‘The blind were given sight, children could walk again and women regained their dignity…’

This month I will have been with Mercy Ships for one year – and it’s flown by. In that time I’ve learned so much and come to think of this as a dream job. In July, I actually set foot aboard the ship itself – the world’s largest floating charitable hospital – which was such a privilege. I met some of the crew and saw with my own eyes the narrow corridor that houses five operating theatres. Last year we performed over 2,700 surgeries – every one was offered free of charge, as we follow the model of Jesus to show love and share hope and healing with the poorest people on earth. The walls were full of smiling faces – patients whose lives have been utterly transformed; the blind who were given sight, children who could walk again and women who regained their dignity and were no longer outcasts.

At the moment I’m preparing for the Spring Harvest Local Church Tour, where I’ll be on stage talking about Mercy Ships. Please pray I do this well and God is with me.

Recently, I took on a number of additional responsibilities. I now manage a team made up of Christine, Gary, Mike, and Lisa, our amazing administrator.

Christine is the Community Fundraiser, she supports people who do sponsored challenges and fundraising events.

I also oversee our network of Volunteer Speakers, who tell churches and other community groups about our work. As part of this, I manage a great guy called Gary, he and I decide which Conferences Mercy Ships will exhibit at. I’m kept busy!

Mike is a volunteer who is helping to write the training for our first ever ‘Speakers Conference’ that we’re running on 3rd November (Manchester) and 17th November (London). Please pray for this, and for my whole team.

Please pray too for Val and the other volunteer crew on our ship. They’ve just arrived in Conakry, Guinea – which lost many medical professionals in the Ebola crisis a few years back. On the first day of ‘screening’ 6000 people queued up, each hoping to get the surgery they desperately need.

Thank you, your prayers and support make such a difference and mean the world to me.

What a rollercoaster it’s been!

What a rollercoaster it’s been, these past 5 weeks. I left Youth for Christ after 14 years’ service in September and I’m now working for MERCY SHIPS UK! At YFC I was privileged to have had a host of roles, beginning as an apprentice fundraiser, moving on to overseeing young offender prison ministry and courses for At Risk Youth, and finally working with an ethnically diverse network of churches across the country, to foster unity and reach more young people for Christ.

These last few weeks have been exhilarating and non-stop! Spring Harvest chose Mercy Ships to be their charity of the year, and so I’ve spent much of my time on the road travelling around England, Wales, and Scotland, with the Spring Harvest Local Tour. I was honoured to speak to church leaders in each town, telling them about the incredible work of Mercy Ships, which follows Jesus’ example to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor. Mercy Ships allows 450 volunteers to crew the world’s largest floating hospital (a big blue and white ship!) to offer free surgery to the poorest Africans; 50% of the roles are ‘non-medical’. 2/3rd of the planet have no access to safe and affordable surgery when they need it, meaning 17 million people die needlessly every year. Mercy Ships is changing lives through surgery.

My new role is ‘Church Partnership Manager’, which involves overseeing those who support UK volunteers travelling to the ship, the ‘ Africa Mercy’, like Val Clarke currently! (another St Johns Living Stone). I also oversee a network of speakers who tell church and lifestyle groups (U3A, Probus, Rotary, Scouts etc.) about Mercy Ships. I’m also creating a new strategy for getting churches engaged with the work of the ship. I’d value your prayers! Thank you!

www.mercyships.org.uk

Building bridges and relationships for mission

Darren Richards Youth for Christ are committed to reaching every young person for Christ. Over half of the UK’s ethnic minority population is under the age of 30.  In fact, one in four children in the UK (under 10) are from an ethnic minority community. As Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Darren is looking to diversify Youth for Christ’s national team, to better reflect and represent Britain’s young people, and to build bridges and relationships for mission.

St John’s Living Stones recently sponsored a significant event that Darren organised in
Birmingham called ‘Cohesion Network’.  This ‘TED talk’ style event brought together over 60 Christian leaders and youth workers from 30 organisations and denominations – representing a range of ethnic backgrounds – to share ideas, pray and dream together around reaching and discipling young people.

