How to Turn the Conversation from Dark to Light

The world is watching the UK as the fourth terror attack since March, and the fire in Grenfell Tower with current death toll near 80, have filled the headlines with darkness. As a foreigner in this country, I usually find out about these attacks and tragedies first from worried text messages from my mom in America, since she’s watched these events unfold as I’ve been asleep.

As a Christian working with young people in schools and churches, I begin to fear that the darkness of these events will cast a shadow on faith, and the children and teenagers will be haunted by the very real question of “Why would a loving God allow this to happen?”

This is an age-old question, and to be quite honest, it often unsettles me. I’ve wrestled with this question in multiple seasons of my faith journey, and it sometimes seems to serve as an anthem for anti-Christian views.

So how do we address this question, this fear, this search for hope that young people carry?

The good news is God addressed this question first–from the beginning of time in fact. Genesis chapter one, the first words in the Bible, tells us that where there was darkness, God breathed in light:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

God responds to darkness with light. He fills the empty, void places with brilliance and splendor. Dark places do not stay dark. This is His plan.

Genesis chapter one also says that God created man in his image. This brings forth the additional question, “Then why are men so evil?” But the root of this answer is simply the darkness that we as humans often choose—sin. Sin was never God’s hope or intent with mankind, but the love he lavishes on us means we get to make our own choices. So God responds even to the darkness of sin—He redeems.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Jesus is this Word that John speaks about, and God intended from the beginning of time for Jesus to be the hope of mankind. He also serves as a clear example of what it is to be light in the grim circumstances of life, and commissioned people to follow his example.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

With this simple look at what light is, what it really does, it’s simple to switch the conversation to the hope that shines in the darkness.

Mr. Rogers, the American children’s show host communicated how we can see the image of God reflected in people during dire circumstances. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

So how do we encourage young people in the midst of such darkness? Show them the light. Direct their gaze to the hope that blazes brighter than the hate. Tell them how they can be a helper—how they, too, can shine in the darkness.

Please join us in prayer as we, and countless other youth workers, share this message of hope with young people in the U.K.

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“Family” Includes More People than we Think

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I was recently given the opportunity to attend a week-long course in Family Ministry, and I never thought I’d say this about going back into education (even if it was just for a week!), but I came away feeling renewed, refreshed, and reassured about the work that I do. For a lot of the week, we reflected on the question “what is family?”, and we answered that question on a personal level, as well as discussed what it means in the UK today, across the world, and throughout history.

Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1 is one I can relate to without any trouble. I’m eager to have children of my own, but currently in a waiting period where it’s just not going to happen for a while. Some days, this is excruciatingly hard to deal with, especially working with children, young people and families, and serving so many people who have the thing that I want most. I want to be able to care for and nurture and inspire someone of my own!

It’s times like this that I try and bring myself back to my role in the family of God. During our reflecting on “what is family?”, one of our tasks was to build what we considered to be our family out of jelly babies. I included my mum, my dad and my brother, who make up the immediate family that I lived with and grew up with, but then I thought about who I consider to be my family here and now, as my parents live far away and my little brother is all grown up. I decided to include two of my best friends, whom I lived with at university and who now live around the corner from me. They have been there for me through thick and thin, and I hope I have done the same for them. We’ve even quite literally saved each other’s lives a few times! By every definition except blood, they are my family. I also started to include a few other local friends, as although I certainly don’t believe family has to be people who are geographically close to you, it certainly helps you to build relationships if you are seeing each other on a regular basis!

I kept adding more and more friends into my family until eventually I ran out of jelly babies, but the task helped me to realise that what I define as my family is as wide as I want it to be – and I want it to be as wide as the world!

Whilst, like Hannah, it is breaking my heart to have to wait uncertainly to become a mother, whilst I wait for my time to come I shouldn’t hide away that familial love that I feel; I want to be pouring that love out on my worldwide family of God. There are infinite challenges in young people’s ministry, but if we open up our hearts to realise that every single child, young person and adult who walks this earth is part of that amazing godly family, making them feel loved and accepted becomes easy. I’ve spent so long praying to God for a family – but the truth is, I’ve already got one, and one that I can nurture and inspire right now.

