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These Streets

Dear Inner Circle,

A young couple sat down nervously in my office the other day having made an appointment to get married. As they talked, they looked in each other’s eyes and made space for the other to talk. Even though they were very young they had been through more adversity together than many couples endure in a lifetime. After a little while the young woman leaned forward and smiled, “You don’t remember me do you?” The struggle on my face was all she needed, “Well, to be fair, I was only 9 years old at the time. Remember the home invasion?” Many years ago, when we were neighbours living in western Sydney, during a tense week our street was the epicentre of brewing tensions between rival gangs. We didn’t know this at the time, but apparently it is not uncommon for such groups put in charge of “home invasions” to get the address wrong. Sadly, this case of mistaken location had happened next door and I had received a frantic call to run in behind this gang to rescue our neighbour’s child. “I’ve told her not to move from her hiding spot till she hears your voice.” As my memory came back to life I proclaimed, “I am so sorry! What kind of pastor am I, forgetting that!?” Quick as a flash she laughed, “how about the kind of person who’s voice makes people feel like everything is going to be ok?” I had to hand it to her for her unexpected interpretation of that event!

Sitting at another hospital bed recently with a man who is far too young to be going, I heard a story about how Kings Cross had saved his life. “Do you know Jon, what it’s like to be raised in a house where your parents never acknowledge your existence? Of course, I ran away when I was 10! I made it to “The Cross” and it was the transgender sex workers that became our mums, every night they would make sure we were safe in the park or under the rotunda, and in the mornings they would come with some hot breakfast or take me to Wayside if they had been robbed and couldn’t provide for us. I had to be on the streets to find the love of a mother.” Their remarkable story is worth preserving and telling over again. 

That’s what I love about these streets, beyond their historical reputation, they are a place where love is found in the last place people go looking for it. I am very grateful that Wayside can be right here in the middle of it all too. Occasionally our voice reaches the halls of power, but that’s only because our feet and hearts remain intimately connected to what is happening to those on our streets.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle.

Jon

Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel 

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