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Listening to God


“It’s quite nerve-wracking when God tells you to move somewhere.”

Brian Ward and his wife gave up their jobs and moved to Scarborough during the summer of 2008 in response to a message from God.  “It’s quite nerve-wracking when God tells you to move somewhere”, says Brian but “God wasn’t wrong, we absolutely love it - the doors that he has opened up since then!”

When Brian and his wife first arrived in Scarborough, they had no house and no jobs.  It was an incredibly brave decision, but Brian says that “everything worked out”.

Before they moved, the Police and Council had approached the churches in Scarborough to ask if they could help with the night-time economy on a Friday night.  Brian’s name was mentioned at this time because of his experience with Street Pastors in Scotland.  So, a meeting was arranged between Brian, the Council and Police to explain what Street Pastors was and how it operated.

The council wanted to start up a similar scheme called ‘Street Angels’.  Brian was then asked if he would consider coordinating the project.  Three meetings and three requests later Brian felt that God was saying: “Look Brian, I want you to do the coordinating of Street Angels”.

He laughs when he says: “Even before we came to Scarborough, we were wanted by the Police!”

The scheme was launched in September 2008.  Ideally, Brian wanted 16-20 people in the team so that each person would only have to commit to one Friday night per month. 

Brian’s own church, Kingdom Faith Yorkshire immediately grasped the vision and 20 volunteers came forward from this church alone.  The idea was then put to other churches in the area but the take up was slow.

 

Training to be a volunteer

Brian put a training programme together based on his experience as a Street Pastor and over the course of 12 weeks, the volunteers met one night a week.  Agencies and bodies such as the Police and the Cambridge Centre came in to discuss issues such as conflict resolution, listening skills, and drug and alcohol abuse. 

The volunteer uniforms, which consists of polo shirts and dark blue jackets with high visibility stripes with ‘Street Angels’ logos on them, were purchased by the Council.

The training had finished and they started on the streets on St Valentine’s Day 2009.  Brian says that the first night was really strange: “People were quite nervous, they hadn’t done it before and I was the only one that had been involved in something like this sort of work.”

The oldest street angel is Pat who is 81 years old and the youngest is 19 years old.  After around seven months they had been joined by another 20 volunteers.  Brain says now that they’ve “got a great range of ages.”

Today there are about 50 volunteers and they now go out on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Brian says: “We’ve seen a great reduction in antisocial behaviour, just in street crime generally. And we are warmly welcomed by the public, door staff of the pubs and clubs, the police and council and the people who go out on a Friday and Saturday nights.”

 

Journey

Does the journey surprise him?

Yes, it does.  If he had been told back in 2008 that he would be heading up Street Angels in Scarborough in 2011, he would never have believed it!  He was nervous about being asked to run the project, he would have been happy to volunteer but wasn’t sure how he felt about organising it.

Brian was made redundant in March from his job as a mechanical engineer and he is now paid part-time for his role as coordinator of Street Angels, for Churches Together in Scarborough and hopes to start a new job in August alongside this.

 

The Work of Street Angels

Brian says: “Part of our remit is to go out and show the practical love of Jesus Christ on the streets”.  They do this in different ways, he says, “just by listening to people who want to talk. We hand out flip flops to the women that come out with their shoes in their hands when their feet are aching; we give out bottles of water to hydrate them. We help those that are lost to find their friends, or we stay with them until someone from the family comes to pick them up.”

Brian also adds: “We can pray with people, we can talk about our faith to those who want to talk about it.”

Whilst out with the Street Angels’ teams, Brian noticed that there were a lot of youngsters hanging around the town centre and felt that there was a need to engage with these groups.  He said: “We had an opportunity to talk to them but not spend a lot of time with them.  So we decided to launch ‘Youth Angels’.”  He describes this as “a bit like detached youth work.”

New volunteers were trained for this youth work and teams now go out on Friday nights between the hours of 6.30pm-9.30pm.They go to areas where young people are hanging about and put on diversionary activities, like games.  Brian says that there has been a “tremendous response” from the 60-80 youngsters that they usually encounter on a Friday night.

The Council has given them the use of the ‘Ride Pod’, a transporter fitted out with games consoles and a small canteen, which they use twice a month during the summer time.

They work alongside other local youth agencies and they work in partnership with the Police, Council and pubs and clubs.  Despite seeing a reduction in street crime, the population of Scarborough can triple during the summer months and so this can be a very busy time for the teams.  “We’ve seen a real change in the atmosphere since we’ve been going out,” says Brian.

 

Challenges

The biggest challenge is keeping a high number of volunteers. Some volunteers sign up for a season while others stay longer, so they are always looking to recruit new volunteers each year. 

“I certainly enjoy it”, says Brian, “It’s just being part of something that God wants to see.  It’s taking the church out from within the building, out onto the streets and showing the practical love in a different way to how we sometimes show it.”

 

Faith

Brian’s faith has been very strong for many years and he sums up why this is when he says: “There is such a hope that we have in Jesus Christ and in God, without it personally I would really struggle.”

What is God calling him to do next?

Brian says: “We are looking to further expand the work of Street Angels to daytime hours, to be more like ambassadors for the town, to help holiday makers and people on the street during the day as well.”

 

 

Street Angels is part of Churches Together in Scarborough, a unique partnership between the churches in the town and all the strands of this group work very closely together.  They see themselves as ‘one church’ and despite having different traditions, they work closely together.