Chapter 17.    Cast Out

Roger was still several doors away from home when he spotted the suitcases sitting on the normally bare front porch. As he pulled into the drive, the door opened and Ganley Toogood stepped out on the porch with a cardboard box in his arms.

"Show me what to do, Lord," Roger prayed as he stepped out of the car.

"Good afternoon, Ganley. What's up?" he said with a smile, as he tried to pretend that nothing was wrong.

Ganley did not answer. Instead, he put the box down, turned abruptly and re-entered the house. "You went over there again, didn't you?" said Barbara as Roger walked through the door. Ganley had his back turned, and was on his knees, packing books, papers, and other items that were stacked in the middle of the lounge room into another box. He moved slowly, and he fussed over each item to keep from joining in too soon. Barbara was the appropriate person to handle this.

"I phoned your office after lunch, and they said you hadn't been in. I told you that I know you better than you know yourself, Roger. You couldn't even wait one day to quit your job, could you!"

"What are you talking about? I haven't quit my job. Be reasonable, Barbara. I just took a sickie. Is that so terrible?"

Ganley's attempt to stay out of it failed almost before he started. He jumped to his feet and turned around to face Roger. His face was flushed, and he was almost screaming. "It's not the job, Roger. It's them! You just had to go back and see them again, didn't you? You've let them brainwash you. It's what they do, wherever they go."

"To begin with, Ganley, this is really none of your business. And if you can't control your anger any better than that, then I think you are the one who has the problem. You don't seriously think I'm going to let you or Barbara tell me who I can have for friends, do you?"

Barbara replied, "No, Roger, I may not be able to force you away from them; but you can't force me to live with you either. It's over, Roger. It's over." She repeated the last two words like they were some kind of a vow to herself.

"And where do you expect me to go while you cool down and come to your senses?" he asked.

"Where you choose to live from now on is your problem." And then Barbara added sarcastically, "Maybe you can sleep out on the streets with your new friends."

"Yes, maybe I could," Roger said pensively. "Can you at least give me a day or two to pick up my gear?"

"Take as long as you like; but it's all going out on the front porch tonight. I don't want you coming back into this house."

Roger returned to the car and sat at the wheel for a while, thinking and praying. He hadn't really planned anything as drastic as what Barbara had been suggesting, but the more he thought about it, the better it sounded. He put a few suitcases into the car, started the engine, and backed out the drive to take yet another trip to Redfern.

It was almost nine when Roger knocked on the door again and was greeted once more by Dave's infectious smile.

"Come in. Come in," said Dave. "Hey, Cherry, guess who's back? It's Roger."

A few heads poked out from the kitchen and the hallway, and people slowly trickled into the loungeroom while Roger told his story. This time there were hugs all around.

"Whadya think? Would I be able to fit in with you people?" he asked on completion.

"Sure. Certainly," said Dave. "We'd be thrilled to have you. Anna, can you get some blankets and a pillow? You can sleep there on the couch. Tomorrow we can talk about where you go from here."

"What do I have to do to be a member?" Roger asked.

"We're happy to help out with a place for you to stay, for as long as you need it," said Dave. "But becoming a member is a different matter. It's a big decision, and it takes a lot of thought. A decision like that needs to be based on more than circumstances… or emotions."

"I realise that," said Roger. "But I think it is more than circumstances and it's more than emotions too. It's the truth in what you've been saying. Maybe Barbara knows me better than I realised. She knew that if I decided that what you were saying was true, then I would have to act on it. I don't want to be a phoney Christian. I want to be a genuine follower of Jesus. And that means doing all those things that he told his followers to do."

Dave made a half-hearted attempt to get Roger to sleep on it; but the new convert was too excited, and the others were equally thrilled to hear someone finally talking seriously about joining them. Martha had been the only person in more than a year to move in with the Sydney bin raiders and then she had taken off for Adelaide. The group was acutely aware of the need for others to help them in their mission to the world; but nothing they could do or say ever seemed to persuade people to follow Jesus in the way that they were doing. In the end, it always took a supernatural move from God to make anyone choose such a lifestyle. Roger seemed to be experiencing just such a move at the moment.

They gave him the option of giving notice on his job, but he wanted to end it immediately. Dave could see from other evidence that Roger was not the sort of person who was normally inclined to make rash decisions, and so his certitude about quitting the job was further evidence that his decision was based on deep personal conviction. The same enthusiasm in someone else would have had the opposite effect on Dave.

Roger was keen about organising a garage sale too, so that he could dispose of all his belongings. He still owed $7,000 on the car, but he had more than enough in a fixed-term deposit at the bank to cover that. Dave explained that the group did not believe in having debts; so Roger said he would pay off the car in full the next day.

Group policy was for new members to either give their wealth away to charities, or to sign it over to those who had been in the community longer than themselves. Potential members were required to live in the community for at least a week before making such a decision. The reason for that was because the decision was regarded as irreversible. They didn't want people making a decision one day and regretting it the next.

"Now you know why so few people join us, and why those who do usually have very little money to begin with," explained Dave, as he indicated with his hands the others in the room. The others had a good laugh at themselves.

"Technically, the entrance requirements are the same for everyone, but giving up everything is much more frightening to a rich person than it is to a poor person. You won't get any special treatment just because you've contributed more money; and you won't get it back, even if you change your mind two days after you join. So pray about it very seriously over the next week." Roger was flattered at being called a "rich person". But he ssaid that he thought distributing tracts would be harder for him than forsaking his possessions. "It's going to be embarrassing if people from work see me doing it," he said.

"It's great for your pride," said Juan. "Keeps you humble and broken before God. But we all have special problems when it comes to our old friends, and our families. Even Jesus said he had more difficulty getting through to his family than he had getting through to other people. One way around it is just to move somewhere else. There are three other groups that you could choose to work with."

"No, I want to work here," said Roger. "I'll manage somehow, if you people will help me." It was after eleven when Dave called an end to the discussion. "You're going to wake up in the morning and think, 'What on earth have I done?'" he said. "Right now we're all on a high. But reality means carrying on faithfully even when you don't get a buzz out of it. You'll have the privilege of learning about that tomorrow," he finished with a smile.

Everyone took a turn at hugging Roger and welcoming him, before he climbed into bed, feeling happier than he had felt for a very long time.

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