LONDON – Lou is part of our Eden team in Bow, East London. She shares how God is at work in the life of one of the young people in their community.
We’ve known Max (not his real name) for about nine months. When we first met him, he was a challenge – often rude with a real attitude problem, and disrespectful in every way you could imagine.
On the bus project we run in partnership with London-based youth charity XLP he caused countless problems for volunteers, throwing things, pushing past people and fighting. Always angry, he would switch between being the foulest mouth on the football pitch to getting into fights on the bus with other young people. Things got so bad with him and his group of friends one week – with Max repeatedly punching a girl in the head – that we actually stopped using the XLP bus and decided to start building relationships through detached work and a football project.
As it became clear the bus wasn’t coming back anytime soon, he disappeared and we didn’t see him or a lot of the young people very regularly. He eventually started showing up to football, still disinterested in anything that we had to say to him and demanding hot chocolate with little thanks.
We prayed more and more for him as a team.
Very insecure, he was often upset about things that seemed small. I once bumped into him outside another young person’s house, where I was dropping off a letter for a football trip. He was so angry at me for not giving him a letter there and then that he didn’t even look at me for the next few weeks. It baffled me why he seemed to hate us all so much but would still turn up each week, often being the first one there.
Recently we invited him to a gig at church where Message band Vital Signs performed songs and shared their testimonies with young people. He disturbed the whole gig by standing in the middle of the stage, throwing food and shouting abuse.
It appeared there was no way to start building a relationship with Max but over the last month or so, we’ve started to see some surprising changes in his life.
He started talking to the leaders – only one or two word answers, but answers nonetheless. He picked up some litter he’d thrown on the floor when asked. And most excitingly, he changed his mind and went on a trip with XLP. Having initially said ‘yes’, he gave a terrible excuse not to go, and refused to change his mind. After bumping into him and telling him we valued him and really wanted him to be there, he turned up!
These seem like small changes, but for me they signal the start of tiny amounts of trust being built.
Last week as part of our detached youth work, we ran an activity that involved getting sweets for answering questions about safety and protection on the streets. The words, ‘Ask me another question then,’ actually came out of Max’s mouth! It might have been to do with the sweets, but six months ago he wouldn’t have even stopped to talk to us, let alone ask us to give him a question.
Although I like to think that these small changes in Max are a sign of something bigger shifting after hearing about God at that gig, I have no way of knowing. But it definitely seems like a miracle that there is a change in him.
Trust is built slowly and if this week he can answer a question, who knows where we’ll be in another six months.
God works wonders, even in the small things. Be encouraged.
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