During a season of prayer, the Spirit seeded an idea into my heart to run an Alpha Express Course with a group of homeless people congregating under a concrete bridge in the Docklands, Melbourne. This venue was known as Tent City. I came to know of this place through an outreach project with the Salvation Army. It has no electricity or running water. There were 12 tents, a broken table, a few plastic chairs and a radio. It was dusty and cold. THE PEOPLE There were six or seven men who slept there. I often prayed for God to stir in their hearts a desire to hear His Word. The group consisted of Ross, Patrick, Kris, Jeff, Trevor, Bob, Danny, Ashley and a few who drifted in and out of the group. I approached the group and raised the idea of running a ten-week Alpha Express Course with them. I told them that I would love to hear their life stories as well as exploring the meaning of life. They were welcoming and open. After a brief introduction and a description of the flow of events - a meal, a DVD presentation and a discussion - a quick response came of “Yes” followed by “You’ve won us at the meal”. THE EQUIPMENT The equipment consisted of a borrowed generator, a projector, DVD player, cabling, Alpha guest manuals and the cooked meal. These were ferried to the venue every week.
THE SESSIONS The course commenced on 19 October 2010. We started at 6.30pm with pizzas and cola. By the time the presentation started, we were all sitting in the dark. I realised that some of the guests were intoxicated. At session one, the group was somewhat reticent when it came to the discussion. Maybe they were still apprehensive about my purpose. Ross proudly announced that he was Church of England! I felt the group had a leader for the future. I discovered that the group had been drinking early in the day and by the time the course started their minds lacked clarity and they were easily distracted. Ross suggested that they should have a little more respect for the course. As a result, they abstained from drinking and smoking from noon so that they were sober for the evening. That idea was well received. At session 2, there were many questions raised with the topic of Jesus’ death. One hilarious comment was: “Did the Catholics kill Him?” Puzzled, I asked for clarification. The response was: “the Catholics are Romans aren’t they?”. Laughter broke out under the bridge. With session 3, “How can we have faith”, their response was that they weren’t sure. Trevor who has a drug addiction was beginning to ask Ross questions. Half-way through the discussion, the generator seized and the place was plunged into
darkness. Kris mentioned that maybe God was testing the group. We prayed for the touch of His hand upon the supply of a replacement generator. I announced to numerous friends what happened to the generator and within the week, a couple of brothers raised up money for a replacement generator - one that was better than before. When the new generator was delivered, the group was made responsible for the generator. They had a tin that was used as a bank for money for fuel. Session 4, “Why and how do I pray”, was another interesting session. One person commented, “We pray every day . . . We pray for the price of marijuana to come down. We pray for it to be legalised. Is that wrong?”. Laughter . . . By session 5, “Why and how should I read the Bible”, the group was becoming keen on Nicky Gumbel’s presentation. And by session 6, “How does God guide us”, Ross shared that he has started to go back to church. Praise God. Amen.
I had briefed the group that The Holy Spirit day away was a special time. They would have to wash and be clean, as we would be heading to Monsalvat in Elthan. But last minute issues with the group’s dog, Raj, and leaving the place unattended meant we had to stay under the bridge. They had travelled to the Salvation Army City Temple to wash that morning. It was great to see the group washed. We started with a breakfast of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. A coffee break of Nespresso followed
the completion of the first morning session discussion of “Who is the Holy Spirit?”. Recharged, we went through with the next session “What does the Holy Spirit Do?”. I sensed that Trevor was touched. We had lunch and the group was asked for a revisit of previous sessions. The third session “How can I be filled with the Spirit” was impactful to Trevor and Kris. After this session, we prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill us and after a short time, Kris asked to be prayed for followed by Trevor. Afterwards, they requested a copy of a Bible each. I was so happy that I drove to a bookstore during the afternoon coffee break and bought two Good News bibles. The prelude to session 7 was drama-filled. The group had announced that someone had stolen the money for fuel. The guilty stood and admitted to taking the money for his gambling addiction. We prayed about it and the response from the group was that if it were not for Alpha and God’s presence in that place, there would have been a punch-up. To see civility in a group of men filled with God’s grace was extremely fulfilling. The session ended well. The group discussed securing their position in God’s kingdom, Jesus, forgiveness, freedom in Christ and salvation. Questions raised during discussion were: “Why do you think bad things happen?”, “why do you think the world is such a mess? That’s why we left it and lived under this bridge.” The encouragement they were left with was that each one of us can make a difference where we are. We only have to step out. Session 9, “How can I resist evil” was run on Christmas day. We decided that we would complete the module before the lunch for fear of nodding off to sleep during the presentation. There was so much hope for the group. BLESSED ARE THE GIVERS . . . GRATEFUL ARE THE RECEIVERS Christmas lunch was indeed a spread. One comment was that if we closed our eyes, we could
feel as though we were somewhere else - maybe on the top floor of one of those high-rise apartments in Docklands. We had 6kg of prawns, Christmas cakes, two hams, roast pork, mince pies, chocolates, biscuits, a carton of coca cola, wines and a pudding. At session 10, “Why and how we should tell others”, the group discussed about the various “drifters” who wander in and spend time there. By session 11 “Does God heal today”, the group had embraced God’s grace, and their attitudes took on a marked difference. “What about the church” at session 12 was their favourite. They especially liked the story Nicky tells of a man, who turned out to be an ex-convict , inviting Nicky inside for a cup of tea. Their remark was there is hope. Indeed there is. The final session “How can I make the most of the rest of my life” gave the group a true sense of God’s love and their desire to improve their situation. We decided to meet up once a fortnight for fellowship and a bible study. Ross commented that once upon a time, they were in darkness. I replied, “Even in this darkness, there is light in each and every one under the bridge”. Thank you to friends who kindly prepared food, donated a generator and a television. Thank you to the Business Life group for their prayers and support and especially the food and gifts for the Christmas lunch.