A couple of days ago, Commissioner Joe Noland sent me his DVD ‘Altars in the Street’ which outlines his plea for Christian people to step in to the lives of children in their communities, especially considering that many children are ‘at risk.’ The DVD carries the true story of a boy, Joey and a girl Annie and how their lives were influenced for the good and for the bad for the involvement or non involvement of Christian people in their lives. Many children become ones who are remembered by teddybear covered graves or flowers tied to railings – altars in the street.
You know, children who are growing up in desperate conditions don’t always realise that there is an alternative unless they happen to glimpse it elsewhere. When I was growing up, I had no idea that my life was any different to any other child. Yet, my life at home as a child was marked by break-up of marriage, violence, poverty, depression, a lot of sadness, fear and rejection. The memories I carry of childhood, even the few positive ones, are tinged by sadness. That all leaves its scars.
My life changed when one man stepped in at the age of around 9. Thing is, he maybe didn’t know what he was doing. When he stepped into my life with kindness, support, massive encouragement and calm guidance he would probably never have guessed the absence of all these things in my home life. My brass teacher at primary school, Brian Keachie, rescued me and I’m eternally grateful. I want him to know, in no uncertain terms, about the impact of his life on just one of his many pupils over the years.
There was something different about him. I’d never seen this kind of man anywhere else at all. At a time when I started to abuse prescripted medication, at an all time low, I discovered, at a much later age of around 14 that he was a member of this thing called The Salvation Army. I immediately wanted to find out about it. I knew that there must be something in it that was making the difference.
I eventually worked up the courage to steal my bus fare from my grandmothers purse and make my way to The Salvation Army where I found several other heroes, champions, mothers and fathers I never had. Within a few months, I knelt at the mercy seat, cried out to God and he saved me completely. He set me on a different path, lifted me and carried me through my circumstances and started turning me into a man of God.
After my conversion, things got tougher at home. My mother and step-father couldn’t quite cope with the change and it led to persecution and I had no other real choice but to leave home to live with my grandmother. Again, God’s people were my strength. Billy, Joyce, Matthew, Debbie, Chris, Donald, Hugh, Cameron, Robert, Roberta…heroes every one. They championed me. I’m here because of them.
To see my son, Ben, at the age of 7 happy, content, loved, secure in himself and a little rascal into the bargain, is nothing short of a miracle for me. You have no idea how entirely delighted I was to enrol him as a Junior Soldier, a follower of Jesus, last month. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to look beyond the four walls of his home to find his champion and his support because I am here for him. The legacy continues into the next generation.
Friends, I share this to encourage you never to be tired of stepping in an influencing the life of a child. It doesn’t just affect the child, but his children and his children’s children. I work a few hours a week in HMP Aberdeen and I see in there young men who never had a champion. And I’ll tell you one thing that is true, the person who said that it is easier to build a child than repair a broken man spoke great truth.
Be a hero. Make a difference.