This is a guest post from New City’s apprentice, Christoph Boss, who’s joined us from Germany for a year. You can read his blog here (FYI – most post are in German)
It’s pretty cold this Saturday night at the end of March. It’s 9 pm and we are just getting ready for the Saturday Night Tea. The table outside the church entrance is already set up. A large urn of hot water for tea is standing next to a lamp which sends warm rays of light into the darkness of this very cold spring night. The table cloth is moving with the brisk wind and we are having trouble to keep the business cards of our church on the table which we use to invite people to come to the service the following day. While Constance is trying to get the table cloth back on the table after another attempt of slipping away, I set up the A-frame sign. After I wrote “free tea” in bold capital letters on the boards of the sign I put it on the middle of the pavement so that it is clearly visible to everyone who is passing by.
Half an hour later Constance and I sit next to the table outside the church. We begin to feel the coldness. Our limps start to become numb and clumsy. Not many people are on Uxbridge Road which is quite crowded during the day. The people who pass by tonight are wrapped in their coats and scarfs and don’t really pay attention to us offering free tea. Too great is the longing of being at home or somewhere warm. A bachelorette’s party is coming along. Dressed up, drunk and with tiaras in their hair they tell us excitedly what great work we do for the community. Another 30 minutes pass by without anybody asking for a cup of tea or at least stopping by.
It’s 10.00 pm. Constance and I prepare to wrap up for tonight when Mark (name changed) comes along. He lives a couple of blocks down the road and is on his way to the next supermarket to get some more beer. He is an alcoholic. He sees the free-tea-sign and asks if we still have tea. We offer him a cup of tea and start a little small talk with him. It seems that he must be very lonely because he doesn’t stop talking. He is telling us about his mother and his children and how he ended up living with his mother again after he was left by his second wife and lost his job. We don’t know if everything he is telling us is true but it’s a sad story in any way.
It’s 10.15 pm. Mark is still telling us his life story and totally forgot to buy the beer. The cup in his hand is moving up and down and from side to side causing the tea to splatter all over the place while he is enthusiastically telling his story.
Another person halts in front of the A-frame sign. Slowly the person comes to our table and we can see that the woman is sobbing heavily. After we gave her a cup of tea and asked her to take a seat we ask her what happened to her. She tells us that the electricity provider has turned off the power in her house leaving her in the darkness unable to prepare something to eat or to heat the house. She needs ten pounds more to unlock the power supply to her house. We give her all the money we have on us which is still not enough. At the end of our talk we ask if we can pray for her and she gladly allows us to do that. The tears are gone by the time she leaves and she seems to be a little bit more relaxed. Mark is long gone by then. He remembered to get some beer.
This evening is almost three months ago and we have already experienced much busier days serving tea to more than two people after it got warmer. But the people who normally stop by aren’t the young successful professionals; it’s often the people, long forgotten by the big city they are living in, who ask for a cup of tea and some time to talk.