Just Walk With Me: A True Story of Inner-City Youth Work
Author: Jude Simpson and e:merge
Publisher: Authentic Media
Book Review by Amanda Pink, Undergraduate Student at Redcliffe College.
Set in Inner City Bradford, and providing insight into the difficulties and struggles of the young people who live there, Just Walk With Me introduces and explores the work of Christian Youth project e:merge. It tracks one year through the eyes of two members of staff, alternating between the diary entries of Niki, the young and pretty, self-confessed ‘happy–clappy’, newly appointed youth worker, and insights from Yan, a South African ex-policeman and co-founder and director of the project who has lived and worked in the area for twelve years.
In style the book is easy to read; in content it is challenging and emotionally engaging. It covers a wide range of tricky issues involved in such a ministry – including how to build trust up with people who have lived only with untrustworthy and insecure relationships; how to set behavioural boundaries without becoming just another set of authoritarian rule makers; coping with the sacrifice of moving (along with your family) into a ‘difficult’ area; whether to work as part of a church or as a separate organisation; and so on. As someone interested in such a ministry I found these accounts extremely valuable food for thought.
I have read too many books tracking Christian mission, from which I come away thinking, “Wow, that sounds really impressive…if only I could be someone like that and do something like that!” And though I may come away with a particular high regard for that person or organisation or work, the main result is that mission becomes something more removed from me in my mind – something that super-holy people who know all the answers do – not people, like me, who have questions and struggle. Just Walk With Me is not one of those books. It is impossible not to be drawn into engaging with the issues and situations that it presents because it honestly presents real people, struggling with real life. Its writers talk openly about mistakes they have made, questions they have and don’t know the answer to, but equally how they have grown and what they have found helpful.
For those who may not be actively involved in such a ministry but are still part of the body of Christ, Just Walk With Me humbly invites its readers to question their prejudices and to grow in understanding about the life of the people that they work with. In Niki’s words:
“Life here is not glamorous. Sometimes when people talk or write about ‘difficult’ young people they glamorise it… They make the young people into really articulate, sort of, genius gangsters who have decided to drop out of society and are making their own heroic way through life, joyriding Mercedes around council estates. The reality’s not like that… For some of [the young people here], [life’s] a long hard slog they can only just about manage. For many of them it’s bleak, shabby and grim.”
Some of the questions asked in this book are difficult. And I didn’t always agree with the solutions or suggestions that its writers had offered. But if nothing else, it broke my heart for people that God is broken-hearted for, and that, in my mind, can only be a good thing.
Buy Just Walk With Me: A True Story of Inner-City Youth Work from St Andrew’s Bookshop.
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