People ask me about my Presidential year what do I enjoy most? Well I love all of it but I enjoy the railway journeys and meeting all types of different people talking about faith and sometimes bringing people to faith and giving them a small wooden cross.
The other Saturday I prayed for similar encounters on my journey but alas the people I met didn't want to talk.
The train pulled into Birmingham New Street Station and the platform was filled with men, they were going to Derby for a football match. The train was soon full of blokes and the table opposite mine had four supporters all using bad language as they put the cans of lager into some semblance of order in the middle of their table.
When one of the guys noticed my clerical collar he shushed the others and said "I'm sorry about our language vicar!"
I assured him that I wasn't embarrassed and one of his mates said: "Hey this is a good luck omen for the game we'll win now". This opened a conversation me trying to explain that Christianity isn't a good luck charm.
Now with these men I was a long way out of my comfort zone and as the journey continued they came at me with question after question...
Two of them were UKIP supporters, one had been in prison and one was a Jeremy Corbin Labour supporter. They threw everything at me: the state of the world; politics; refugees; the hypocrisy of the church; child abuse...
This certainly wasn't my easiest forum and I felt my answers were inadequate. The questions were so quick!
I did emphasis that my cornerstone of faith is love I told them that God loved them, which, of course, was quickly dismissed. Despite all this, I stuck with them and shot up loads of arrow prayers and answered their questions as best I could.
As the train pulled into Derby Station I decided to be courageous and ask for a 'selfie'. To my amazement they were all keen and posed with me! One of them said: "I'm not on the picture can I please have one on my own with you?" – So we did! He then hugged me – to my total amazement – and I blessed him.
But what was even more astonishing was that as the others filed out past me, each one wanted a hug!
The last one was recently bereaved and I plucked up my courage and offered him a small wooden cross saying that I felt it would help him in his bereavement. He answered me: "Thanks but no – I cannot accept it, but thank you for offering it to me" and he got off the train.
Following this I felt quite down and had mixed feelings... 'If only he had taken the cross I'd thought'...Then it dawned on me that it must have taken him more courage to say 'no'. If he had taken it, I'm sure I would have had a nice evangelistic story to share, but instead he had refused the cross.
But had he taken it, for all I know, he could have tossed it straight into the bin, but he didn't. He answered me truthfully.Jesus is 'the way, the truth and the life' and it's so good that he was truthful with me at this level.
As an evangelist I've never had such as uprising response as these blokes hugging me, somehow the love of Jesus penetrated through and glory be to God for that. Even in the opportunities that we think go badly God is there.