Picture the scene. A young man walks through a park one afternoon, praying and seeking lads to invite to a weekly Group to talk about Jesus.
Sound familiar? Many of us know the story of how Crusaders / Urban Saints began with Albert Kestin meeting boys in a park in 1900.
But let’s move the story on 121 years. Freshly-employed Sam Daniel, a new Impact Team Leader for Urban Saints, took himself off for a walk and a pray around a park. He spotted a group of 10 or 15 young lads with hoodies and bikes. Although slightly daunted, Sam took his courage in his hands and made the decision to go and talk to them.
God is still working, still moving, still longing to be known by every child, young person and adult.
Walking over, Sam noticed that one of the lads was a little detached from the others, so Sam headed towards him. He looked rather threatening but they struck up a conversation which (translated from street slang!) went along the lines of “What’s happening, bro?” Sam started talking about how life throws so much at us, and then went on to tell the lad the story of how Albert Kestin had chatted to boys in a park and how it had birthed one of the largest youth organisations in the country.
The lad was impressed – “That’s sick” (cool). Sam shared how he was a Christian, and the lad said he used to go to church with his mum and sister but now lived on his own in a council flat.
Sam asked who the other lads were, who looked to be between 15 and 18, some wearing school uniform. “They’re all my runners.” (Meaning they sell drugs on his behalf.) The lad Sam had just happened to bump into was the leader of the local drug gang!
When he told Sam he was 28, Sam replied that he was the same age. The lad said the system had failed him and he had ended up in this situation and there was nothing for young people to do in this area – they were all on the streets.
So Sam uttered the (almost!) infamous line, “If I started a youth club or something here, would you help me lead it?”
“No,” said the lad. “But if you give me a call, I'll bring everyone to you. Every kid here knows me.”
Sam then met another one of the group who he initially thought was a lad by the way they were dressed and their manner, but then realised she was a girl. “I’m down,” (I’m in), she said, and told Sam that she would bring all the girls, and she, like the other lad, gave Sam her phone number.
15 minutes in the park and God just ‘happened’ to direct Sam to the leader of the local drug gang who knows every child and young person in the area! How amazing is that?
Oh, and did we say where this park was? It was Elthorne Park in Crouch End, North London. The exact same park that Albert Kestin walked in 121 years earlier… God is still working, still moving, still longing to be known by every child, young person and adult. Do pray for Sam as he plans his next steps for these young people, hungry to discover a new kind of belonging and purpose and meaning in life.
"Create Groups that are sustainable but unshakeable, Filled with Leaders who are teachable but untameable."
Watch Sam as he shares a spoken word (written and produced by our Impact Team and filmed in Crouch End, North London) that perfectly captures the mission and vision of Urban Saints, uniting the past, present and future of the organisation urbansaints.org/wewillgo