Street Church (Updated)
Around that time I started having problems with the uploaded video crashing my site, so I took the blog down. This also gave me time to re-watch the video and see if I was missing something.
That same day I received an email from the Street Church leader, Art Pawlowski. He wanted me to call him. So I did. He explained to me that the video was only a small part of the persecution that his ministry has been facing, that he, and members of his ministry, had been arrested many times for feeding the homeless, preaching in parks, and doing what Jesus would have them do. I told him that if he wanted to put something in writing then I would re-post my blog (with a working video) and add his comment to the post.
A couple of days later I had a surprise phone calle from Jim Blake, the national chairman of the ministry Concerned Christians Canada. We had a good chat about his work in general and his work with Street Church. He assured me that the persecution was real and that CCC would not be involved if the “persecution” was a hoax. Again I told him that if they wanted to put something in writing then I would re-post with the comment.
Below is my original post with a short note from Artur explaining just what the Street Church are facing on a continual basis. If you watch the video you will have some pretty strong feelings racing around inside you, but don’t judge them just on this video, try and see the big picture of what is happening to our brothers and sisters, not only in far off places, but right here in our own backyard.
Many years ago, around the time I first became a Christian, I heard a preacher talk on the issue of persecution. He spoke about our brothers and sisters around the world in places like Africa, Thailand, China, etc. who were being persecuted daily, and as he spoke I remember thinking what a great message. However, my only thought after he spoke was, “I wonder what persecution would look like here in the Western World?”
Since that time there has been some persecution against the Christian church in the areas of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. For instance, some pastors and preachers have been arrested in North America, Britain, Australia, and Sweden, for speaking out against the practice of homosexuality. An example of this would be the Swedish pastor, Ake Green, who was arrested and charged with hate crimes. His hate crime? Calling homosexuality an “abnormal” practice in a church sermon. He was subsequently sentenced to one month in prison. (Source here)
I was sent a link to a video clip a few days back that proved to be challenging, yet inspiring. It shows a team of street evangelists who, armed with seven hundred hot dogs, three hundred eggs, hot chocolate, cookies, and Bibles, were helping to feed the homeless and preach the Word of God to them. The video opens with the pastor and several members of Street Church Ministries being hassled by the police. It then shows them being forcefully arrested and taken to jail. And where did this happen? On the streets of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The following is taken from the Street Church Ministry website: “For several years Street Church Ministries has been in a battle with Calgary city authorities over its insistence on publicly preaching the gospel to people on city streets and in city parks. On February 7, (2009) members of the ministry were dragged from a preaching platform by police, and three members were arrested, one while he was videotaping police actions. Artur Pawlowski, lead pastor of Street Church Ministries, said the city’s “ruthless targeted attacks” threaten freedom of speech as well as the organization’s ministry to homeless people.”
I have posted the actual video of the arrest below, but please read the rest of this post before jumping to conclusions.
A follow up statement from the Street Church Ministry website: “In the middle of Louis’ sermon, five police officers physically removed Maurice Boyer, Wendy Osiowy, Azmy Yacoub, Louis Formaz-Preston, and Artur Pawlowski from the back of the Street Church truck. Artur and Maurice were unlawfully arrested and charged with obstructing a peace officer. Maurice was dragged by several officers, slammed face down on a car, like a common criminal. Artur was escorted by two officers and had his hands cuffed behind his back. At the same time, David Pawlowski was recording the behavior of the police officers, while standing on a public sidewalk, only to be arrested and slammed onto the hood of a police cruiser, his hands cuffed behind his back. The Street Church cross and pickup truck were towed and impounded. The three of us were taken to a police station and placed in three separate rooms. As I was sitting in one of the rooms, I heard Maurice shouting JESUUUUUS!
Then from the other room, I heard David responding and the only thing that I could think of was again Peter and John in prison singing and preaching. So we started singing. The echo from the concrete walls was so great that after the fourth song the door opened with great vigour. The same police officer that arrested us appeared saying that we are not allowed to speak or sing, to which I replied, “You’ve got here Street Church”, and started singing again. He slammed the door. Later on, I found out that he tried to scare Maurice as well. Maurice replied, “you’re not my boss, my Father is my boss”.
When we finished all the songs we knew, we started preaching. At first it was me, then came David, and finally Maurice finished it off the preaching very loudly. Then we sang some more. Then we prayed for all the officers, their children, their families, that God would bless them, keep them, save them, open their eyes and ears and that He would not count this sin against them, for they did not know what they were doing. Then we started singing a third time. When we were singing the song “King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus prince of peace…” the door opened again. The police officer was advising us that we were disrupting the whole building and that they couldn’t work. I kept singing. Five minutes later a young officer came saying that they were going to release us. Within about a half an hour all of us were out on the streets again. Praise God. God sent us there to let those officers know that there is a living God.”
End of original article
A follow up letter from Artur Pawlowski:
Since we released the video we have had a very interesting few weeks. We have received lots of comments, both good and bad. We would to take this opportunity to explain what the video does not show. We could of course drop it, and say, “God knows all the facts”, but for your sake we will spend the time to give you the background. For four years over a hundred and fifty incidents like this have occurred, ranging from one police officer with a cruiser to thirty officers and eleven vehicles including paddy wagons, squad cars, ghost cars, and bylaw vehicles and ambulances. Even detectives taking pictures and the City tapping our phone lines. When we baptised someone in the river, we had firefighters with their professional divers in their suits arrive.
