It is not his real name, but I will call him Alan.
He came to our youth club programmes for about three years, when he was 13 to 16 years old, and is 20 now. Those can be disorientating years for young people in any setting, but especially so in the inner city. In those early teen years your awareness of life around you goes through major changes … the childhood bubble gets burst … and if you start to believe that the deck is just stacked against you (which in many cases it is) … you can loose hope for your future.
He got into all kinds of trouble; at school with his teachers, then with the law when he and a friend went into a building through the window and stole a phone, and were caught on security camera, then with his Mum at home when he made matters worse by fighting for his independence in disrespectful ways. Myself and another one of the youth team once had to intervene when his mother was chasing him down the street with a machete! In that instance she calmed down and we were able to mediate a peaceful solution to the situation a bit later. The legal situation was also resolved when he replaced the phone and the charges were dropped, but there were a few more tough moments for him throughout those years.
Alan kept coming to club every week, and when he talked we listened, and when we offered to pray he accepted, and when we talked he knew what we were saying was coming from a place of caring for his best interests. Walking alongside Alan through all of this, it was so clear to all our team that he was a really bright kid with a lot of potential, but life was complex for him and he just kept making choices that weren’t helping him. So we kept encouraging him to make different choices to give himself a better chance.
Just before Easter this year we had an outreach to give food packages to the elderly. Alan came to help on the volunteer team, and while working together through the day he proudly told us that he finished getting his certificate as an Air Conditioning Technician, and is now working in a good job. After giving out all the packages the team got together to review how it all went, and at the end Alan spontaneously said: “I just want to say thanks to the team for being there for me through the toughest time in my life. You were the only people who treated me like a respectable person through those years. Whenever I came to Fusion you cared about me, and helped me find the right path when I was going down the wrong one. I am back on track now, but I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for you guys, so I just wanted to say thanks.”
None of us expected him to share his story in that moment, but it was an encouraging reminder of the impact that a community of caring people can make for a young person like Alan.
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 This verse shows how we all need other people who we can learn from, receive from, hear from and see things in, that will lead us to the right path.