17 June 2011
Rock in the community
Services for young people run by the Church are nothing new; but the radical youth work Belfast Christians are running on Shankhill Road places it right in the heart of the community.
Created out of the work that church members were doing with young people, Rock Community Church in Belfast was spurred on by the Evangelical Alliance's Square Mile resources and now runs the Nightwatch project.
The work targets children of secondary school age who hang out on the Shankhill Road in the north-west of the city.
Troy Rhodes, internship director at the church, has worked with young people in the city for 16 years. "Rock Community Church has a focus on secondary school kids, particularly those living on the Shankhill Road where things can get tough. There is a park along the road and kids often get drunk there. We had a heart to go to them with no real expectations; just taking them at face value, and we came up with the idea of Nightwatch," he says.
Encouraged by the resources, the idea for the project grew and now sees about 85 kids coming along. "We were really inspired by the video section [in Square Mile]…of a book reading in the café - and it made us think we are going to go where people are," Troy adds. "It gave us some oomph. Some nights we find it hard - especially when kids get distracted and don't want to know."
Serving non-alcoholic refreshments and food, the teams also offer prayer, hang out with the kids and help them if they are in trouble and help them on whatever way they can.
"We have been able to call taxis for the kids, give them food, hold back their hair when they are being sick and walk them home safely if they need it," says Troy.
And with radical work comes radical fruit, which the team has seen in the way in which the young people keep coming back to the project.
"I think of one boy Tom, a nine-year-old who just wanders the streets and gets in trouble and all he wants is some affection," says Troy.
"You see in those moments that this is what it is all about. We are trying to show some kind of constant in these kids' lives and showing God's love. It has been good, it has been tough, but by being faithful to God we will be able to show that love."