On the second Lord’s Day in April we had planned to hold a special time of fellowship to celebrate two years of ministry in the Bluff. As there were so many things that I needed to take that evening, I had made a written list which included everything from a cake with two candles, to the table, to the beverages, to the paper goods, to the Bic lighter . And, lo and behold, everything got loaded into the car—except the cake! So we nixed the party, froze the cake, and had our celebration the following Lord’s Day. It turned out that, in the Lord’s Providence, more people were able to join us on that day than would have been able to make it the previous Lord’s Day, and it brought a lot of inquisitive folk from the neighbourhood.
Even though the Reformed Presbyterian youth missions team, which was with us for two weeks in June, was here mostly in order to help Pastor Frank canvass the neighbourhoods located near Northminster, the young men came down to the Bluff every Lord’s Day evening to be involved in that ministry as well. The team comprised Stephen McCollum (for the third time) and Brian Barsottini, in addition to Zach Dotson, a temporary intern. Along with Miss Amy Work, they also set up a prayer table mid-week, as they had done last year, in order to advertise our presence as well as to minister to passersby who stopped to request prayer. On one of the two occasions that they did this they were accosted by a highly intoxicated man who was so loud, angry and obnoxious that they only had one person stop for prayer even though there were a lot of people about. This man was demanding money from them because, as he said, they were white and therefore they had money. And, he opined, because they were Christians they had to give him some, because that’s what Jesus would do, and if they didn’t then they were Pharisees and hypocrites. This illustrates some of the difficulty of ministering in the Bluff, which can be quite discouraging at times.
On the second Lord’s Day that the missions team was in town, Stephen McCollum did an excellent job leading the Bible study, teaching from Zephaniah 1:1 – 2:3. There was a light drizzle on and off for most of the time, but then, just as Stephen got to the “Good News” climax, the heavens opened and it started pouring with rain. So we gathered up the easel, the cooler, the papers and the people, and dashed across the street to our “inclement weather sanctuary”, namely, the porch of a totally dilapidated and broken down abandoned house. We got out of the rain and Stephen valiantly completed the lesson. The following week Brian led the study on Habakkuk and did very well in spite of having to put up with more than the usual number of screeching tyres, motorbike wheelies, and other noisy distractions.
Linda Mitchell started attending worship services at Northminster when she could get off work and make the trip on MARTA to North Springs where she would be picked up by Pastor Smith if a Saturday, or by Michael Joseph if a Sunday morning. On August 5th, after having studied the Confessing Christ booklet with Pastor Smith, she publicly professed her faith in Christ and joined the church. On Friday August 31st, however, while she was working at McDonald’s on the night shift, a fire occurred at the rooming house in which she lived, and she lost everything that was there. All she had left were the McDonald’s uniform she was wearing and the contents of her purse. Frank and I drove down to Atlanta and brought her home with us. The next day Patty Shapiro took her out to buy her clothes and personal items, and the church rallied round to bring other things that she needed. Even the congregation pastored by Amy’s father in Quinter, Kansas, touched by Linda’s predicament, did what they could to help. Linda found an apartment for almost the same cost as the room in the boarding house and we were able to move her in after the Bible study on the Lord’s Day evening.
On September 9th, a most unusual sight was to be seen in the Bluff. Most likely, nothing quite like it had ever been seen before at that street corner. A wedding ceremony was conducted on “our” steps and drew a lot of attention. This came about because of Melvin, an ordained minister who had heard about our ministry. He occasionally comes by the steps to support us, and, in spite of living south of Atlanta, has also attended our morning service at Northminster several times. Melvin’s cousin asked if Frank would conduct the wedding to his fiancée, Annie, both of whom are professing Christians. As they were not regarded as residents of Georgia, the ceremony had to take place in the county in which the license was issued. However, they really wanted to do it following regular Sunday morning worship at Northminster even though we are located in a different county. Pastor Frank obliged with a short ceremony following the worship service which had been attended by the couple and their friends. It included Scripture, a charge to the bride and groom, the taking of vows, and the singing of a Psalm. Everyone who had been present at the worship service stayed and enjoyed the simple ceremony and a great time of fellowship which followed. Then, however, it was necessary to repeat the ceremony in Fulton County in order to comply with the law. So the vows were repeated before a number of witnesses from the ’hood in front of the broken down church building on a very pleasant Lord’s Day evening. For one brief moment in time, one of the most dangerous intersections in the city of Atlanta became the scene of love, joy and peace.
When our Lord encouraged the apostle Paul to persevere in the great and sinful city of Corinth he said, “I have much people in this city”. And so, even though discouraged at times, we need to hear Christ saying to us, “I have much people in this neighbourhood” as we continue to strive in the Bluff to bring the love, joy and peace that our Saviour offers.