My prayer is that our eyes would be opened to just how wide and accepting the love of God is, and how much He longs for us to join His family. Please pray that here in Southport, we might make our children and young people feel part of that family of God through our words and actions, and by walking alongside them, pouring out all the love we have to spare.


Katherine-Alice is a Children’s and Youth Worker who currently works in Southport but is about to jet off to Yorkshire to start a Diocesan role overseeing the Children, Young People and Families work there. She loves Disney, Eurovision and cheese, and hopes one day to write a West End musical.

A Call to Dare Young People

IMG_1756What do you call a hero before he’s a hero? Pre-hero? Hero-to-be? Steve Rogers?

I’ve been slowly making my way through Shane Claiborne’s book Irresistible Revolution for the past few months—a snail’s pace, really, so that I can actually ingest and process the intensity!–and I came across a quote a couple days ago that I felt so compelled to share that I squeezed it into a tweet. He wrote:

I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives….but what are they to do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?

My spirit instantly cried, ‘Yes!’ and in that moment, I was reminded of something I heard a few years ago. I used to lead a schools team in the Midlands and our school required that my team and I attend several safe-guarding seminars regarding various topics, one of which was about extremist groups and how to notice if young people are getting caught up in radicalist ideologies. The speaker said something that stuck with me, that young people are often attracted to extremist groups because they want a cause, they want something bigger than themselves to be part of, they want something to give their lives to.

In March last year, the organisation Growing Leaders published an interesting article that supports this theory entitled Five Reasons Extremists Groups are Attractive to Youth. Two of the reasons were really interesting to me. They claim that young people are drawn to extremist groups because of the offer to become someone significant and the challenge to invest their lives in something bigger than themselves.

Hearing the seminar speaker’s statements that day really challenged my thinking. It convicted me that we the Church should be offering young people the chance to participate in something bigger than themselves, something that gives them a sense of significance and purpose, something that they too can live and die for. Personally, that’s one thing I recognize that I myself love about living for God—giving my life for something bigger, greater, better than myself and knowing that I have a significant role to play, that my life has meaning and I have a purpose that stretches beyond me.

So, as Christians and those who know that what young people are looking for can be found within the Kingdom, maybe today we pray for the pre-heroes, the heroes-to-be. Let’s pray for those who will go all-in and give their lives fully for King and Kingdom, the ones who will not love their lives even unto death but will live for a cause so much greater than themselves, willing to lay down their lives, just as Jesus did, for the sake of the Kingdom, out of love for God and others. Let’s pray for the heroes in the making, the spiritual giants who are currently being bullied and struggling with self-harm, for those who feel unnoticed and invisible, for those who allow themselves to be swept along with the crowd but are desperate to break free to be their own person living with greater purpose. Let’s pray for them not to fight against flesh and blood but to stand against the powers and principalities of this age. Let’s pray that they would understand the reality of the world that we live in, the constant war between good and evil and let’s pray that they would experience the reality for themselves that they are–that WE ARE–more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.

There are heroes amongst us, the young people in our midst, those who will respond to the challenge and those who will embrace the adventure and the risks that come with belonging to and fighting for King and Kingdom, those who will rise to be the great men and women of the Church in our day, the heroes who will be included in the eternal hall of faith. Let’s pray them in!

Written by Amanda Porter.



Amanda Porter is the Communications Assistant for Pais Great Britain, and has served on Pais for three and a half years. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities from Michigan College in Tennessee. She loves Jesus, coffee, languages, and traveling, and has a continuously growing heart for Europe.

The Power of Investing in Few

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It is tempting to think that in order to make a major impact in our world, we have to reach as many people as quickly as possible. But in this mentality, I think we miss out on the opportunity to go deep in exchange for the chance that we might go wide.

OUR EXPERIENCE

Let me explain. Last term, our Pais team (a team of five young adults who do schools and church work in Southport) planned a day we called Kingdom Heroes Day, which was a day for young people to get a taster of a day in the life of a Christian. We originally hoped for as many young people as possible to show up, but in the end, we only had five young people come.

