Word on the Street: The Pancake Christians

13 Jul

rainbow gathering pancake kitchen

CRM's team in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, California extends the love of Jesus to hundreds of traveling street youth in Golden Gate Park. Street kids around the country know this team as "the pancake Christians" because of the weekly pancake breakfast they serve in the park, a rhythm that gets extended wherever traveling youth gather.

At the annual Rainbow Gathering this year, the team served pancakes to festival-goers, invited them to join in guided Scripture meditation, and offered prayer, guidance, and a chance to worship together. In the following story, an act of faith and a flood led one man to seek God for the first time.

After a day of working hard and setting up camp in our beautiful meadow, we began “normal life” — our daily rhythm in the Outer Circle Pancake Kitchen to serve and invite guests to meditate on Scripture with us.

One practice that an old InnerCHANGE team member brought to the gathering this year was Lectio Divina, or the divine reading. We explained to guests that it is a slow meditation on Scripture. We believe God speaks to us through Scripture, so when we read it slowly sometimes we are able to hear insights that we wouldn’t have otherwise heard. There is no talking during this type of reading — no personal insights, just Scripture.

The idea of creating a quiet space where all we do is repeat the Scripture in the midst of the gathering seemed a bit scary to me. I wanted to hear about what was going on for the guests. I wanted to process. But the invitation from the Lord seemed to be, “Will you trust me?”

And guests kept coming, and God kept meeting them!

One day some guests arrived late for lectio divina, asking if they had missed it. I said they had, but I would be open to facilitating one in a few minutes. So they sat down and a few minutes later we began. Unfortunately I misread the instructions, picked the wrong passage for the day, and by mistake read Isaiah 43:1-3a:

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”

One tall strong man seemed particularly engaged, and I was super curious about his experience. But in faith I kept my mouth shut. After we finished the reading, he approached me.

“Um, can I tell you about my experience?” He asked. “Sure, I would love to hear!” I said.

He began to share about how he was an experienced professional river guide and two weeks earlier they had shut down the river he works on due to a flood, but he and some fellow guides had gone out and nearly died. He had prayed for God to save his life and after many hours and emergency help he lived.

“And now I come here while I have time off and you read me this passage: ‘When you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you- for I am the Lord your God.’ This passage was just for me.” He was clearly emotional and glowing.

“Wow, that’s incredible,” I said.

He continued to share his faith story with me over the next few days. He shared that a random pastor had prayed over him once, and he felt something and knew there was more to God than just showing up to church on Sundays. He described it as something mystical. He said he wanted to get to know that God, and he came by our kitchen daily for the rest of the week, seeking to interact more with this living God.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Claire Howard leads CRM's InnerCHANGE team in San Francisco, California called the Outer Circle. Her team is a Christian crew seeking to love the “gutterpunks, hippies, and home bums” in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and in Golden Gate Park.