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Young Christians, Safety, and the Streets
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By Gil Clelland

Stacia is only 18. I met her while speaking at a week-long youth service project recently. Stacia just became a Christian at a similar week long service project last year and has had a whirlwind year trying to figure out life as a follower of our Messiah. One of the things we did each day as part of this service project was a “street walk.” We toured in groups through the streets of London with an eye for seeing life from the perspective of someone at street level. On one of the walks, I crouched down beside Jim, a friend at street level who was pan handling. Jim and I chatted for a few minutes while the youth group waited patiently.

As we walked away from Jim, Stacia approached me. "I wanted to talk with him as well...but wasn't sure if I should." She explained that she wasn't sure about safety. We discussed safety and wisdom and the art of coming close - that coming close to someone is inherently risky in so many ways. But as I see Jesus, it is the only way. I ended by saying, "Incarnation is not theology, it's how we are called to live. We are called to love — to come close."

Later that evening Stacia ran up to me. She had just come from her small group meeting with her leader. This leader had led a discussion about safety in following Jesus. He concluded that as young people they should be careful how much they come close to others...it might jeopardize their safety. "I just got quiet." said Stacia, "I just knew that was wrong. We need to go close anyway...right?"

I saw Stacia the next night and she was obviously hurting. She walked slowly towards me. "My aunt," she began, "Got hurt on her way to work last night. A stranger attacked her for money. It took a long surgery just to get her jaw together." and we hugged as tears flowed. Then she looked up at me. "I know what this means. I know I should be scared now that I might get hurt if I come close to people...but all I want to do...is pray with the man who hurt my aunt..." and tears returned. She is only 18.

Gil Clelland is a Pastor with Sanctuary London serving the impoverished people living in London's downtown and creating a place for them that they can call home.