It is always the same story, what we do is not proper and always we have been encouraged to stop, sometimes nicely and other times aggressively. In my own home, police officers and bylaw officers came to intimidate my wife and my kids. Every property we rented to take care of the poor, we had the presence of the City intimidating and threatening the owners, telling them to kick us out. When it comes to the law, we are all for it. We are law abiding citizens, but unjust laws are no laws at all. The City of Calgary officials claim that we have no right to feed the poor – we have received over 70 tickets such as giving away free goods and services, gathering a crowd, operating a barbecue, placing material on the ground, emitting objectionable noise, etc. We got our food handling certifications and have been in full compliance with food handling regulations and have never had a problem with the health department, even though our events have been inspected several times.
We have repeatedly sat down with the City, to try to work things out with them, we have applied over and over for permits for everything that we do as a ministry. The places where we ministered, city parks and sidewalks, were fenced to get rid of us (a total of three times already). One of the reasons was that there was supposedly an archaeological site, later on the City dropped that idea and decided to build a road instead (which then allowed them to close another park that we had moved to, to preach, in one move). In three different places, they changed the parking signs from 2 hr parking which allowed us to minister without harassment from parking authorities into no parking zones (there was no valid reason given for the sudden change, even one of these locations was a low traffic cul-de-sac). In our present location, they changed from a stopping to no stopping zone.
Under the bridge where the video was taken, for eight months, we were not bothered by the authorities even though they drove by many times as a part of their surveillance of the homeless. We were preaching under the bridge in the middle of drug traffickers and literally hundreds of homeless people. But, even this location, where nobody will go for the crime and the physical danger, the City could not leave us alone. They fenced the entire area in an effort to prevent us from preaching. Even though there are dozens of drug dealers all around the new fence, left alone. They single us out again. We decided to bring the truck to provide a buffer of safety and protection between the preacher and the sometimes hundreds of homeless people, some of whom are extremely violent.
What the video also does not show, is that every day, seven days a week, four City Transit sized buses, park in the same spot for twenty minutes at a time several times throughout the night, even though there is no bus stop on that road. Yet they are not bothered by the police nor by bylaw officers. Drug dealers stop to deliver their “product” to their “clients”, pimps pickup or drop their “clients”, and while this goes on we go in the middle of it proclaiming freedom and hope in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, and feed the poor and clothe the naked as a testimony that God does care.
What the video also does not make clear is that drug dealers were not blocks away, but rather, in the face of the police, laughing. Rightfully so, if my enemies were taken by other enemies, as a natural man, I would laugh too.
We could right hundreds of pages, but I believe you get the point. To this day, there is still an injunction placed by the court to muzzle me up, forbidding me from using any form of amplified sound, anywhere in the City of Calgary. This means, according to the injunction, no cell phone use, no use of a car or home stereo, no TV, no computer speakers, etc. Knowing that I speak on a Street Church TV show, on the radio as a guest, and other events where amplification is used, the enemy wanted to muzzle me up completely. Last year, alone, I stood before twelve judges.
Regarding this latest arrest and why we carry video cameras, if we did not carry them I would likely still be in jail. I was arrested a few years back for reading a Bible in a public park (seven criminal charges, including resisting arrest – the video is on GodTube to this day), and if it were not for the footage to vindicate me, who knows what they would have gotten away with. The arresting officer lied in his official arrest statement. Now he is facing four charges. Yet this was three years ago and he is still not disciplined for his abuse of power.
When it comes to this latest arrest, do you know anybody who was arrested for a $36 parking ticket? Well, you just met him. I know we are being persecuted for preaching Christ. Even though there are many ministries feeding the homeless, who receive recognition and applause from the City, they do not preach. So, when we come in, the devil is mad, because thousands of people hear the name above all names, and that is what truly matters. So there is the matter of preaching Christ no matter the cost, I don’t think that you would disagree that this is what we are called to do. But now there is the matter of what you as a brother or sister in Christ are to do when you see a brother who is being persecuted. You are not to raise up against your brother, but rather you are to do all that you can to help them, even to the point of being willing to die for them.
1 John 3:14-16, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (15) Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (16) Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Also, bare in mind that in Calgary, two homeless people die on the streets every week. For them it is life or death. Jesus is life. What makes matters worse is that it is those who should be working along side us are our largest non-government aggressor. The shelters, because of greed, abuse of power, and corruption, want to shut the ministry down. Why? These shelters get $400/day for every homeless person who enters their facilities (enough to put that person up in a fancy hotel and feed them for the day). We on the other hand do it in the name of Jesus.
I hope you are getting the picture. If not, we encourage you to study our website www.streetchurch.ca, or call me direct on 403-607-4434. Artur Pawlowski.
I still think that this ministry is Hardcore, and deserving of our support. After all they are simply following Jesus’ command to go and feed the homeless and preach good news to the poor.
Christian St John M.Div, BChM, ACS
Video and pictures from the Street Church website – © Street Church Ministries.