It’s been almost a year now, and the thrill has not worn off. There’s always a sense of anticipation while preparing the backpacks for the street. Even as the hour grows later there’s excitement that builds. Many years ago, I participated in drama productions in school. Preparing for Street Buddies on Saturday night feels a lot like those days. My fellow students would prepare for months before we put on a costume and walked out on stage in front of hundreds of people. There’s nothing much more vulnerable than standing in a spotlight on a stage while wearing a costume and trying to remember your lines while speaking them out in a funny accent. But Street Buddies manages to make us even more vulnerable than that. We don’t carry props, we carry water. Instead of a costume, we have a blue jacket which essentially advertises that we are ready to be a friend. There’s no script, and you have to be yourself. The audience is very real, and it is full of drunken critics. We are thankful that our value is not based upon what people say about Street Buddies.
I remember a brief interaction one night with the mother of a very drunk 16 year old. As an ambulance was loading her son onto a stretcher, she looked up and thanked me for calling her. We had managed to get the young man’s phone and find her number while another called for emergency services. We probably don’t talk about Jesus enough on the street, and we probably don’t listen as well as we should, but I know for that one mom, we were enough.
I still see that kid on the street sometimes. He doesn’t remember how it took two of us to hold him so that his face wasn’t laying in his vomit. He doesn’t know that we found him hanging on the fence with his pants down because he passed out while trying to relieve himself. He doesn’t know that by the time he was taken away, we had both his vomit and urine on our hands. This kind of stuff has taught me some important things: God is working not only in the kids on the street, He’s working in me …and I’ve learned to wear rubber gloves.
I asked my six year old son what he knows about Street Buddies. He said that we help people on the street, wear special jackets, pray for people and are crazy. He’s right! We are crazy and our Father is crazy good! A month ago, God imported 3 new young Americans to Salzburg to join Street Buddies. There are also 4-5 young Austrians that have recently taken interest, and that seems even crazier! We now have enough Buddies for Friday and Saturday. God is good: crazy good!