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Kids are important to InnerCHANGE.  In this issue learn about powerful kids' retreats and clubs in London, Glasgow and South Africa.
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Jesus said,

"Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."


Matthew 19:14

 


From London to Glasgow to South Africa,
kids matter to God
and they matter to InnerCHANGE.

May we invite children into spaces of innocence where kids can put aside labels; where expressions and gestures of love abound; where we dance in chapels and know that we are loved fiercely by a compassionate and holy God.  
 

Girlz United - London, England


Girlz United started several years ago when some of the girls had started to out-grow the holiday club project we run here in London. At the beginning, as we were applying for funding for the project, we asked the teenage girls, "What do you want to do?" One replied, “We want to meet some girls who are different from us.”

More than half the residents in our neighborhood are of Bangladeshi origin, and the local schools attended by the girls we work with are largely made up of kids from that community. All of the girls, and most of their friends, are from Muslim families. And so, with this honest request – "We want to meet some girls who are different from us" – Girlz United was born. Teaming up with two Christian youth groups from other parts of the surrounding area, we organized activities and day trips to introduce the girls to one another. Throughout the course of the following year, tentative friendships were formed over a graffiti project, a high ropes course, and a meal out.

The year of activities culminated in a residential weekend, and this was where the relationships and conversations went to a deeper level. They reached out hands to help their new friends across an obstacle course, asked and answered questions with respect and honesty, burst into a spontaneous sing-along around a campfire, and discussed their thoughts around the various labels they wear: girl, teenager, Muslim, Christian. The weekend was summed up beautifully on Facebook by one of the girls: “Whether Muslim or Christian, we are all like one big family of crazy girls and it’s just lovely that we can come together with our faiths with pride and confidence.”

One year on, a quick poll of the 20 girls on the second Girlz United residential revealed that they were from families from ten different countries of origin – Ghana, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco, Somalia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Jamaica, Uganda, and England – which led to some fascinating conversations around the role of culture in religious practice. It was so exciting to see these young women practicing relational skills that will carry them far as they navigate our changing world. Though perhaps the most impressive thing on this second weekend wasn’t the organized discussions, but what we heard had been chatted about late into the night in the girls’ dorms: prayer, arranged marriage, the Ebola outbreak (which was at its peak at that time), and the Trinity.

Needless to say, Girlz United has been invaluable in providing these girls with opportunities to build genuine friendships with others who are different from them, to explore faith, to disagree respectfully, and to openly express their opinions, questions, and the challenges they face. And as neighbours to some of these girls back in London, we are able to continue to walk with them as they figure out their place in the world. It really is a beautiful thing to be a part of, and a great joy and privilege to be journeying with the girls in this way.


Leanne is on the IC London team and has lived in the UK allher life. She divides her time up neatly between youth work, community music, and getting to know people from different cultures in London, which are just a few of her favorite things.
 

Creating Space

Glasgow, Scotland
 

"Can we play a game?” Andrew asked.  We started playing a game of “Granny’s knickers”. This game was new to me. Its basic premise is to not smile while asking each other ridiculous questions, which must always be answered with “Graaaaaaaanny’s knickers”. Examples include but are in no way limited to, “What’s on your head?”, “What did you have for breakfast?”, and the like.

Suffice to say, this got us really tickled, and we didn’t last long playing by the rules. But it was never really about the game. It was an opportunity for creating a space for fun and childlikeness. I guess that’s what I think most of our work with kids is really about: creating a space of innocence.

I think about my neighbor, “Samantha”. She’s in her late thirties, and from the bits and pieces of her story I’ve gathered, she’s been a victim for, well, her whole life.  I can’t even fathom her childhood. The things she’s probably witnessed and endured—as a child, no less as an adult.

I’m sure hers is a story not unlike many of our neighbors’. I wonder about the number of kids I know whose lives are following the same storyline as “Samantha’s”? I wonder how many put on a smiling face, but endure the unspeakable behind closed doors? I wonder if “Samantha” had safe places to be childlike and free? I wonder how her life might have been different if she had? I wonder if (and hope that) our creating childlike spaces for them is making a difference? I wonder if these kids will embark on and set in motion a new narrative?

Oh, Lord, let it be.
Let this be a world in which the innocence of “Granny’s knickers” is the height of humor and entertainment. A world where kids can be kids and bear burdens appropriate to childhood. A world where expressions and gestures of love abound, not words of hatred and acts of abuse.
Oh, Lord, let it be.



Claire is finishing her second year as part of the Glasgow InnerCHANGE team in Possilpark. She's originally from Pasadena, CA, although she's been living in Scotland for the past four years. She can often be found spending time with primary school kids, helping in a wee cookery class, learning plant-y things in the local garden, running around the pretty sights of Glasgow, or baking in the kitchen.

Dancing in the Chapel

Soshanguve, South Africa
 

The balloons. 
The quiet. 
Feeling God’s presence.
Getting to know each other. 
Dancing in the chapel. 

These were a few of the highlights that our teenagers’ group shared after our two-night retreat in July.

We have now been meeting on Saturdays for over a year, and regularly have around 15 young people joining us to play games, have fun and chat through life and faith. Some families and schools in our area do not invest in their young people. The decisions that they make at this age can have life-long implications, and we want to be a positive presence and guide at this key time. 

We want to create a space where they are known and loved. 

We took the young people away as part of our Youth Alpha course.  At the Catholic Retreat Centre they experienced new and different forms of worship; and although they were hesitant at first, we were so proud to see the way they embraced these opportunities.  It’s always a delight to see children and young people relax away from the responsibilities and strains of their home lives.

Our hearts were full as we watched them connect with God and one another. 

We long to see our young people continue to develop into the people who God made them to be; flourishing in all areas of their lives and positively impacting the world around them.

 

Debbie and Paul are part of the South Africa InnerCHANGE team in Soshanguve.  They are originally from Scotland and are expecting their first baby at the end of September.  Their Sosh lives are full of teaching, kids and youth work, sports and sharing yummy food.
Thank you for reading this edition of the InnerCHANGE Voice.  We're so glad to have you walking with us!  We welcome your comments and questions.

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InnerCHANGE is a ministry of Church Resource Ministries.

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