On August 22, Elle and I sailed out of Sydney harbour for a 10-day cruise. Several days later, after seeing people milling around, I remembered how Jesus looked at the multitudes milling around like sheep without a shepherd and had compassion on them. When I woke early and started thinking about this, I got up, without disturbing Elle, knelt down on the cabin floor and asked God to give me an opportunity to encourage someone with direction in their life. I quietly closed the cabin door and made my way up onto the deck, passed a few people huddled under a shelter smoking and climbed to the highest deck on the ship.
I had a magnificent view of the P&O ship cutting through the Pacific Ocean. The cool August breeze and spectacular view was also being enjoyed by a tough-looking, heavily tattooed man who was up there exercising and stretching. We exchanged greetings and he stopped when I expressed pleasure in our lofty perspective and the solitude of the early morning. We talked about the privilege of cruising and he talked about how much the cruise meant to him, his wife and son. He then told me that his life had not always been so good.
In fact he said that he had lived on the streets homeless for several years when he was a teenager. He commended the Salvation Army who “rescued” him by inviting him into a sheltered workshop where he learned basic cabinet-making.
He said, “I was able to get work and a place to live after that.” I asked, “Did they ever talk to you about spiritual things?”
“No, they didn’t. What religion are you?” he asked.
“I’m a Seventh-day Adventist.”
“Really! When I was a kid I went to an SDA school in the Philippines and right now my 14-year-old son goes to an Adventist school. And he prays too. He then told me that he had had many partners in his life but had married for the first time only five years earlier. He said, “My wife is Catholic so I go to church to make her happy but I don’t go along with all the crosses, imagery and rituals.”
I asked, “Do you have your phone on you?”
“Yes!” He said reaching for it.
“Open up your notes,” I suggested. He followed and I said, “Now write this name. Morris Venden. He has a series of YouTube presentations on righteousness by faith.”
He typed away, and said, “All my life I have felt that God has been looking after me.” I shared Acts 17:27 where we are told to reach out to find God because He is never far from any of us.
I then told him that earlier that morning I had gotten on my knees in my cabin and begged God to lead me to someone who I could bless. I put my finger to his chest and said, “You are that man!” Tears started streaming down his face as I asked, “Would you like me to pray for you?”
I put my hand on that tough shoulder and poured out my heart to God to continuing to bless him and his family.
We then introduced ourselves and we looked at each other in silence realising God had intervened in both our lives.
Malcolm Rea is the Former Greater Sydney Conference departmental director, current babysitter and gardener.