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Saved by the Grace of God


“I was just going to be a sinner saved by the grace of God and let the power of that love and forgiveness be the power that changes and transforms me.”

 Bruce Clark facilitates a lot of work that goes on in schools in Scarborough, and his work is highly valued by many of the people he comes into contact with. “One of the great things,” he says, “is that you are sowing the seed all the time.” The joy of his role he says “is the whole relational aspect with the kids in Scarborough.” He also works with ‘Sidewalk’, a detached youth project on the streets of Scarborough.

 

Faith in Scarborough Schools (Scarborough Schools Christian Worker Trust)’ was formed 12 years ago on the basis that the education reform act states that the spirituality in schools should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. The project (FISS) aims to contribute to the spiritual and moral development of children and young people in Scarborough Schools.

Bruce asks: “where else are you going to get 300 people during the week forced to sit down to listen to something Christian?

“If you use your head and you want to proclaim the good news of Jesus – you need to think, where is the greatest catchment?” The answer was obvious and for him there was no doubt that schools were where he was going to aim.

He came to Scarborough and did a variety of jobs until he was asked to help get the schools project running. They started the project on minimal funding as they knew that people would be happier to support something that was already up and running.  This was clearly the right thing to do as the funding then came in.

 

Going back to school

Bruce had a very negative experience of school. He says: “I was a bad boy, I was always in trouble.”  So going back to work in school was actually alien territory for him, but he threw himself into something he didn’t really want to do but knew it was the right thing to do.

His first venture back into schools was upon the invitation from a head of RE and a room was made available for him.  No one came into the room to join in the Christian Union but just as the lunch break came to an end, Bruce was shepherded by the teacher who had forgotten he was coming, into another area where there were around 30 children.  He said “I was well out of my depth”.

He went into the room and shared his testimony with them.  They listened to Bruce telling them about how he had come out of the drugs scene and about his fairly radical transformation. At the end he said: “Next week we’ve having a Christian Union meeting, turn up if you want.” To his surprise, 22 children turned up.

Week after week they turned up and he sourced some material from Youth for Christ’s Rock Solid.  He says: “It was really great stuff and you can make it as spiritual as you want but it’s good advice anyway and from that point it really took off.”  He then started to do assemblies at the school.

He felt that junior school assemblies at the beginning were hard but he says that “the kids are just so loving and responsive” but he found the secondary schools a bit more challenging.

When it comes to the content for assemblies, Bruce says that “you’ve to be sensitive”.

Bruce said to the Lord “Look, I have no formal skills training”

He said that the Lord quite clearly said to him “it’s who you are that matters.”  He had to trust that God’s blessing on him was the means by which children were going to be aware of God’s love. And this is something that has held onto to.

He finds that what he is teaching is ‘God in him’. The message is important but so too is the relationship that is built up between staff and children.  It’s that relationship that he believes God uses him for.  He preaches the Gospel, and he teaches Bible stories as he is aware that children don’t have much biblical understanding.

“It’s what we are that matters, not what we do, he says.

“If you are where God wants you to be, then you couldn’t be doing more.

“The essence of it all is walking with God, and if you are walking with him you’ll hear him, you’ll be doing whatever you should because you’re conscious of him walking with you.”

He regularly works in 20 schools throughout the year.  He says: “It’s amazing that over 1000 children are hearing the good news of God’s love every week.”

 

Early Christian life

When Bruce talks about his early Christian life he says that there was always this uncomfortableness with anybody who wasn’t a Christian.  Over the years, he seems to have lost this tension because he says: “I don’t look at people as non-Christians, these are people who God loves and if we just stick to that simplicity, the presence of God is in all of us, everything we are, and everything that links us to our environment and to everybody.”

“God allowed it and God loves us.”  He sees everybody as an extension of that presence of Jesus, needing forgiveness and the love and the grace of God and that’s what he is here to convey.

He thinks that children should be taught to love and says “if I had a school I would have one hour compulsory lesson on what love means every week.

“If there is anything that screws kids up it’s ‘what does that word mean?’

They may not ask the question but he says “underneath that’s what they are longing for and that’s what they are trying to find and that’s what is screwing them up when they get to teenage years because they’ve got the wrong end of what ‘love’ means.”

Bruce describes himself as not being exclusively religious but says “I do lift up time and time again the love that God displayed through Jesus on the cross.  It comes out naturally in most of the things I say.”

 

Younger years

After his mum left home and moved to America, Bruce was sent to boarding school around five miles away. His father needed to work so he could not care for him and thought that it would be good for Bruce to have a good education.  He said: “I could see our house from the boarding school, which was really sad.”

He had decided that when he finished school he was going to make up for what he had lost. His decision to study at Leeds University, he admits, was based on what bands were playing there rather than the choice of course available.  “It went downhill from there” he says.