Darren opened the night with some remarks about the diverse birth of the Church (Acts 2:5-11). The evening also launched a new region-wide network to help connect youth workers who might not otherwise do ministry together. At a time when minorities are suffering from increased xenophobia and hostility, there’s never been a more
important moment to be working together.

Darren feels called to help provide fathers for the fatherless and also to release Christians of all ethnicities to use their gifts in the pursuit of God’s purposes. Alongside this event, he has been writing for the Christian magazine ‘Youth and Children’s Work’, commissioning new training videos, visiting Christian organisations that help marginalised youth, and creating new strategic plans for YFC.

To watch the Cohesion video visit either:
https://youtu.be/QbNxhe1hkxE  or https://www.facebook.com/BritishYFC/videos/10155034980242156

 

‘Reaching young people from diverse backgrounds’

Darren Richards

Darren Richards

When I joined Youth for Christ I could never have imagined almost 13 years later I’d be stepping into my fifth role here.

I started as an Assistant Fundraiser in 2003 and later became the Fundraising Senior Manager.  In 2009, I switched to the Reflex team, supporting YFC’s work with young offenders in prison as Programmes Manager.

Then, in 2011, I began a six year stint overseeing this national prison ministry as Head of Reflex. Now, here I am, stepping into another new role, with a new set of challenges and hopes to boot!

In April this year I took up a newly created post that I helped to develop and shape: Head of Diversity and Inclusion.  My remit is to research and spearhead YFC’s strategy to work with churches and local YFC Ministries in order to reach young people from diverse and marginalised backgrounds.

I’ll also be forming a strategy for partnering with others to support those with physical or intellectual disabilities.

It’s been a whirlwind few months. Much of this time has been spent travelling around the country meeting YFC youth workers, church leaders and pioneers.

As the initial research phase draws to a close, I’m delighted to have helped a YFC partner with Sanctus in Stoke on Trent, an incredible ministry working with asylum seekers and refugees.  They would like us to help them set up a youth club for the most disaffected 11-18’s who are being drawn in by gangs.

I’m also in the process of organising a symposium event, to bring together diverse church communities, in order to pray together, share ideas and talk about cross-cultural youth mission.

I’m so grateful for your prayers and gifts as I get to grips with this new undertaking.  I am currently raising my whole salary cost (rather than just 50%), as well as all of the associated project spending, pioneering this new project and doing my best to make it sustainable. It’s a big undertaking and I’ll need your wisdom, support and encouragement. https://yfc.uk/team/darrenrichards/support/

Darren Richards is Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Youth for Christ 

www.yfc.co.uk

 

‘An exciting time in the Reflex team at the moment…’

photo of Darren

Darren Richards

We’re seeing growth in the prisons’ ministry with work in a new prison starting soon, despite large hurdles and funding cuts. Beth is about to start work on a new Evangelistic and Apologetics resource to disciple young people who are involved in crime or at risk of offending.

Our work in the West Midlands continues to offer a mixture of challenges and encouragements. Esther, a manager in our team, has finally received prison clearance and keys, to support Linford, our HMP Oakwood Reflex worker. We also have Chris, from St Johns, ‘waiting in the wings’ to volunteer who is just finishing his clearance

Please pray for clearance and for opportunities to run evangelistic courses in HMP Oakwood; also for renewed links with the chaplaincy there and at HMP Brinsford on the same plot near Wolverhampton.

Beth Whitehouse

Beth Whitehouse

Beth has just completed a survey of our myLife tutors, who work with at risk, special educational needs and offenders, among others.

The survey showed that 93% of users are delighted with the myLife programme and are continuing to use it to support young people in learning life skills and character development opportunities.

I’m delighted that we’ve trained over 100 people across the country to use our myLife courses, in partnership with organisations such as Romance Academy and Care For The Family.

