In my last article I mentioned that Mary had been tempted to stay in the Bluff following the Bible study the previous Sunday. She called Frank two days later and said that she couldn’t go back to the corner of Kennedy and Brawley again as the temptation to go back on heroin was too great to deal with. However, a few weeks later she called Frank and said that she hated not “coming to church” and wanted to be picked up again. It was agreed that one of us would always keep her in sight and make sure she didn’t “disappear” again. She has been faithful every time since, and is happy to have a constant escort.
As I have mentioned before, those of us who show up split up and go in different directions to invite people to come to the study. One Lord’s Day in August, as we regrouped back on the steps, Frank was the last to arrive, and when we saw him coming up the road with four little boys in tow we remarked that he resembled the Pied Piper! The parents of the little boys had become used to our being there and were very happy to let the children “come to church” with Pastor Frank.
Also that day we had a nun in full uniform join us part way through the study. As she arrived she said that she wasn’t going to stay and listen, but wanted to thank us for our efforts in The Bluff. However, as Frank acknowledged her and then continued on with the study in Genesis 3, she stayed and listened for a while. I noticed that Frank weighted his teaching pretty heavily on the fact of justification being by faith alone and not by any works that we can do. The nun nodded agreement with a lot of what Frank was saying and didn’t appear to be offended by anything. She wandered off after a while but returned a few minutes later and stayed with us until she boarded a bus and departed.
One afternoon recently, after Elder Bob had closed the study with prayer, one of the ladies, Melissa, asked if it would be all right if she prayed. Frank said that would be fine, and she proceeded to pray in a manner that was very touching. As people who do not suffer with addictions, we cannot understand the pain of being trapped by drug dependence. Her desperate supplications to be freed from her addiction were spoken with such depth of feeling that one couldn’t fail to be moved.
We have a lot of lively interaction during the study times. On one occasion Frank even had a problem getting through the reading of Scripture because folk kept asking for explanation of words. Each explanation led to some form of discussion and even a few rabbit trails. But it was an exhilarating experience – I almost had to laugh at times as Frank would only get out a few words before there’d be another question leading to another discussion. I’m not sure one should think of Bible study as being “fun”, but this was certainly a unique and fun time for me.
For several weeks the temperature in Atlanta was 98°. The humidity varied, however, and we went from being hot and mildly damp to hot and sopping wet. On one memorable day sweat just started pouring out of our pores and our clothes ended up wet through. That particular day we drove 20 miles out of our way to take someone home and even then, when we got back to our house, I discovered that the back of my dress was still wet through and stuck to the back of my seat.
A couple of weeks ago, two weeks after they had come the first time, three of the four little boys from up the street came to the study again and their mother (whom Mary knows) joined us for a while. We had also picked up Mary’s two grandsons, A.C (aged about 12) and Corey (about 6), so we had several children. Frank was teaching on the seed of the woman versus the seed of Satan and he asked the group who the seed of the woman ultimately referred to. It was one of the boys from the neighbourhood who answered “Jesus”.
Last week we picked up A.C. and Corey again and they went along the street to find our little regulars. This time as Frank was teaching about Adam and Eve being sent out of the Garden of Eden, he started by having the group run through some of the good things that had been growing in the garden. Input, from adults and children, ranged from flowers to broccoli, to trees, to fruits and vegetables that were good to eat. Then Frank asked, but what else was there in the garden, more important than any of the other things? And one little boy said, “To make sure you wash them first”!
Now that we are attracting children regularly, our faithful helper, Amy, who is a school teacher, has offered to teach the children separately, using kid-friendly helps. We are very excited about this development but still need to figure out how to implement the idea.
When we took Mary’s grandchildren home, we heard from their mother Portia (Mary’s daughter) that A.C., who is very sharp and easy to converse with, has really taken to Frank. He has talked about him to his football coach, referring to him as his pastor. Portia (who has been recovering from a staph infection on the back of her head) says she wants to start attending and that we might need a bus soon as A.C. wants to bring his whole football team! She referred to me as “mama” a couple of times, which I think is an African American expression of affection, and so I took it as quite a compliment.
One evening we were joined by Tiffany, who was living with her fiancé, has a four year old son and is pregnant with another baby. She needed ongoing financial assistance and Frank spent some time giving her suggestions. A week or two later he tried getting through to her on the phone and spoke to her fiancé who told him that she was in jail. Then her fiancé spent some time incarcerated himself. Then one day last week Tiffany called Frank to tell him that someone who owed them money threw a brick through their bedroom window on Sunday night and the next day stabbed her fiancé to death. The killer was caught by police as he got off a bus in Alabama. Thankfully Tiffany has gone home to live with her mother in Stone Mountain.
We do believe that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of many of the people in that neighbourhood. So please pray that we may be effective witnesses, that we will not get discouraged when we have a light attendance nor jubilant when we get a large one, but that our only desire would simply be loudly to proclaim God’s Word and claim that destitute street corner for Christ.