“Jesus is working on your behalf!”
The words above were said by a lady to a friend of mine (Bill) during a meeting in Farnborough Job Centre yesterday. This lady is wonderful! She works at the job centre, and she is definitely a woman of peace at the right place and at the right time for Bill. And for me too, she’s been a real encouragement to me the last few times we’ve met.
The words made me smile. Because what she said is true. But they made me smile because I now know just what Jesus has been up to. I’ve said before that something I see as unique in my answering the call of Jesus, “Feed my sheep,” is that I continuously see how Father is drawing people to Christ in me.
And the story with Bill starts some time back……
I can’t remember exactly how long ago it was, but I would guess it would be between 6-8 years ago that I first met Bill. I used to walk each morning from Farnborough to Aldershot.
One thing I noticed whilst walking was people. When you pay attention whilst walking the same walk each day, you realise after a while that you get to see the same people each day too. Some people were cycling in the opposite direction. Others were driving their car in the opposite direction. And others were walking in the opposite direction to me. You could pretty much set your watch by these people too! We would cross pretty much the same time each day, and pretty much the same place on the walk.
And Bill was someone who walked in the opposite direction.
After a short while of seeing Bill each day, we progressed to a “Good morning.” And then over the weeks and months we progressed to stopping for a short 5 min chat. Bill was a quiet, unassuming man. I realised that Bill was someone who kept himself to himself. He walked to work each morning, and we would cross paths around 8.15 on the Queens Avenue between Farnborough and Aldershot.
After some months of stopping and talking with Bill, we stopped one morning for our usual conversation. Bill went first. And I remember it like it was yesterday.
He said, “I need to tell you something. I probably won’t see you in the mornings any more.” I thought about all the reasons that might be!
It turned out that Bill was housed by the company he worked for, and that Bill and some of the other employees who were also housed were being moved into new accommodation. But this meant that the route Bill walked to work would be different, and we wouldn’t cross paths any more.
And I will never forget what he said next, because even then it was really profound for me.
“I wanted to tell you because you’re a really good friend to me.”
It is these kind of moments that speak to me. We may never know what stopping each day for a five minute conversation with someone really means to them. I could tell that this was a big deal for Bill. I could tell that a friendship meant a lot to him. And I realised at that time how people are looking for friends, and how Jesus himself is willing to take the time to be one through us.
I gave Bill my mobile number, and said he could call me when he was free sometime and we’d go grab a coffee or a beer. He agreed. He said he had one more week and then they were being moved.
And true enough, a week later, I no longer saw Bill on the walk in to Aldershot.
Some months later I spotted him in Aldershot town centre, and we talked. He said he’d lost my number. I gave it to him again. As I say, that was around 6-8 years ago I think.
And then after that, I didn’t see or hear from him again.
That was until last year. I was walking the streets of Aldershot as I do, and we crossed paths.
I’m thankful that, as a part of what Jesus does through me, he reminds me of names and faces no matter how little I’ve seen people or how long it is since I’ve seen them. To be able to walk up to Bill and say “Hello Bill” was something I valued. For me it meant that, despite the fact we’d not met for many years, I was saying “I remember your name and we are still friends.” Bill had nothing planned, and so we went for the coffee we had promised to meet for all those years ago!
Over the last year we have met regularly. Bill has joined me in sitting with others in Aldershot when he’s in town, and on occasions would come on a Tuesday to Wetherspoons where we get together.
And then earlier in the year, Bill’s world changed big time. The rug he was standing on was ripped out from underneath him. I won’t go in to the details for his sake. Some reading this may know Bill personally and know of the situation.
Over recent months, it’s become clear that Father started something all those years ago as we crossed paths. And in recent months, I’ve realised that Bill needs a lot of help in his change of circumstances. He needs help to do things he’s not able to do himself. He needs help from a friend (and from other friends who I’ve been able to introduce him to) that he can trust. That is a big part of what we do actually. Befriending those Father is drawing so that they know they can trust us with anything.
In helping Bill, we’ve made connections with significant people who have also tried to help him, but who have come up against brick walls in trying to do so. One of those is the lady who is the manager of the flats where Bill lives. She’s been great, a real help to me.
And then there’s the lady at the job centre who is most definitely a follower of Jesus!
Two weeks ago we had a meeting with her. I was able to share much needed information with her regarding Bill that she was unaware of. That’s a part of what we see Father doing. Drawing people who need a friend, an advocate maybe. Someone who can speak on their behalf when they don’t know what’s happening or what to say.
The part of the meeting that related to Bill didn’t actually last too long though. She started to ask me who I am and what I do. That’s always a good one!
I always start by saying I’m a follower of Jesus. She found that interesting. And even more so when I told her why I don’t call myself a Christian. And for the next bit I’m thankful to Lee. He somehow got me a reputation with people around town as “Pasta Pete” (Pasta meaning pastor. It was the way he said it.) I’ve found it’s a way of giving people something to hang their understanding on! So I use the phrase Community Pastor to describe what I do (because of who I am.)
For the next 10-15 mins we are talking about sharing the Living Christ within, how I’m not sharing some thing but Someone. How Peace, Love, Life, Joy, Light, (and so on) is all someone, cause he says he is. She liked that too.
We got on to church next. It’s clear that she is keen to be joined with people who are all about Jesus. I have a feeling that she and I will be meeting up with other followers of Jesus outside of the job centre soon!
And so to yesterday.
A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks with Bill. We’ve made good progress in getting things in order. We had a nice financial miracle for him too. So it was nice to be able to share that at the start of the appointment yesterday.
And that’s where we come full circle to those words mentioned. She looked at Bill and said,
“Jesus is working on your behalf!”
She then asked him if he’d been to church yet. He said not yet. To which she said,
“That’s OK, he’s bringing church to you.”
I liked that! 😊
One of my favourite phrases to use is a very simple one. “Father knows.”
I can look back and say this with absolute confidence. Father knew Bill and I would cross paths. He knew why we needed to meet back then. Father knew that we needed to meet back then because he knew exactly what Bill needed when his world was rocked some months ago. And he knows exactly what Bill needs now.
Bill needs friends he can trust. And Bill has those around him now.
Let me encourage you again to remain open to those Father is drawing to Christ in you. And don’t be discouraged if they seem to disappear off the radar. We may wonder at times what that was all about. But we may not know what Father has planned up ahead. He may draw someone only to ready us for a later time when we are there for them at the right place and at the right time, just when they need a friend.
I’m thankful that Father knows. It makes things so much easier doesn’t it.
Eat the Living Bread, drink the Living Water.