An Alternative Route

Our Message Buses are all about going and sharing the gospel with young people in hard-to-reach communities and equipping the local church to do the same. With buses now running the length and breadth of the UK, we spoke to North West Message Bus manager John Li to find out more…

While managing a business at the Message Enterprise Centre, John developed a passion for evangelism. Sharing the gospel with customers who passed through the doors encouraged him to pursue this passion further. Over time he moved on from the business to managing the North West Message Bus – taking the well-equipped mobile youth centre to tough communities across Greater Manchester, in partnership with the local church. Providing young people with a place to go in an evening and have fun with their mates, while also hearting the good news of Jesus.

John loves working with a group of young people from the beginning of a project to the end. Over the weeks he gets to see relationships built and each of them find out more about the good news of Jesus. Throughout a bus project, the improvement in attitude, behaviour and self-value is always evident. Recently, the bus has been on an estate in Oldham. The bus parked up in a location that is usually where young people hang out drinking and smoking weed. 

‘We saw several responses to the gospel and a group of lads spoke out that Jesus loves them’

‘On the first night we rocked up with our high-tech flashy bus, with FIFA and a climbing wall and had 26 young people come on board. Most of them were clearly high. If I’m honest, they were quite an intimidating group, who the local council were desperate to reach out to. About an hour into the evening I invited everyone to stick around and listen to the gospel. It was nerve racking but I knew it was what they needed to hear, so I went for it and shared the truth with them. We saw several responses to the gospel that night and a group of lads spoke out that Jesus loves them.’ 

Over the next few weeks the bus carried on going to Oldham. As John and the team continued to pour Jesus into the lives of these young people, the change was astounding. ‘The lads continued coming on board, but no longer smelling of booze or weed. Their attitudes to girls clearly changed and their language toned down. The local council also got in touch to tell us how they have seen a significant decrease in anti-social behaviour in the area.’ 

‘We get to meet young people where they are at, giving them an alternative to what they could be up to that night.’

The heart of the bus is to take the good news of Jesus to tough places, meaning not every bus session is an easy place to share the gospel. 

John recently took the bus to an estate in Salford in partnership with the Eden team that work there. ‘It was difficult to get the kids to respect the equipment. They weren’t interested in chatting to us, they were just there because they had nothing better to do. As I shared the gospel, most of them sat with fingers in their ears. I was gutted – it was hard not to take personally.’ Despite these circumstances, God moved during this session and one young girl approached John. ‘She asked to know more about forgiveness and if we could pray for her. It was encouraging as she told us she was under a lot of peer pressure not to talk to us but she did anyway.’ 

‘Even though these circumstances are difficult, these young people are the reason we do this. They’re the reason I keep getting back on board the bus and heading to these challenging areas. We get to meet young people where they are at, giving them an alternative to what they could be up to that night. And most importantly seeing lives transformed.’ 

The Message Bus operates right across the UK with projects in Manchester, Liverpool, Yorkshire, South Wales, Glasgow and now also in London. All the Bus Managers regularly share stories of how God’s
working through this ministry. 

‘We act as a bridge but the local church are the real heroes’

One such story comes from Jack, our Bus Manager in Yorkshire. Working alongside the Eden West Bowling team and their partner church, the bus was part of a three-day mission on their estate. Based in the heart of a Muslim community, the week took place during Ramadan which led to great discussions about faith, fasting, prayer and Jesus between the team and the young people and their families. From these few days, the Eden team and their partner church have put themselves out into their community and said: ‘you are welcome here and we want to serve you.’

‘We’re not here to build a parallel ministry,’ says John. At the heart of the Message Bus is church partnership. ‘We can act as a bridge between the young people of a community and their local church. But the local church are the real heroes.’ As young people come on board, hear the gospel and respond, they’re discipled by members of the church throughout the session. ‘When the bus leaves, these kids aren’t left high and dry. Rather, young people keep going back to the church because of the work that they’ve put in. 

‘Now that I know where my eternity lies, I need to tell others that they can also be saved. By sharing the gospel in these communities, we’re saving lives both physically and eternally.’ 


Interested in bringing the Message Bus to work with your church? Head to message.org.uk/bus to find out how.