This was discouraging at first, but the further we got into the day, the more we saw that five was the perfect number. There was one young person per team member, and we got to specifically focus on each one individually.

We gave them biblical teaching on the Great Commission that Jesus gives all believers in Matthew:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
After that, we went into town to actually put the teaching into practice. Kyra, a girl in year 9, said, “I thought mission would be like being a spy, or being in an army and being commanded to do something. But today, I experienced going into town and giving out You are Loved cards with chocolates to share God’s love.”

Her younger sister Maisy had a similar experience in regards to worship. She said, “Before Kingdom Heroes Day, I thought worship was where you kneel, put your hands together, close your eyes, and say a prayer in your head. But I’ve experienced that there’s lots of ways to worship, by singing, by drawing, by listening.”
These young people came in with a variety of purposes, some desiring to learn more about Jesus, some to get a sense of Christian community with other believers their age, some just to have something to do for the day. The one common denominator, though, was that each young person who came already had a relationship with someone on our team. In order to spend a day investing deeply like we were able, the groundwork had to be done beforehand.

JESUS’S EXAMPLE

We see the example of a leader focusing on a small group demonstrated beautifully by Jesus in His time on Earth. He sought out those few who might follow Him, and with the simple yet beautiful words, Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people, He called them to Himself. Then at once, they dropped their nets to follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20).

It was after this that Jesus took these men, twelve in total, along with him during his ministry. They sat at his feet as he preached to masses the sermon on the mount. They stood beside him as he healed countless people. They saw him give time and attention to society’s outcasts. Their minds were blown as Jesus, the Son of God, washed their feet. Jesus took time to teach His disciples and take them on eye-opening experiences.

A CALL TO PRAY

Please pray that God provides for those who work with young people in Southport creativity, passion, and opportunities. Pray that God will show them ways to take young people beyond the normal church services and perhaps even beyond the church walls to experience mission and worship in new ways.

Pray also that we as a global Church won’t be stuck in a “religious rut,” so singularly-minded, that we’re unable to see the extraordinary experiences God allows us to have. God isn’t boring–he’s full of imagination, creativity, wonder, and adventure. It’s important that we help young people to see this aspect of God, because so many young people simply don’t see the point in Christianity.

As you pray for these things, consider asking God to show you people around you that you can take along on an experience, showing them the many facets of God.

 

Shelby Bland is a first year Pais Apprentice from Texas in the States, currently serving in Southport.

 

Hannah’s Plea in the community

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Recently, I was asked to speak at a Rotary Club event as someone who works in the local Southport community. It followed a dedication in a church of some Christmas banners that had been placed out in the community over the festive season. They’d had them in some supermarkets and banks, with a note asking folk to write down what they felt their needs were at that time, which they could then attach to the banner. I felt this was a good, interesting and compassionate way to engage with the community in itself, but I was even more impressed to see the Christians from amongst the Rotary crowd were praying for these needs.

Obviously, as I was speaking, I was there representing Southport & Area Schools Workers Trust. So with Hannah’s Plea being my current hobby-horse, I decided to pull out 1 Samuel 1 and see what relevance I could draw out for the people gathered (who I was told would be a mix of Christians and many others who wouldn’t be).

I explained how Hannah’s Plea was a story of a lady who desperately wanted a son to be born into her family – a God-fearing family, for whom a man’s life being devoted to God in His house would be considered full of purpose, life transforming, and a privilege above anything else, in touch with all things divine and perfect.

This brought me on to some questions I’ve been pondering recently:slide2

How is our community the perfect family?

I interviewed a young person who had agreed to come and join me for the morning. He told us about how through the support of our ministry, he’d come into church. A church where he considered there to be a loving welcome and a whole host of different opportunities – opportunities to grow, serve, lead, developing both himself and others. This made me think of Samuel and that perfect family that Hannah so desperately wanted him to be a part of.

Obviously, ‘community’ is a pretty broad term. In the case of this young man, we’re speaking of church community. But community could mean our family, our friendship circle, or the neighbours down our street. For our Rotary friends, it’s the local community of Southport where they have their focus, but community even exists in national charities and organisations. Eg. Car owner’s clubs, or the National Trust.

