Was just thinking just now about th Dennistoun (our previous corps). Would you know what I meant when I said you get a certain ‘feeling’ about a place when you remember its culture?
Dennistoun had a ‘fearful’ feel about it. I was always slightly on edge, but then that was probably due to the fact that we were targets for vandalism big time. Our little bungalow was next to the Army hall and the hall was surrounded by Glasgow tenaments. By the nature of our work there, we always had shady characters around…I wonder if I miss them or not…I probably do.
I remember the feelings of almost total isolation…in a troubled community with very few commited Christian workers working with us (we were 20 when we started to lead the corps there). I remember how, at the end of our two years there, Tracy and I were physically, emotionally and spirituall shattered! In a way, we had some things to clear out…it was actually a spiritually depressing corps. But then, there was glorious signs of hope all over the place.
I would probably do Dennistoun different now than we did when we did it. But then thats the benefit of hindsight.
Driving past recently, the new officers have put up a big fence around the quarters, they have their own space to call their own. But I guess I’m quite amused to look back at the way people would walk their dogs in our garden, the way the youth would cover our driveway in broken glass that meant you had to brush a path through before you could move the car. I remember the amount of times our bins were set on fire or out windows were shattered.
I remember the kids, late at night who would run round the house chapping the windows. I remember walking the 1 minute walk between the house and the hall petrified in the dark. I remember protecting old ladies from stones and mud as they left the Sunday afternoon service. I remember catching a drug addict helping himself to our things in the kitchen. I remember the smell of methadone and the queues in the pharmacy for it. Dennistoun was about ‘doing life’ with people.
I remember the baptist church who shared our hall who were so religious it was unbelievable. We had more trouble from them actually that we did with the teenagers!! The ironies of communion wine being served from the holiness table while the presiding celebrants sat on the mercy seat!
I remember the big old metal shutters that covered the front door of the hall that I hated closing..not least because it sounded like a concorde jet when you shut it, but because it unconsciously said to the community “keep out.”
And yet…the gospel moved forward even if only half an inch…we made inroads into several people’s lives. We increased the corps membership by 100% ! (as in we actually made one person a soldier). We shared a positive gospel with those 25 families that we dedicated children from. God spoke prophetically about the ways that he wanted to work and we started to see some of it but we came to the point where we could physically, mentally and emotionally do no more. We put food in the stomachs of drug users, abused wives, prostitutes, poor people..genuinely poor people.
I mean God told me to do a lot of wierd stuff that I thought was so wacky that I didn’t even tell my wife…like the several nights that God told me to get dressed and parade the ‘Blood and Fire’ around the edges of Dennistoun (only about 1m sq) and interecede for the thousands of people (probably more than Pill, Easton and Ham Green put together) who lived in that square mile which was our district. The times he would tell me to go somewhere and there would be someone sitting waiting for me to arrive. And then there was the day that God led me to March down a crowded street in full uniform (with flag) as the people waited for the huge loyal orange order parade to come. I handed out leaflets about what it actually meant to be a true protestant, preached all along Duke Street about how to be saved and sang the Old Rugged Cross on every corner…now you know I’m really a nutter.
And then there were the times that I knew I would have to pray hard when a cold air entered our room or when the music box would start playing. What was that all about?
I hated it. But I loved it. I often reflected that I knew that I had fed and clothed Jesus several times a day…but why was I so scared of him?
I could write a book about those two years.