by Rod Smith
Those five years on the streets of Sydney were the most rewarding of my life. I saw the hand of God, and I also saw the wiles of satan (I refuse to capitalise him). It all began in 1983.
I was working as a proof reader, and when there was a lull in the work there was opportunity to read my Bible. It says faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Well, that's what happened. While reading, God seemed to be saying again and again "Why are you sitting here when there are so many people out there who don't know about me." Sydney's population then was well over three million.
So there was only one thing to do, and that was to leave the job. I had been living in a two bedroom flat, so I left that and rented a single room in Kirribilli, a suburb at the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I had a little money in the bank. How I was going to manage financially in the future was not clear, but I knew the Lord would take care of that somehow, because I'd read it in Philippians 4:19.
The first week I set up a collapsible table and put some tracts on it and any other Christian literature I could get. That was at Circular Quay on the city side of the Bridge. I didn't preach then, but just spoke to people as the opportunity arose. This went well until a man came along who took exception to a church magazine on the table. He angrily muttered something about that church, then promptly overturned the whole table! Everything was rearranged and restored, then half an hour later he came back and did it again. Seemed he had a problem with that church, they had banned him from the premises, for what reason I never knew.
Then, praise the Lord, came a wonderful opening. Through the superintendent of the church I was attending came an offer of work as a caretaker part-time. They would pay a small salary, I would work from 9 am till around 11.30 doing odd jobs, then have the rest of the day to evangelise. I had to return at 5.30 pm to lock up the premises. Absolutely ideal. The best part was, the offer included a huge flat on the fourth floor of an old building in Castlereagh St, Sydney. It was in the heart of the city, there was no rent, and I got a free telephone to boot! The flat had a long corridor with all the rooms leading off it. Lounge room, two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, toilet. To cap all that, the church had the kitchen and bathroom painted before I moved in. I could only marvel at God's wonderful provision.
I was told the building was to be demolished in three years to make way for a skyscraper complex (now in place). That three years turned out to be five. So my dream had come true, and I was on the streets every weekday. The table and tracts continued for a while until I got the idea of giving a short gospel message to people at intersections. That was while they waited for the traffic lights to give the green walk signal. There were many such busy intersections in Sydney. My favourite spot was right opposite the Town Hall. I made multi-coloured placards with Bible verses on them and held them aloft. As time went on the Lord gave me more boldness in speaking. At the same time I was attending a Toastmasters club in the evenings, which helped greatly.
One thing I quickly learned, satan hated what I was doing. He used all kinds of methods to try and discourage and stop me. Sometimes people would whisper into my ear, "Don't be a fool, all these people are laughing at you". One said, "If you stay here you'll be with Jesus a lot sooner than you expect". I just ignored it. Other times people would try to get me into a lengthy discussion on some side issue of Christianity. Of course while doing that, I couldn't be preaching on the blood, the cross, forgiveness and salvation, new life through the gospel.
Then satan would bring on his heavy artillery in the form of people who would angrily rant and rave, yell and shout. The tactic here is to scare off Christians who don't know the Word, but I had read in the scriptures that Jesus cast out the spirits with His Word, so I copied Him. I realised that behind the person was a spirit which was driving them to behave in that way. They were being used by the devil but didn't know it. So I spoke Bible verses to the ranters. "Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world." "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." "When the enemy comes in like a flood, I will lift up my standard before him." The person of course didn't know what I was saying but the spirit in him did! This brought victory every time, and they went away.
God met my needs wonderfully in those years. People would give me banknotes on the street, though I never asked for money. $50, $20, $10, $5. One lunchtime on the street corner, I met a believer from the United States. I invited him for dinner that night and when he was leaving he pulled out a $US100 note from his wallet and said: "God told me to give you this." All of these happenings did wonders for my faith. I saw the scriptures come alive in my life.
I truly believe that one particular day an angel came to my aid on the street corner. Three young men were harassing me, and becoming rapidly more aggressive. In fact I thought one in particular was going to hit me. Suddenly a very tough looking character appeared and he grabbed that young man by the collar. "All of you, clear off, and do it now" he said. So they did. I turned round to thank him but he was nowhere in sight.
One time a drunk man tried to punch me. He eventually succeeded, but the blow had no power, it was just like someone prodding me in the stomach with a folded newspaper. I hardly felt it.
Then there was what I call the miracle of the traffic lights. Usually they changed, after about a minute and a half, maybe two, after the people had been standing there listening to my message. One sunny afternoon, about 5 pm, the people were standing and waiting, but the green walk sign still didn't come, and the traffic just kept on rushing by. The crowd couldn't go. Another minute passed, then another, and I had to keep on talking. Still more time passed, and the crowd was building. They still couldn't go, and I kept on preaching. More and more people came, until they were massed on the pavement about twenty feet back from where I stood. There must have been hundreds, and for a moment I wondered if I was me or Billy Graham. It must have been about five minutes before the green walk light flashed and they all began to walk across.
I really think there were people that day whom God wanted to hear the message, and He intervened supernaturally. A technical fault with the lights? Maybe, but I reckon it was a miracle.
Sadly, this 'season' in God came to an end when the flat was eventually demolished and the job and the street evangelism came to an end. They had been the most fulfilling and satisfying five years of my life.
I had got married in the meantime and had to work full time again. Still, we have been blessed financially since 1988. In the following eight years the Lord gave me a well paid occupation out of which I got a redundancy payout and substantial superannuation. Also I was able to contribute toward my daughter's wedding. I'm now 62.
I believe the Lord will honour anyone who will obey His call and step out in faith. The promises are in the scriptures. If this story will inspire you, brother, sister to do something similar, then I'll be most happy. END
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