Dear Inner Circle,

Over the years, I’ve worked in many different communities, and I’ve never met anyone who can predict how life will play out for people. It’s how I’ve learned never to write anyone off. Life is always on offer and surprises abound. It’s a mystery that keeps us humble. Last week we were powerfully addressed by someone whose life is now moving in a direction that is a million miles from where it was once headed. “I was in Kings Cross for nearly 10 years, doing whatever it took to survive. No child ever grows up thinking that they want to live on the street, sticking needles in their arms, but that is what I ended up doing. I carried a weight of guilt and shame wherever I went…everywhere except Wayside Chapel. The section of the Cross from Orwell Lane through to Hughes Street was my safe place. I never felt shamed or judged between those streets.” Wow! We should put that up as a poster above our doors. This young woman is now drug-free, runs her own business and is a powerful voice in the fight for better access to treatment options for drug users.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned about love came from the least likely of places. Lisa and I went on our honeymoon in Calcutta. It’s not your average honeymoon but ours happened at the Home for the Dying and Destitute with Mother Theresa. We had decided to start our life as a married couple in the same way we wanted to continue it. Every day people near death are left at the home’s doors. We placed them on stretchers and attended to their needs in their last moments of life. It meant doing anything from feeding them, giving sponge baths, gentle massages or even singing songs. One day a nun could see I was struggling being with people in the last moment of their lives. She looked into my eyes and recognised my sense of hopelessness. “Listen!” She gazed at me with a smile but also a gently authority. “You don’t speak Bengali. They don’t speak English. So, make sure every single thing you do communicates love.” That’s wisdom I return to regularly whenever words begin to fail.

Last week the City of Sydney released figures from their recent street count – the numbers of people sleeping without a roof over their heads is up 13% on the same time last year. Not everyone who is homeless wants a home, but for those who do, they should not be quoted waiting lists that take over 10 years. The NSW Government has a key role to play and should be setting targets to address homelessness so that by 2030 no one in this state should have to wait for the basic human right of shelter. It is a humble ask, but it will require vision and courage from our leaders. Tonight, Wayside Chapel will join 1,500 community leaders and citizens at the Sydney Alliance Assembly to demand urgent action to alleviate housing issues for everyone from those experiencing homelessness to ordinary Australian households that are struggling to cope.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Jon 

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

P.S. Last Monday was the first edition of The Long View with Graham Long and James Valentine. It’s on again this Monday 18 March with the amazing Rachael Kohn, recently retired from presenting The Spirit of Things on ABC Radio National. The night will be exploring the topic of ‘character’. We hope you can join us, tickets are available here.

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