December 31, 2011
It is now twenty months since we started ministering to the folk in the English Avenue district of downtown Atlanta, known as the Bluff. We currently have an average of 13 in attendance each week, which includes those of us who come down from the suburbs. Every Lord’s Day afternoon the arrival of Frank and me along with our faithful assistant, Amy Work, is anticipated by the residents. On one occasion recently, a car was parked in “our” space and there was a small group of men on “our” steps. As soon as they saw us approach they literally jumped up, declaring “The preacher is here, the preacher is here!”, the owner of the car called out that he would move it right away, and the steps were suddenly vacated to make room for us. These men did not join the study, but we were touched at the respect they held for “the preacher”. Amy enjoys her role as the teacher of the little children who attend, holding her class on the second set of steps of the burned-out church building on the corner of Kennedy and Brawley.
We were encouraged this year by the interest shown in our downtown ministry by a number of visitors from around the country. As reported in a previous issue, in January three young men came for a weekend from Erskine College in South Carolina specifically to experience this kind of ministry. In July Amy’s parents, Steven and Jeannie Work, came for the baptism of their new grandson in Chattanooga, and then came down to spend the evening in the Bluff with Amy. Steven, who is pastor of the RPCNA church in Quinter, Kansas, led the Bible study that evening and then unexpectedly appeared the following Lord’s Day evening as well because they had suffered car problems and had not yet returned home. Their support gave us a real emotional and spiritual boost. Later in the same month, Paul Huffmaster, a member of an independent psalm-singing church in San Diego, visited his father south of Atlanta, and attended Northminster one of the three weeks he was in the area. On the other Lord’s Days he attended his father’s church, but he joined us in the Bluff on all the Sundays he was here. He was also a great encouragement to us as well as an enormous help with regard to ferrying children to and from the Bible study. Then in November, Mark Sampson, from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, who was visiting the area in order to make fundraising contacts, both worshipped with us in the morning and came into the Bluff with us in the evening. Again, he was not only of great encouragement but also of great practical help ferrying children.
And who could forget the RP missions team comprising Stephen McCollum from Northern Ireland, Carla Quigley from Scotland, and Brenda Gladfeldter from Pennsylvania, along with Colleen Hartlaub from Wisconsin, who were here in the summer. They, along with Amy and ourselves, held a “block party” on a vacant lot one Saturday morning. Amy, who is a teacher in a Christian School in Marietta, had written the story of Moses and Pharaoh as a play in which the children could participate. Stephen was brilliantly menacing in his portrayal of Pharaoh, wrapped in a purple table cloth with a gold napkin wrapped round his head pharaoh-style, waving a scepter that looked suspiciously like a curtain rod. Carla played Aaron complete with fake beard, Brenda and Colleen dressed up as court magicians, and the children took it in turns to play Moses and, later, Aaron as well. Besides narrating the script, Amy had even come up with games to represent the plagues. For example, a relay game involving cups of red juice illustrated the Nile turning to blood, the game of leapfrog depicted the plague of frogs, and, to portray the animal deaths, the children imitated an animal of their choice before falling down “dead”. Unfortunately, we had only four children in attendance, but it turned out to be a great success for those who were there, with a lot of laughter and fun in addition to the learning. Frank ended the morning on a serious note, explaining the meaning of the story, and using it to introduce Christ and explain the gospel to the children. All four children came back the next day to the Bible study, and two who were brothers also brought their older brother. They attended one more week, but after that we couldn’t locate them, and it turned out that they had moved. Months later, however, we found them and they, along with a sister, started attending again.
The other two young people who came to the block party were Jenario (now 14 years old) and Miyani (now 10 years old), who have been very faithful in their attendance for over a year now, hardly ever missing a week. We have been proud of Jenario’s efforts to memorise Bible verses and the answers to the first few Shorter Catechism questions.
In addition to the block party, the missions team also set up a prayer table on two other occasions and a number of needy people come by to ask for prayer. Their names and prayer requests were logged, and we undertook to pray for each one for 14 days. We still have folk from that endeavour join us occasionally at our regular Bible study.
- Downtown Update (theatlantafund.wordpress.com)