Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Minister's adventure...

This afternoon I went walking up my loved mountain (Mt Cargill, Dunedin) stewing about ministry and where my life is taking me. Maybe, you see, it is time I left church ministry behind? This led me to thinking about past adventures. I will tell you about one. Years ago I had a part time ministry in a smallish town named Levin. We lived in another much smaller country settlement and so each Sunday we would travel quite some distance to church arriving around an hour before the service. In this ministry we were giving support to a separated solo mum we'll name Mary. I was also heavily involved in helping budget for her "on-again-off-again" boyfriend "Harry". He had done heaps of shady deals, and we were negotiating our way out of them with the people he owed money to. He had a bad habit of getting violent, with stab wounds to show for it, and sometimes it was with Mary. He lived next door to her and had fathered her two week old baby. We arrived at church this one morning to find Mary on the phone to the church office. She burst forth with an almost hysterical explanation then handed her phone to a policeman. It seemed Harry had gone over there, got mad, started throwing things around her house, then picked up his baby son, went next door and locked himself in, threatening to harm the child. The police had arrived, but were afraid to do anything, in case Harry harmed baby. Mary had told them that Harry would listen to me. Me!? He never really took much notice of me when he was rational, what would an angry Harry do?

I told the people at the church to rearrange the service so that the sermon came last and I would do the best I could to get back. I remember driving around in the old ambulance we drove at the time, with butterflies in my stomach, taking off my jacket and tie, so as not to intimidate Harry by looking too official. Several police cars were there and the policemen were lined up on the footpath. They talked very abruptly to me, probably wondering what sort of minister I was driving an old ambulance. They seemed happy to pass the buck and just expected me to go in and see if Harry would negotiate! They would be there on the footpath, if something went wrong. "Why me?" I was asking. What if I stuff up and he hurts baby? I approached the locked front door, and gingerly knocked. "Who is it?" Harry yelled, "Go away!" "It's m-m-me", I said, "D-D-Dave Brown." I looked through the lounge window which seemed to be where the voice was coming from, and saw Harry. This big tough, supposedly mean, violent, Maori man, was sitting on the couch with his baby in his arms, rocking backward and forward, with tears rolling down his face. I tapped on the window and asked in as calm a voice as I could muster, "Can I come in Harry? Will you unlock the door for me?" He rose, came to the door, unlocked it and returned to the couch. I sat next to him, trying to look relaxed, and we talked. Eventually he allowed me to call up Mary, and ask her to come next door to get her baby. After many assurances that Harry would not hurt her, she came. We talked and I agreed to meet with them that night and talk over issues of access etc. He gently handed baby back to mum. I drove back to the church, put tie and jacket back on, and calmly walked up to the platform in time to take the sermon for the day, as if it was just a mere part of a ministers life. Later in the afternoon I suddenly felt tired, emotionally exhausted, and thought, "Did I really do that?"

I recall a personnel manager in a later job interview once telling me, "As a minister you would have led a fairly shelter life." ... Yeah right?!

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