it is a travesty that i don’t have a video clip of this whole talk for you. this post will not do this justice. but hopefully i can share some glimpses.

but this one left me messed up. sitting in the hall long after the majority of people had left and even after they had cordoned off my edge of the hall so they could use the middle section for the time of open mic. that was about to follow. i was just left sitting there stunned and broken and crying out to God for a sign [and would you know He sent one – who God? Never. i thought He didn’t exist or something? Oh well, must have been just a coincidence then. But no it was God!] and thinking and silently praying and watching and just trying to take it all in.

This guy called Father Boyle [who someone later said had been on Dr Phil before and i imagine given him a hard time cos he was on it!] came and did closer to a time of stand-up comedy than a talk [at 50 to 60 years old i imagine and without appearing to try to hard – just comes naturally to him but had crowd in hysterics – amazing storyteller. Has worked with gangs for 30 years i think it was and looks a bit like a friendly Santa Clause type but also a hint of no nonsense although completely passionate.

# first story he tells about this gangster called Chuckie – the police told him they were looking for Chuckie for 3 murders so Father Boyle goes looking for him and finds him with a bunch of his friends and calls him across to him [typical ‘grief’ from his friends as if he was being called to the principal’s office] – a few day’s later Father Boyle is preaching and mid sermon Chuckie comes into the church and starts shouting at him from halfway up the church “You wanted to see me, here i am. [What would have happened in your church service if this had happened? A well positioned usher quietly tries to remove him from the service?] Father Boyle stops the service and says, “Okay, let’s do this now and push pause on the message i was giving. Leads him to the Lord.’ Three days later he gets a call from the police that Chuckie has been murdered.

# second story he tells was a prompting he has to go and tell this gangster Corey about the gospel. Corey listens but responds with “Not now” – the next day Father Boyle gets a message that Corey was shot in the head, dead.

Romans 5.8 it was “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Good reminder! Not get sorted out and then we’ll talk salvation – saved first and then cleaned up afterwards.

# big focus on Unconditional Love

He read out a prayer that was prayed to remember Oscar Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. So powerful!

# He spoke of a verse in Habakkuk 2.3 which reads:

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.

# We are called to cultivate a community of kinship, so much so that God might see it and recognise it.

Father Boyle told a powerful story of him travelling to go and do a talk and taking three of his gangster guys with him. While they are driving there Manuel gets a phone call. It’s Snoopy [another gangster back at the base] and on speaker phone he tells them “I just got my ass arrested and I’m down at the jail and being charged for being the ugliest guy in the world. I need you to come down so i can prove they have the wrong guy.”

Father Boyle pauses for a moment as the laughter in the audience dies down, before saying, “And I realised… these are rival gang members… they used to shoot bullets at each other, now they shoot text messages.” [getting emotional again just typing it! do you realise the transformation locked up in this story?]

# He told another story about a 16 year old in his office and i can’t remember the specifics of the story but he finished by saying, “Kinship happens so quickly. I defy you to tell me who’s the service provider and who’s the service recipient… cos it’s mutual!”

# At one point in his talk he mentioned how this last week he buried his 193rd gangster youth… in 30 years… that is a hard one to walk.

# He mentioned a whole list of things that these rehabilitated gang members are working on and the one was a formerly abandoned bakery that is now called ‘Homeboy bakery.’ Former enemies now work together baking bread.

# He mentioned one of the failed businesses they attempted was Homeboy plumbing. He was surprised that nobody wanted gangsters in their homes. Who would’ve called that?

# They have a free tattoo removal service – there is no place in the world where tattoos are being removed as frequently as there.

# He mentioned something like 15000 people go through their drug rehabilitation centre each year.

# Another funny story was when oscar award-winning actress Diane Keaton came to their ‘Homegirl diner’ [used to come regularly]. The one day she was served by Glenda who as she took her order stared at her for a bit and said “I think I know you from somewhere. I’ve seen you before” Diane Keaton humbly stated something kindly about “perhaps having one of those faces that people think they’ve seen.”

But when Glenda came back with her food she exclaimed, ” No, now I remember where I’ve seen you before. We were locked up together.”

# Father Boyle reminded us that one huge aspect of Jesus’ prayer in the garden was the phrase “that they may be one”

“Our compassion is not measured in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to be in kinship with them.”

– We are called to reach in and dismantle the messages of shame and disgrace that the people on the margins constantly hear in their ears.

# Father Boyle reminded us of a less mentioned aspect linked to the Acts 2 church – “and awe came upon them.”

# “It’s impossible to demonise those you know. You just can’t sustain that.” 

And pointed out that ultimately it is no surprise that “they may be one” turns out to be our deepest longing too.

And finished off by saying, “This conference is not a place you go to, it’s a place you go from!”

i wish you could have been there for the whole thing!

[To read the next post on some inspiring young people and the encouragement to reach out a hand, click here]