Bruce was too busy enjoying himself to study and had started to deal drugs. He left University and ‘bummed around’ the country, then came back to Leeds, returning to his old flat where one of his old flatmates still lived.  She had just become a Christian and had rededicated her life to God, also another of his friends had followed her lead.

 

Turning point

At that stage, Bruce was heavily into Buddhism and he said to the only other non-Christian flatmate: “I’m fed up of hearing Jesus this, Jesus that..”  to which the friend replied “actually Bruce, I too have become a Christian!”

He was on the verge of leaving the house due to the intensity of their faith which he describes as “heavy and Pentecostal”. One friend was driving around in a van that said ‘Jesus Saves’.

Under pressure from his friend to make a commitment to Jesus he said “Lord Jesus come into my life.”

Even though he prayed a prayer that could have been insincere (he wasn’t desperately crying out to Jesus for salvation more to get his friend off his back), he tells of the time whilst working as a gardener, he said that he was washed from head to toe; he felt Jesus.  He says: “It was like neon lights inside me”.

What the experience showed him was that Jesus accepted him just as he was, not on the basis of his sincerity. Although he came to Christ just to get his friend off is back – the key was that he came and was welcomed.

He now tells others to come to Jesus, just as they are.

 

Reasoning with God

At this point, he was still taking drugs and hadn’t been in a church and had no real Christian foundation – so his experience was out of the blue.  He had come to the conclusion that Christianity was all about Jesus and his love and grace and because of that reasoned with God that he could carry on taking drugs and be a Christian.

One day as he rolled another joint, he felt the Lord say to him “It’s ok”, he took one smoke of the joint and recalls “I didn’t want it anymore and I threw it on the fire.

“God was trusting the power of his love to change me rather than some external threat and that’s how God works.  Love can change us more powerfully than any external law.”

He always holds onto that.  It is the power of God’s love which is the greatest motivating power and his forgiveness.

In his first year since becoming a Christian, Bruce admits that he was struggling like mad to be a good Christian, trying to improve himself and reading the Bible.  He suddenly felt overwhelmed with what he calls ‘this legal sense of responsibility’ and it got worse and worse. The freshness had started to disappear. After a year, he picked up a little book by Roy Hession called ‘The Calvary Road’ and he says the cover “melted him”.

The depiction on the front cover was simply a cross with a man kneeling underneath with a big hand holding them both.

This made Bruce realise that he had lost the blessing that he once had when he first knew the Lord.  He asked: “Where is that? It’s at the very place where you found him”.

He determined no longer to be some guy running on a treadmill trying to impress people.  “I was just going to be a sinner saved by the grace of God and let the power of that love and forgiveness be the power that changes and transforms me.”

“The essence of it all is that people see not that we are good people who have made it but we are just people who are constantly living by the grace and the love of God and when people see that, they feel that they too can be candidates for grace.”

Bruce feels that there is a real need to proclaim Christianity on street level, right where people are. He says “You’ve got to bring the church to the people.”

 

A judgemental society

Bruce recounts one of his favourite stories titled: ‘Do we have to care what the World says about us?’

It’s a story by Max Lucado about ‘Wemmicks’ - little wooden people all carved by a wood maker named Eli. Every Wemmick was different  but all were made by the same carver and all lived in the village.

All day, every day, the Wemmicks did the same thing: They gave each other stickers. The pretty ones, those with smooth wood and fine paint, always got stars. But if the wood was rough or the paint chipped, the Wemmicks gave dots. The talented ones got stars, too.

Punchinello tried to jump high like the others, but he always fell. And when he fell, the others would gather around and give him dots. After a while he had so many dots that he didn’t want to go outside.

“He deserves lots of dots”, the wooden people would agree with one another. “He’s not a good wooden person.” After a while Punchinello believed that he wasn’t a good Wemmick.

One day he met Lulia, a Wemmick who had no dots or stars. It wasn’t that people didn’t try to give her stickers, it’s just that the stickers didn’t stick. He found out that each day she went to see Eli, the carver.

So he went and Eli welcomed him by name. “You know my name?”, the little Wemmick asked. “Of course I do. I made you.”

“What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”

“Why do I matter to you?” Punchinello asked.

“Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.” Said Eli.

“Every day I’ve been hoping you’d come,” Eli explained.

Punchinello asked about Lulia “Why don’t the stickers stay on her?”

“Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them.”

“The more you trust my love, the less you care about the stickers.”

“Remember”, Eli said as the Wemmick walked out the door. “You are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.”

Punchinello didn’t stop, but in his heart he thought: “I think he really means it.” And when he did, a dot fell to the ground.

Bruce says, “We’re living in a society that’s judgemental.  No matter how bad people have been, we should still have that love.”

“Justice should be done but we latch onto anything that will elevate our sense of righteousness by seeing what other people have done wrong.

“That’s where we can be so different; if we can be armed with forgiveness and love in every situation.  We should have this constant reckless love wherever we go.”