I was leading an Engage team with a group from San Jose, California, and we were serving alongside our long-time mission partners at the Revival In Our Town Youth Centre. RIOT hosts drop-in nights throughout the week for local young people. It’s a safe place to hang out and have fun, while also having an intentional time each evening when the games and chatter stop and everyone gathers for worship and prayer.
I have been to RIOT several times with our teams, but prior to this spring it had been three years since my last visit. As I began to re-connect with the young people who I had met previously, it became so clear to me of the work God has done in those years.
I am overwhelmed with the transformation – especially with two particular brothers. Both boys were high school aged when I met them the first time, and were a bit rough around the edges as they fit in with most of the other lads. I can remember their mom coming to pick them up at the youth center each evening. She’d walk in the door, say a quick “Hello,” find her boys and then be out the door just as quickly as she came. I didn’t know her name, but knew she was a singlen mom raising her two boys and RIOT was a place for her boys to have fun.
Memories of those boys came to mind right away as I reacquainted myself with them, now older and a bit more mature. But the difference I saw was not just in how much they’d grown physically, but spiritually. Through their time at RIOT and being mentored by the leaders there, both brothers had given their lives to Jesus. But it didn’t stop there – they’d been sharing with their mom about the hope and freedom Jesus offers and more recently, their mom had also given her life to Jesus.
The brothers are now both leaders among the young people who come to RIOT, and their mom is a key volunteer. She helps each evening when the youth center is open and spends a lot of time driving our Engage teams around in the bus and helping cook meals in the kitchen. The ways all three of them serve our teams is such a reflection of how they are serving the Lord with their lives – Kingdom workers.
As I pieced all of this together those first few days of my return to Northern Ireland, my heart was filled with gratitude. I’m thankful for the work of the Spirit to change hearts and save souls. I’m thankful for the ministry of RIOT and the influence it has on local youth. I’m thankful for the Godly leaders who are investing in the lives of young people like these two brothers and changing the course of eternity for so many. I’m thankful for the brothers’ courage to share the Gospel with their mom. I’m thankful for the mom and her servant-heart who is now pouring love and sharing Jesus with not only the local youth, but CIY’s Engage teams who visit, as well.
I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to know people like this and be encouraged by how God continues to move around the world and add more into the Kingdom.