I realise I spend a great deal of time writing and sharing about what God is teaching me in this season of life. But rarely do I share about the inspiring students I get the privilege of working with each and every day. The way they live their lives with great boldness and perseverance challenges me to chase after God with great fervour.
It’s very common for students in The North East of England to be the only person they know who believes in Jesus. Many of them do not have parents or grandparents who take them to church regularly. It’s up to them to get themselves to church or youth club. Some of them will ride their bike or take the bus or ride the train in order to come along to church. For many of them, believing in Jesus means receiving a great deal of ridicule at school and often feeling isolated. But one of the things I love most about this place is that when you meet another believer, their faith is normally the core of their identity, not a weekly scheduled meeting or a group they associate with. Believers here flock together because we need the community from one another to go back into the world and demonstrate who He is. It reminds me of the early church in the Bible. I love that church is a place where I go to find family and refreshment. It’s a beautiful escape from the pressures of the world. When I walk into my church, I am surrounded by people who are recklessly pursuing their Creator and hanging on to every word of His promises. It is a real joy and privilege to be welcomed into the family here. It’s a real privilege to know the young people of Teesside who are living lives of radical abandonment for their Creator.
I meet with Melody* once every two weeks on a Tuesday in a coffee shop. It’s one of my favourite aspects of what I do. She is in year 10 at school (equivalent to 9th grade). She grabs a taxi from school as I eagerly await her arrival. Melody and I have similar stories. We’ve both had some battles with disordered eating and both of us have been transformed by the journeys which have resulted. Melody talks with great emotion about her past. She is proud of the journey God has taken her on because her life is now a testimony for many of her friends who struggle with the same difficulties. A couple of weeks ago, Melody brought a friend along to our cafe church. Cafe church happens once a month in a local coffee shop. Our students play live music and we share a talk on what God is teaching us. It’s amazing and one of my favourite things I get to be a part of. Melody is there every single time we have cafe church. When she brought a friend along several weeks ago, we were overjoyed. My boss and I later prayed with Melody’s friend who was interested in following Jesus. (side note: I love getting to talk about Jesus in a coffee shop with students. Church happens in the unexpected places. Sometimes, it means going out of our buildings and into the spaces where our students are gathered.)
Fast forward to several weeks later, I was sitting at the usual coffee shop waiting for Melody to arrive for mentoring. She walked in with the friend she brought to cafe church. The three of us spent over an hour talking about God, asking difficult questions, and learning from one another. Melody’s friend had very little knowledge about Jesus, and she asked really good questions about why we believe what we believe. I did not have good answers for most of her questions, but you know who did? Melody. Melody is filled with this wisdom that is rooted in her dependence upon her Savior. Melody explained the nature of God and His divine sovereignty to her friend in such simple, yet, beautifully expressive ways. I sat there next to the both of them with the biggest smile on my face. Watching Melody share her faith with her friend was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. I don’t credit Melody’s wisdom to my teaching or my own wisdom in any way. Rather, I thank God that He gave me the opportunity to exist in that moment with him. The young people of Teesside are radically affecting the culture around them. They are challenging social norms and speaking with great boldness about Jesus. They are constantly teaching me to be bold and brave and so in touch with the Spirit of God. The future of our churches are sitting in coffee shops telling their friends about Jesus. They are in the classroom inviting friends to a youth club. They are sitting at football practice praying for an unbelieving friend. These young people are the hands and feet of Jesus and they are embracing a world that is so unaware of their great need for Him.
*Names of students have been changed.
Written by Caroline Davis