But whatever the ‘community’ may be that we have influence over, what makes it so good? What makes it worthwhile? What’s it’s purpose? What does it do for those who would join?

How do we as part of that family welcome others in?

For me, this is the difference between feeling ‘welcomed’ and feeling ‘wanted’.

A couple of years ago I remember moving into an apartment in a block of retirement flats. It was a nice flat, two bedrooms, owned by a friend whom I payed a bit of lodging cash to – all around a bit of a blessing really. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t really sure what to make of living amongst people old enough to be my grandparents. I mean, many of the people in this world who I respect the most and love dearly are of that generation, but the rather extraverted thought came to mind of how on earth will I relate to them? Whilst I was wanting to have movie nights and entertain my fellow millennial friends, was I not going to feel like the odd one out amongst the rest of the residents? What sort of welcome would I receive? I was fairly hopeful they’d be civilised and say a nice “hello”, but for some reason that didn’t seem to cut it.

After months of changing smoke alarm batteries, shifting heavy furniture, carrying shopping bags out of taxis, and much more, for all the elderly residents, I realised exactly what it meant to be ‘welcomed’. It wasn’t a smile and a nod, it was actually the feeling of being ‘wanted’.

Rather than knowing he’d made some church members happy to see a young man sitting in their pews, I believe this is what the young person I interviewed experienced in a church community. Could it maybe be what Samuel would have experienced in his family and temple community also? How do we help people see they have a place? What opportunities do we give for them to fit into the community and to do their bit?

In what ways do we bring transformation by welcoming others in?

As I write this, I notice today is Martin Luther King Day. Here’s a man who made such a difference, such a huge mark on history. Not only did he see injustice as a concept, he saw the people affected by it most, and even experienced it first hand. What he understood was something very powerful about community. He saw millions of people oppressed because the colour of their skin, chose to grow a community with a common purpose in combatting this, welcoming in anyone who would want to embrace this movement and find comfort in the knowledge they were standing up. These people knew they were wanted in this community, because each and every one of them knew the power of the movement depended on them all being in it together.

The people of this movement, who were once downtrodden and oppressed, were instead empowered and transformed people with the confidence in what their place and purpose in society should look like. Not because of any huge political changes (although these are of course to be remembered and praised), but because of the power of knowing their place in their community.

When we welcome people into this attempt at a perfect family that we call community, founded on love, justice & mercy, how do these people see transformation in their lives? If Hannah hadn’t devoted her son Samuel to a community serving the Lord, would he have grown up to be one of the greatest figures in the history of Israel?

How much do we want this transformation for the people we see around us?

Do we have something here? I’ll tell you what we have: In our back pockets are the keys to a community that can bring transformation into the lives of everyone we walk past in the street.

How desperate are we to see community like this? Hannah wept bitterly. Her desperation was so evident that people thought she’d totally lost the plot. They thought she was a drunkard in the house of the Lord. What passion! How much do we want to see lives born again into the transformational power we possess? Where are we putting the effort in? Where are we making the sacrifices?

As a Christian, I believe the best example I can follow is Jesus. He was so desperate to welcome people into the life-transforming community of his family, that he gave his life for it. The Lamb of God sacrificed in all His perfection, for the salvation of the broken and lost, in all our imperfection.

Also, as a Christian, this passage has inspired my prayer life a great deal. To find out why, please do have a read of our Prayer Guide for Hannah’s Plea, and try praying with me on this for the town I love and know I am called to live in.

I don’t consider myself a hero of the community by any stretch, but I do really want to leave you with these questions, along with the people and organisations and lessons that I feel like I’m learning from, simply because this is what has challenged my thinking most recently. I really hope these challenges have been a bit of an inspiration at least, because they have been to me!

God’s blessing to you all,

Tabz


Tabz (David Taberner) is the employed Schools Worker for Southport & Area Schools Worker Trust. He leads our team from the Pais Project doing a lot of work amongst the community of primary and secondary schools in Southport, as well as with other projects in the wider community.