by Andrew Hawthorn
Over the weekend, I received a phone call letting me know that Conrad had made a commitment to Christ. God is really on the move in the prisons of North West England, so one more young offender receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour was great but certainly not unusual.
However, the thing about Conrad was that over the last 20 years of the Message Trust, he was amongst the biggest challenges our team had ever faced. Along with his fellow gang members Conrad had done more than perhaps anyone to disrupt our work. Many are the times we had to call the police as he and his chums literally trashed our venues or attacked our team.
He started to smoke weed aged 10 and would think nothing of skinning up in front of us. Each day he would roam the streets of Wythenshawe looking for trouble and entertain himself by committing burglaries. He was tiny and malnourished for his age, and always struggled to reach the pedals of the cars he burgled.
On one occasion, we remember him threatening to remove my friend Matt’s knee caps. He had taken his ball off him for bullying one of the other teenagers. None of the team thought he was not serious, so you get the picture – Conrad was not the sweetest and loveliest of young men.
However, over the first 5 years of the Eden teams work in Wythenshawe, he again and again experienced a team of people who responded in the opposite spirit. They offered tough, undeserved, Jesus-style love to Conrad and his mates. So much so that when he met the same people 10 years later in prison, it was an altogether different relationship.
He’s been attending every group and chapel service for the past few weeks and has experienced again and again the presence of God. All this culminated in the phone call and the news that a repentant Conrad had given his life to Christ and was busily telling as many of his fellow prisoners as possible about what he’d done and offering to pray for them too!
So here’s the biblical principal that this and many thousands of other occasions have proved to me, it goes like this ‘Sow and keep on sowing and at the proper time you will reap a harvest’ – Galatians 6:4-10. It’s a lesson that church-planters need to learn, perhaps above all others.
There are undoubtedly seasons of the Spirit this side of Heaven. The same preparation, prayer, and preaching can sometimes produce absolutely nothing; yet, another time comes along and produces bumper fruit. On this roller-coaster, we learn precious lessons about utter dependence on Him.
I love the parable of the sower in Luke 4. It’s not just the one with a good and noble heart who sees the outrageous 100 fold return but he who ‘perseveres to the end’.
So the big lesson is keep going and don’t give up, because at the proper time your team will be jumping up and down with your own Conrad stories.