Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Paperclips are the currency of faith.

Last August, at a church prophecy conference, I got chatting to a girl called Courtney. She was taking a Front Line course at Lifeways Christian College in Warkwork. She told me that one of the group exercises they’d been given was to be dumped in the middle of nowhere for a week with only a paperclip. The plan was to then find someone with whom the paperclip could be swapped for something of greater value, like a pen. Said pen could then be swapped for something of greater value still, and so on. At the end of their week in the wilderness, groups tended to return to college with microwave ovens, cars, Africa that sort of thing. It was a lesson in learning to trust God.

Since then I have been gradually learning to replace money with God. I recently saw a tramp on Ponsonby Road. I didn’t want to give him any money, but I didn’t have any paperclips either. So I gave him 5 cents.

Back to the present. After last night’s cell-group meeting, I slept the night on Neville’s floor in Three Kings, before heading, via Penrose, down to Grafton. After slipping a note under Sam’s door to confirm when I would be tutoring him this week, I walked up to Edge Church’s office in Ponsonby to book myself a place on this weekend’s demonology course. It was whilst strolling back towards Queen Street that I spotted a tramp on Ponsonby Road.

If he was the same tramp (and I’ll probably never know in this life) then my 5-cent plan had been worth exactly that.

Still, whether he was the same guy or not, I wanted to give him something, just not money. All I could find in my rucksack that seemed appropriate was a green headband, which Paulo had given me ages ago when he’d checked-out of my room. I looked at it. I really really wanted to keep it to incorporate into my Budgie-Man costume, but the reason I had it on me was because I had been using it as a neckscarf. It was soft and very warm, and just the sort of thing the tramp would need at night as we plunge further into winter. So I offered it to him.

I saw him, beneath his hood, lift his unshaven chin to look slightly up at it, and weakly shake his refusal.

So I left, but only by about 10 meters.

For the next hour I hung around. I was determined to do something to help this guy – but what? And why on earth was it so difficult for me to just ask him what he needed? I think it was because I thought that I had nothing to offer. He would surely ask for money, and I wouldn’t give it to him. But my own envisioning of his answer was no excuse, so I eventually went up to put on my best Patrick McGoohan voice and ask him "What do you want?"

As I approached, I read his piece of cardboard. "I need food."

“Would you like me to buy you some food?”
“No I don’t.”

Oooookay. “It’s just that you’re holding that piece of cardboard that says ‘I need food’ on it.”

“I don’t want anything, I don’t want anyone to go to any trouble over me, thankyou.”

He wasn’t budging, and I couldn’t help someone who didn’t want to be helped. “All right, but if you see me again and you want anything, you ask me, all right?”

I continued on my way, being careful not to feel absolved of my responsibility. I mean was he even genuine? His card was new, and his face was hidden inside his hood like an unrevealed villain. Perhaps he was the lookout for an imminent raid on The National Bank behind him.

I hadn’t really had this problem whilst I had been staying at ACB on Queen Street. I’d got into a pattern. Whenever I’d seen a tramp, I’d asked them if they would like some sandwiches. With a 100% yes rate I’d gone back to the hostel and made some out of the free food mountain that God had been accumulating in my room. It had been a great way of getting rid of jam that wasn’t my flavour, and Giles in particular had always been so happy to see me.

Anyway, I was hungry now, so I walked the 20 minutes down to ACB and dropped in, looking forward to finding some free elevenses.

Skippys corn flakes, milk and sugar. Marvellous.

Whilst I was tucking-in, my old colleague Sue entered the kitchen and began clearing out all the food that guests had left behind upon checking-out. Although my Korean hosts now feed me well, my table still filled-up with food that I fancied having before my return to them late tonight. Tinned tomato soup (with the ring-pull top), muesli bars, noodles, bread, margerine, jam...I was looking forward to this. What a shame that tramp hadn’t been begging nearer to ACB. I could have..., he was 20 minutes away. Uphill. In Ponsonby. And it had been the best part of an hour since then, so he would have moved by now. Nooo, Jesus responded to those who came to him, this guy had not approached me, and when I had offered my help to him he had turned it down. And besides...oh stuff it.

I wasn’t going to make sandwiches, but there was so much bread that I asked Sue to give me a blunt knife to include in the bag of stuff. That way he could make his own.

At Ponsonby Road of course, he was nowhere. Only the piece of cardboard that he’d been sitting on remained. I saw 2 truck drivers (no doubt laughing about some idiot truck driver they’d heard of reversing into a 4x4 last week) and asked them “Did you see that tramp that was sitting there?”

Blank expressions. I’d used the English word ‘tramp’, so I corrected myself.

“Did you see that bum that was sitting there?”

Just what is the deal with these 2 words? In New Zealand they call homeless people bums, and refer to walking as tramping. In England we call them tramps, and talk about bumming around. Honestly, it beggars belief. Bit over.

With no leads on the vagrant’s whereabouts I walked a few hundred yards down Ponsonby Road, crossed-over and returned on the other side, checking the cafes and restaurants in case someone was buying him a meal. He wasn’t even in the church. This gentleman of the road had motored.

I really felt like eating one of the muesli bars now.

Walking the 20 minutes back to Auckland’s CBD (Central Business District), I determined to do a circuit of the Queen Street haunts where I had previously found hobos hanging-out. The first one I found would win the home-sandwich-making-kit.

And the winner was...Giles!

As I shook his sticky hand one more time, his red inebriated face grinned so happily out at me from that football of hair that he called a head, that I really wish I’d taken his picture.

But I had other priorities.

God had provided lunch for both of us, and by now I couldn’t wait to get back to ACB and boil-up my free noodles.

It’s good to accept the blessings that He offers us.


2 comment(s):

At 10:34 am, Blogger Bakingfreak said...

Hello Steve
I was blog-hopping, and ended up at your blog. very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your life-stories with us. very good writing style, i have to say.
Stay strong in Jesus. Let God be your hope.

At 7:00 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...


Anyone who would like a great brownie recipe should check out Bakingfreak's site - it's bake-tastic!



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