Chaplain to cabbies (London City Mission) - May 2011

MANDY PILZ catches up with London City Mission’s chaplain to cabbies, Will Thorburn

I have mixed feelings about the drivers of London’s black cabs. These cabbies sometimes appear to be impatient kings of the highway, and yet can also be incredibly helpful – like human sat-navs, able to direct me when I get hopelessly lost.

So I am curious to meet Will Thorburn, who has worked tirelessly for almost three years to get alongside them.

How does he go about it?

“Well, I have to be quite bold in this ministry,” he says, “making sure I don’t interfere with their business.

“I approach them from the back of the taxi queues, where there’s more opportunity for them to chat. But it’s not easy because there are around 24,000 cabbies in London and I cover a lot of ground. I go to where they congregate, such as Victoria and King’s Cross, so I often don’t meet the same driver twice.

“That’s why I’ve produced a leaflet especially for them, which explains about Christ. Giving them this is often all there’s time for, and conversations are at most seven minutes long. It’s very fast-moving.”

I am curious to know how they react. “The predominant reaction is one of apathy,” he laments, “which reflects where we are as a society. That’s the biggest problem, but I keep on going.

“One conversation that I recall was when a cabbie said I was just what he needed at that moment and I had the opportunity to talk and pray with him. They sometimes ask me to pray for good business, so I say: ‘I’ll pray that God provides all your needs – but don’t expect to be a millionaire by next week!’”

Will is keen to encourage and equip Christian cabbies to reach out to their fellow cab drivers, and sees that as the next important step. It is challenging because none of the cabbies know where they will be at any one time.

“That’s the most disheartening part of it,” says Will, “but LCM has been reaching out to cabbies for over 100 years and we still believe it’s the right thing to do.”

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