• Keith Anderson

The beginning

My journey

The warmth of the sofa I was lay on was comforting although slightly too short for me to lie quth it being completely flat . A little uncomfortable my mind began to wander and the myriad of distractions in the room begin to disappear .

It was at that precise second I felt the impact of a cushion sitting up with a start a jumble of words most of them I can't repeat left my mouth.

I looked up to see Andy one of the church leaders above me looking rather annoyed it was 2 am none of us had managed to catch any sleep and someone had been snoring. Andy jumped to the assumption it was me I'd like to add at this point it wasn't ! Who it was at this point was a mystery

As I looked round the churchs foyer a large enough area with a kitchen area at one end and sets of sofas at the other with some tables in the middle that had perfectly arranged flowers on each .

Andy's cushion rage started my mind wandering again as I struggled to get back to sleep this church hall is quite possibly the most influential and consistent place in my 7 or 8 years as a church member.

I cast my mind to the hours leading up to this point.

The frost was thick on the ground , I sat outside in the car with my then partner a nervous aprhension combined with excitement filled us both . We were talking about the upcoming weeks and what they may hold in this new church venture . Some people were already in the church preparing food and a warm welcome, a mini bus pulled onto the street , months of planning had gone into this one night nobody knew what to expect .

I gave my partner a kiss goodbye stepped out into the bitter cold and walked up the church steps like I had done hundreds of times before ,

But this night and the upcoming weeks were different .

You see all the churches in the Oldham area had come together to open one night a week each night a different church so that every night a church was open as a kind of hostel

Much planning had gone into this from dbs checks to training to just organising rotas , I was very sceptical of the idea to be honest . But Andy calmed my fears saying the only thing we really had was a drum kit and if they could get away with that they were welcome to it . I guess he was right I thought.

I made my way towards the entrance just as the people using this service were also making their way in not the usual church crowd I thought. Some with and without bags. Some looked lost some didn't 12 men of different backgrounds all without homes some I would meet only once one. I still speak to this was the start of a very special journey and as much as we gave to those men in hot meals and encouragement I believe it was me that gained the most

I made my way through the familiar doors to the warm familiar faces inside the smell of cottage pie hung in the air I put my stuff behind the counter and made my way into the church hall which at this time looked more like a refugee camp the clunking and clinking of metal camp, bed frames lined up one after the other duvets being unpacked and made the odd shout for a tool or a bed sheet .

The whole church was alive !

I mingled myself with one of the co-ordinators unpacking toiletries and underwear and it just so happened. He was one of the men who had led my alpha course some 7 years earlier it took me sometime to recognise him I'd only seen him on these 2 occasions and they are both pivotal on my Christian journey make of that what you will .

Once the logistics had been sorted I made my way back into the main room a different smell lingered in the air now one of staleness an unclean smell and to see these people you didn't need to wonder . They were rough sleepers they had nothing and nobody . Each week for 12 weeks we did this

And each week I heard a slight variation of the same story

One man ran from his family to the army he told me the only problem with running from your problems is that there still there when you come back what if his family had just loved him I thought .

One man had been raped and to block out the pain used crack cocaine and heroin and lost everything .Another young lad had been kicked out by his family and couldn't raise funds to private rent only 19 as I recall

As the weeks went on I just saw a lack of love or loving the wrong things .

One night I went in and I heard someone shout me by name , it was a young chef id worked with "what are you doing here he said" looking rather confused I laughed and said "I could ask you the same thing " even more confused he said " I didn't think you were homeless" amused I said it's worse than that "I'm one of the Christians" he looked shocked and I don't think he believed me we chatted for the remaining nights and we still speak now .

Although "Steve" was no saint it served to show me that any of us could be caught up in a mess like this "Steve" had been somewhat a victim of circumstances failed relationships lost friends no work quickly he landed himself homeless.

Believe me when I say this I have been so close to this myself infact if it hadn't been for my late friend George I probably would of been at one point in my life .This was the turning point for my faith and I'm eternally grateful for it never again would I see the lost and unloved forgotten about.

Never again would I go to church and it be a coffee morning experienceThis changes everything and the next twelve months would be a whirlwind of change but I'm thankful for each and everyone of them

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