This is the first ever guest post on this blog, and is also the first in a short series written by former young people I have had the privilege of working with. Having been involved in youth work for well over 10 years, many of my old youth groups have gone on to do amazing and exciting things. Some, to my immense pride, have also gone on to work with young people themselves. I have asked a few of these individuals to write about their experiences of working with young people in their particular context.
This post is written by long-term friend Shaun Parker:
Over the last 10 years Iâ€™ve worked with Jon in many ways, in fact my first experience of Jon was when I volunteered at a playscheme when I was 14! 10 years on Iâ€™ve been really blessed to have worked alongside him. Over the years Iâ€™ve been involved in playschemes, church groups, large events like Spring Harvest, young carers support groups, and the most recent was an internship with Arun Community Church which was in partnership with The Rank Foundation.
I write this blog post while siting in a coffee shop in Bogota, Colombia. I have the backdrop of a huge and beautiful Church building behind me while prostitutes (adults and children), pimps, transexuals and drug dealers go about their business – not your normal combination!
After my internship with Arun Community Church I was invited to join this team in Bogota to plant a new Church which has a focus on the community. While this isnâ€™t a new concept for most of us from the West, it is a big deal for people here in Latin America. So our mission is to be a non-religious, non-legalistic expression of Jesus Christ throughout Colombia and Latin America; a church of creativity, reflecting our Creator, a Church of action bringing the kingdom of God into every area of society, and to see the rule and reign of Jesus break out in peopleÊ¼s lives! The name of our church plant is called â€˜Comunidad Mosaicâ€™ or ‘Mosaic Community’ in English. Just as a mosaic is made of broken, unique, individual pieces, so too is the church of Jesus made up of individual, broken humanity. But together we create a work of art, together we paint a picture of a different future. A Ê»mosaicÊ¼ is an art form both ancient and modern and we believe that the church of the 21st Century should bring the old and new together, reflecting the full picture of the great story we are called to continue – of GodÊ¼s work interfacing with human history.
Before I confirmed to come out to Colombia I had many different options, and while staying in England made a lot of sense (and if Iâ€™m honest I wanted to stay in England), I knew that it wasnâ€™t meant to be. God gave me a passion and desire to see people set free from within the sex trade, so I moved over here to develop some projects that will make that happen. We are very much at the start of our work into the sex industry here and are currently just trying to be a light in a dark place.
When Jon asked me to write about some of my experiences of working with young people, I knew that I wanted to talk briefly about the difference between youth work in England and Colombia. Something I have found very difficult when coming over here is the lack of planning and safety. We are currently planning a children’s playscheme for October and trying to find basic Child Protection procedures here is like bashing your head against the wall! But while that is frustrating, what I have found even more challenging is the method that is used to work with young people. Most teachers or â€˜youth workersâ€™ won’t allow young people to explore ideas or try things in different ways, they simply tell them what is the ‘correct way’ of doing things. I think this just creates a bunch of robots who donâ€™t know why they are doing what they do!
From my experience as a young person in England, I really appreciated it when youth workers gave me the encouragement to pursue my own answers. That has always been one skill that I have used when working with other people. I think itâ€™s one of the most important things we could do as youth workers and in actual fact it’s very easy to do.
Blogging is new for me and Iâ€™m still trying to find my feet with it all. I started back in 2008 but quickly got distracted and gave up. Late in 2009 I decided to start up again and created my own site with the aim to keep people up to date with everything thats happening in Colombia. It has since turned more into a general blog about the sex industry, youth work and many other things. Do feel free to check it out as I would love some comments on future developments of my posts. I have also just been approved as a writer for the http://www.xxxchurch.com blog (a Christian ministry reaching out to the sex industry). Itâ€™ll be a couple months before my posts are published but do keep an eye out for those too.