Beth’s survey showed that these courses, chosen by the young people themselves, are reaching previously unreached, unchurched young people.

The myLife programme provides opportunities for regular meaningful conversations with young people about life, character, relationships, decision-making and emotions.

Finally, November saw Prisons Week, where we launched two new videos on the theme of being #ThereForTheJourney

You can watch them here: www.reflex.org/journeyvideos

Darren is Head of Reflex and Beth is Head of Programmes, Reflex

Reflex logowww.reflex.org

Reflex is a ministry of Youth for Christ

‘I will end with an encouragement …’

photo of Darren

Darren Richards

With the return of Beth Whitehouse from maternity leave at the end of May, Youth For Christ’s Reflex team will be five strong, with a further three prison workers  allocated to Midlands prisons.

We’re seeking to model a flagship project in prisons across the West Midlands, especially HMP Werrington near Stoke, which houses 15-18 year olds and in HMP Oakwood, the largest prison in the UK.

Last month we were delighted to appoint Esther, who covered Beth’s role whilst she was away, to remain as a full-time team member. Esther will be overseeing these Midlands prison ministries; and also support the growing number of myLife courses being run with disadvantaged youth, ex-offenders and unemployed young adults.

Esther and Beth will work closely on our programmes, which are now used in the community as well as inside prisons.

We would value your prayers for the West Midlands prison ministry at this early stage, when things are most fragile and new. Prison changes are frequent at the moment, and it can be difficult to keep projects going amid budget cuts and the frequent shuffling of staff.

Pray for our new team, as we gel and settle into a new pattern; and pray also for the hundreds of young men we’re seeking to reach.

I will end with an encouragement: we have now trained over 80 people across the UK to run myLife courses with those on the margins of society. One such project, made such an impression that OCR – the national exam board, featured it in on their website, filming a video that can be viewed below:

Darren Richards is Head of Reflex at Youth for Christ.
www.reflex.org

 

 

Taking Christ’s light into dark places

Darren Richards“This year has held many challenges. Reforms and budget cuts mean there are now 30% fewer prison staff. Prisoner suicides are rising, as is self-harm.

“Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, told the BBC recently, “The situation is extremely serious and I am very concerned. People who are suicidal are being held in deplorable conditions. They don’t have anything to do and they don’t have anyone to talk to.

“Please pray for our existing teams as they respond to the growing needs of prisoners and take Christ’s light into these dark places.

“We praise God for two new staff members- Esther Collett, who is training new people and communicating the vision behind our educational programmes; and Susie Charnock, Reflex West Midlands Manager, who’ll be pioneering prison ministry across the region and managing a team of sessional Reflex workers.

“Pray for Beth Whitehouse, Head of Programmes, who is currently on Maternity Leave, and Isaac who is now five months old.

“Here at Reflex we are thankful that our contract with HMP Werrington has been renewed for another year. Other answered prayers: one of our myLife courses, ‘Managing Emotions”, has been endorsed by HMP Holloway.

“Jo Hobson works four days a week in HMP Holloway, running myLife courses and mentoring young female prisoners. This poster was completed by one of these women, when asked to reflect on her time with Jo.

“In the community, our myLife courses are being used with trafficked young women, prostitutes, victims of sexual violence, homeless people, ex-offenders, and NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) teenagers.

“Another recent highlight was delivering our Urban Skillz music video course in HMP Oakwood. You may remember this is where a riot occurred back in January. We also delivered a new training course this year, called Offender Engagement, to help equip Reflex workers and volunteers with skills for working face-to-face with prisoners.

“Thank you so much for your support, which, as you can see, is more important than ever. I so value your prayers and generosity.”

Darren Richards is Head of Reflex, Youth for Christ. He works with young offenders and marginalised youth.  For details visit  www.reflex.org or www.mylifecourses.org
Darren is supported by Andrew and Katie Strickland’s Home Group.