‘Maybe if we’d gone ahead, without lockdown, it wouldn’t have been as impactful’

Michael’s story | The privilege of prayer in a pandemic

“My parents separated when I was five, and so I was an angry kid. I used to fight with my mum a lot. It was the time of the divorce and I was struggling with my identity. But we also started going to church and I sort of grew up there. I heard about God’s love. One time, when I was about 14, we were sitting up the back and the pastor was preaching, saying that God loved us. God had a purpose and a plan for us. Then he gave an altar call. I put up my hand. I said, “God, I want to know you. I need you Jesus!” I really wanted to give my life to Jesus!

It was the start of the journey. I’m still figuring it out. I started in youth work when I was 18 and I’m still going, at 35! I really love youth. I love hanging out with them and sharing Jesus. It’s about consistency, about being there for them. I started working for Wesley Mission at a drop-in centre and I did that for a few years, then I moved on to a van outreach in Mount Druitt. It was really cool. I coordinated it, with about 25 volunteers.

One time, we were driving the van late one Friday night. We saw a girl roaming the streets. She looked really sad. It turned out she’d broken up with her boyfriend and her self-worth was really low. One of the volunteers had a conversation with her while we served her Milo. Then later, I told her about the ‘note’ analogy. “If I offered you a $10 note, would you take it? If I spat on it and trod on it and smeared blood all over it, would you still take it? Would it still be valuable?”

There was an ‘aha’ moment on her face. She really got it. She knew she was valuable! Some months later, in winter, we saw her on the streets again, smashed (with alcohol). She couldn’t move. Her friend was trying to drag her through the dirt. She’d soiled herself. Then her friend left her and our volunteers were able to help. The ambulance came and picked her up. A few months later, we saw her again. We could tell that she felt ashamed. But she came over and she said thank you. She wanted to talk. That’s what this work is like. It’s about being there, consistently. We don’t always know what God is doing, but we can be salt and light all the time.

It’s true, even now in the pandemic. Just before this current outbreak of COVID (in NSW), we were planning a big, national youth prayer conference. It was going to be the first week of July, led by young people, for young people (13-24-year olds). It was called Uprising. Then we found out, on June 26, that we were going into lockdown. We had a week’s turnaround, but we managed to put it all online. Four hundred people came online (young and old), and the team were amazing! It all culminated in six hours of prayer on the final evening. It really helped the youth to see that God was still in control. You could see their passion as they prayed – all of them asking God what he wanted them to do in the pandemic.

Afterwards, I was amazed. God actually knew it was going to happen like this – prayer in a pandemic. Maybe if we’d gone ahead normally (without lockdown) it wouldn’t have been as impactful. God really wants us to seek his face and to pray for the nation … and that’s what we did.

My favourite verse is Matthew 6:33: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. I’ve always wanted to live like that. Right now, in the pandemic, it’s still my prayer, even more! Lord, help us to seek first your kingdom, and be salt and light for you!”

Michael’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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