I was privileged to have one of the most amazing mentors when I was in my teen years.
Paul Burke and his wife, Vicky, took me under their wing and they blew me away with the life and passion they lived. I remember when I was seventeen, they broke the news they were moving to Toronto to work with the homeless in the downtown core. A couple of years later I went to visit them and the work they were doing among the homeless. Paul took me down Younge Street at night to show me around. I was amazed at how many people he knew! We would pass by and I’d hear; “Hey Paul!”. Paul didn’t just say “hi” back, he knew these people’s NAMES! He had no fear. He took me into what looked like a dark back alley they could use on a movie set. He proceeded to break up a fight between some seriously mean looking guys. I almost peed my pants, but I didn’t because Paul would have teased me for the rest of my life….
After chatting with Paul a week ago he said something that gripped me; “We who call ourselves Christians have made what should be normal abnormal”. I instantly recalled a time I happened to see Paul on the news because he stopped to help someone who looked like they were going to jump off the bridge he was driving on. While others drove by stressed about their next appointment, Paul lived out what normal Jesus following looks like. I mean, this is the guy who’s kids grew up with drug dealers around…. drug dealers who Paul knew the names of, and cared about. Most people would freak out at that concept, but you know what? Paul and Vicky’s kids are all grown up now and living out the same compassion seen in their parents. You could say they’re living “normal” too.
Paul’s life and speech are pretty to-the-point. I asked him what he’s presently doing with all his outreach. Here is how he replied; “Convincing people they can do stuff”. Pretty humble response coming from a guy who’s got two missions downtown Toronto (or maybe there’s more now), a 12 step church set up for recovering addicts, missions happening with the gypsies in Spain and France, starting a mission in the University, restoring lives, discipling people to reproduce compassion into others, keeping a feeding program for the homeless running, creating outreach in a public school to equip and empower teachers…. no wonder he calls himself a “chaos creator”. I like to call him a Culture Rebel.
None of it makes sense to Paul. He calls himself the “least likely”. An accident several years ago has left him with brain damage, yet there he is keeping on despite any aftermath, such as loss of energy or ability to focus. He still presses on to bring the “normal” back to Christianity.
Some have asked me: “So is this what a Culture Rebel is?? Someone who gives to the poor? Is that your point?”. Not exactly. A Culture Rebel is someone who makes culture, rather than follows it. Paul isn’t following culture. He’s not even following normal church culture….. he’s making the abnormal, normal. THAT’S what being a Culture Rebel is all about.
That’s our challenge for this week: how can you make what seems to be “abnormal” by society and even within the church, normal again? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
And Paul, thanks for forever being who I want to be when I grow up.
ps: Erin is the winner of the book draw!!