Being a newly developed area there were hundreds of children and teenagers. As a parish we thought it would be good to employ a part time youth worker to work in the school and in the church to reach out to the teenagers. I thought that if we went did employ someone, they would need some help, so when scripture union with the local Fusion centre decided to run an Urban Mission over the Christmas School Holidays, I thought it would be good to be part of, to see what young people were like and if I had any aptitude for working with them.
I was surprised, I had not realized what my suburb was like after dark. We met homeless kids, kids that travelled 100km to where we were because they had heard we were feeding kids. Kids living on the trains, kids that could not go home on weekends because Dad was drinking, or Mum had the boyfriend over, as well as dozens of ordinary kids looking for something to do during the long school break.
By this stage I was self employed. I went back to work after the two weeks of mission, and back to my comfortable home with a fridge full of food and a warm bed every night. But I could not get it out of my head that there were kids I had met who were still hungry, cold, and vulnerable. I spoke to the Fusion worker who had led the Urban Mission team and said I wanted to do something for those kids.
We began a ‘drop in’ program called Warehouse in the local youth centre. We had a TV, a pool table, tea and coffee and some food. We started running it one evening a week. The work grew rapidly. One of the boys had got into trouble with the police and had to appear before the courts the next day and he asked if I would come along with him to keep him company. After that I could no longer work on Fridays, the day the children’s court met. In that first year we found accommodation for over 50 kids.
Some were also becoming interested in Christianity, so I began a small group exploring what it was to be a Christian. But they needed more. I took one group of kids to a church one Sunday morning, they enjoyed it so much they did not want to go home and stayed there on the grounds long after everyone else had gone home. An elder seeing this grew worried and had the police come and remove the kids.
I next went to the big Anglican Church in the area and talked with the minister. He told me not to bring any street kids to His church’s youth group, because if I did, the other parents would take their teenagers from the group in case they got interested in the street kids romantically. But he did make an application for a grant to employ someone who could run a specialty ministry with these kids. The grant was successful and it was time to find someone to fill the role as a church planter to these kids.We failed to find one trained person who would be able to take on this ministry, or who was willing to try.
What was God doing?
In asking that question, I began to suspect the answer was ... God is calling me to this sort of ministry, but I needed some good training. Where would I find a place to train that would prepare me to work with people who do not normally fit in a church?