Since the commissioning service on May 22nd there has been a team out on the streets of Ryde every Friday night. We have gradually been extending our patrolling hours and now we are out until 2.30-3.00 am. Not only have we done all these nights we have also helped at Ryde Regatta, done 3 nights at Cowes week plus we will be helping out at Ryde Illuminated Carnival. The teams have really gelled as units and I have seen confidence grow not only in individual Pastors but I have seen “team confidence” grow too.
When you start something like this it really is a voyage into the unknown. We had excellent training on many varied topics but actually the real training starts on the streets. These are real people with real problems and I have been stunned and completely honoured and humbled by how well received we have been by the general public. No one can really prepare you for the young man who tells you about how his relationship with his father has hit rock bottom since his mother died. About the woman who had her child adopted at birth and has spent 6 years trying to get her back. About the young girl passed out in the street having had too much to drink. About the 14 year old girl telling you how many lads she has slept with. About the homeless man who cries in front of you because he is so hungry. About the young man covered in his own vomit in a shop doorway.
No one can also prepare you for the glow that you feel in your heart when you are of help to someone. The look of true gratitude when someone takes flip flops or water. When they say, “how much do I owe you” and you smile and say “its free, because we care” The sense of satisfaction as you wrap a young girl up in a foil blanket to stop her shivering. The immense sense of God working through you into peoples lives as they talk to you, share their life and then hug you saying “thank you , thank you”. No one can prepare you for the fact that a smile and a warm handshake is what is sorely missing from our society.
I think our biggest hurdle has been gaining peoples trust. Letting people know that we are safe, we are not going to judge them, we are not going to hit them over the head with a bible, knowing that we are not undercover policemen. That all takes time. The door staff have been fantastic. Well over half the venues have actively come up to me saying what a good job we are doing and how they recognise the benefit of our presence on the streets. Some are really amazed at how we can help in diffusing difficult situations with a smile and a lollipop.
The police have told me time and time again how they value our presence. They value the fact that we will look after and talk to the vulnerable, drunk people. Once again the longer this goes on the more trust the police have in us. They will now leave us in certain situations so they can go and deal with more difficult challenging situations. The police have also invited me to be part of the “safer communities “day in Newport on August 22nd.
When I first took this job on I had a vision in my mind about how it would run, the reality has exceeded that on every level. That is down to the most amazing 22 volunteers anyone could hope to work with. Their love and dedication is stunning.
I am now thinking about recruitment for the next wave which will include Ryde and Newport and have had some excellent candidates come forward already wanting to be pastors. Infact our very own Arch Deacon of the Isle of wight has taken this scheme to her heart and has decided to become a Street Pastor.
The next recruitment/information evening will be at Newport Methodist church on September 29th at 7-30pm. The way God has got his hand on this project I expect it to be an amazing, emotional moving evening. I am also so encouraged by other areas of the Island becoming interested in the scheme. I am booked up to do presentations already in Niton, Newport, Wroxall, Brighstone and West Wight.
I’m off on holiday now for 2 weeks to recharge my batteries for the next amazing few months. Watch this space.