“So I gently escorted this teenaged lad to the door … and on the way he said; ‘I’ll shoot you!’” This was how Adrian concluded telling me about an incident that took place at the Junior Youth Programme last week, when we met on Skype a few days after it happened.

What had led up to that moment was that a young person, who we hadn’t seen for quite a few months, walked in to the church where the junior youth programme was taking place with a few of his friends. It was not the programme for his age group, so Adrian told him that and he seemed quite happy about it and was ready to leave … but his friends (who we didn’t know) started behaving in a very negative way towards the youth who were there, and refused to leave. So Adrian spoke to the ringleader and was walking with him towards the door when he decided to threaten Adrian!

It wasn’t really a credible threat, but both for the sake of making sure and for the sake of speaking into this young man’s life, I made contact with a school principal who knows these young men and is well respected in the community, to ask him to track them down and, in a loving way, ensure that they understand that it is not ok to disrupt the programmes or to go around making death threats. 

At another point in the meeting we talked about just how different the culture is in Trench Town compared to Scotland, or Australia, and the challenge that creates in communication with people who haven’t lived in it. At one level, everyone knows that the culture in inner-city communities (and especially inner city communities in completely different countries) is different … but as Adrian then remarked; “It’s one thing to know, but it’s another thing to go.”

There is a totally different kind of knowing that comes from living in something, whether that is engaging with a different culture or going through a significant change in circumstances. Those things shape us in ways that are are not aware of … and when our hearts continue to trust God when other points of reference that we had relied on are shaken … He uses those experiences to do some of His deepest work. The challenge is that we prefer to avoid them.

God’s word tells us to go, not just for “them” but for our own sake. this is why we need to “humble ourselves and take in the message that God put in our hearts which can save our lives.” (James 1:21)