"...Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."  (Luke 19:8)

'Christianity Renewal' Magazine

[The following story appeared in 'Christianity Renewal' Magazine in August, 2003]

The Day I Learned to be a Patient Evangelist

Kurt Erickson, an American working with London's homeless, tells Martin Saunders about the day God broke through into the toughest situation he's ever encountered - after four years of waiting.

My vision to work in London came when I was in my home city of New York. I had been converted at 27, and three years later left an acting career to work as a minister full-time in 1986. But my wife and I felt a call to work in London, so without any keys in our pockets, we left New York and headed for England, where we knew one person.

Initially we worked with a church that asked us to help with its children's work and evangelism. After that we got together with another couple, and planted a church in London, which was primarily, but not exclusively, for the homeless. That work eventually evolved into the Church Without Walls, a homeless ministry that I still work with today.

Since 1994 I've been working on the streets in London's Victoria area, holding a weekly service for the homeless, and each week around 60 guys come along to sing, pray and listen. And week after week, we show up, to show them that we're consistent, and that we're there for them - that Christianity is about more than a cup of soup or a pat on the back and a 'Jesus loves you.'

Another part of my work is in the East End of London, where I've seen many amazing things happen. But the story which stands out above all the rest concerns Kenny. Kenny was a mean, mean guy, who'd suffered terribly. At the age of 19 he was hit by a car, and had a severe stroke shortly after. So his body was bent, his speech was slurred, and he couldn't read or write. Every day he would walk around the park to strengthen his body, and as he did so dogs would bark at him and kids would throw things at him. He hated life and life hated him.

Kenny caught our eye, and so we invited him to one of the regular meals we hold in our home for the homeless. Each week we would cook a meal, sing a few choruses and hear a Bible story. But each time we invited him, he would growl and say he didn't have time. After many invitations he eventually came, but he just stayed for the food and left. This went on for about a year, and then for the next year he stayed for the food and the songs. Then in the third year, he began to stay for the meal, and the songs, and the Bible story. After about four years, he'd begun to come to our Sunday services.

At the services he would yell out all the time. If I was preaching it was normal for him to yell out aggressively with questions, like, 'what do you mean by sanctification?' Then one day, when we were holding our service outside in the park as we sometimes did, he called out the words that every evangelist longs to hear, "Kurt, what does it mean to be born again?"

Everybody looked at him, then at me, then back at him - it was as if the whole world had just stopped. After all those years of abuse, it had taken four years of just loving him to make him finally realise that he was loved. And that day he gave his life to God.

From that time on, I couldn't keep him out of church - it was a total transformation in his life. He became like the church manager. And we began to be able to teach him about hygiene, and about the special plan God had for his life. The change was incredible.

After another three years, the Lord took him home - his body just gave up. But in that short time, he allowed us to see how the gospel works. I saw Kenny start in the gutter, where kids would literally throw their gum at him, and then over a four-year process, God broke through into the hardest case I've ever seen on either side of the Atlantic.

God spoke a thousand sermons to me through Kenny. I learned to hold on, to be patient, and to trust in God. During those four years with Kenny I learned to walk by faith, not by sight. I could have stopped working with him at any point because it looked like it just wasn't going to happen. It took four years to get Kenny into the Kingdom of God. And once he was in he did not want to leave.

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