importance of listening
I listened to Peter every week we met. He wanted to move forward, but seemed very lost. He knew the truths in the Bible, but had no active faith. As our relationship developed I shared what God had done in my life, and was still doing. I could relate to him on a personal level, as I had my own addictions from which I have been set free.
Peter was in the shelter for four weeks, then moved into accommodation nearby. We continued to meet regularly. I came to realise that he had no other friends who he would see during the week. Peter now comes to a Bible study group (with meal) I have, and gets to know other people there.
Peter had to hear that the good news of Jesus was applicable to him on a personal level, but I am not just in his life to talk to him about the truths of the gospel. It took time to get to know and befriend Peter, and to know how to make the gospel personal to him. He wouldn’t have listened to me if I hadn’t made the time to listen to him and to look after his needs of housing and friendship.
Pray for Peter, and for Henk sharing the gospel in contexts of love and friendship.
This article first appeared in the Winter edition of our magazine 'Changing London'. Henk van der Meer is church-attached with ELT Baptist Church (Mile End, East London), which works with other churches to run a winter night shelter scheme for Homeless people.
*Name has been changed