Mike walked into the prayer meeting, bare-chested, track pants low and blue headphones from his Walkman dangling over his ears.
He sat in various locations, including spread-legged on the floor. The flow of prayer continued on around him.
While not phased by someone off the street suddenly appearing (relationship is a great leveller), there may have been a subtle shift in the group’s prayer to cover Mike, but not conspicuously.
Mike is a strong, nearly 40 man with partly shaven, partly spiked hair, a keen intelligence and the demeanour of an 11-year-old at a party. He can have an angry streak – I have talked him down from an Ice-induced rage on one occasion – but it was no where in sight this night.
‘Can I borrow your vacuum cleaner to vacuum my flat and then bring it right back,’ he said in a loud whisper to Patrick as the prayers continued. Pat quietly suggested they talk about it later.
He continued to find new seats and at times the music in his headphones was so loud, pray-ers had to lift their volume to compete. A gentle wave from one participant, suggesting he turn it down, was greeted with an obliging thumbs up.
As Mike got more jumpy, not in a disturbing way, but slightly distracting, I decided to invite him out to the kitchen for a cup of tea.
He gladly came. ‘Tea or coffee?’ I asked. ‘Tea,’ he said. ‘I like coffee but you said tea and tea reminds me of my grandmother. Can I have three sugars?’
I started preparing the tea and he asked me my name. When I told him he said, ‘I had an uncle named Peter. He was the shepherd of the family, that’s what my grandmother used to say. He was the only one to keep in touch while I was in gaol.’
‘That’s great, that there was someone like that in the family, who would keep an eye out for you,’ I replied.
‘Yeah it was good, although he did steal all the money I had saved up,’ he said. I was stunned by his gentle correction of my appraisal. ‘Well it sounds like he had a good heart, even if he made a few mistakes,’ I said.
‘Yeah, a good heart, even if it was false,’ he said, with no sign of malice. There was no way he was letting Uncle Peter of the hook even though he seemed well disposed to him.
Just as I was feeling a bit clever that I had successfully diverted Mike from disturbing the prayer team, he grabbed his cup of tea and said, ‘Can I go back out there?’ And before I had time to reply he took off, cup in hand, and I hurried after him with mine, realising I didn’t really want a cup of tea.
Mike sat in various locations again, spilt and then finished his tea and became perhaps a little too animated during some passionate prayer.
Finally, the leader of the meeting wound things up and asked if he could pray for Mike. He readily agreed to the prayer and to a hand being laid gently on his shoulder. The prayer began, with Mike giving a whispered sub-text.
‘Lord, deliver Mike from a spirit of fear and a spirit of rejection,’ Rick prayed with strength.
‘Cook it up!’ encouraged Mike.
‘And we pray against the spirit of violence that troubles Mike.’
‘And that has disappeared,’ stresses Mike.
‘And Lord, let your love and your peace cover and fill him.’
‘Finally!’ Mike says.
With encouraging Amens, the prayer ends and Mike stands up, gazes around and with a big smile says, ‘That was great, and it was all true, all true. Look, I’m getting my goosebumps back, look at them all on my arms.’
Just another day at the church with no walls… PH
Names changed, true story. Creative non-fiction, Christian style…