I'm from Yorkshire and so naturally, I don't like Manchester. It's ingrained in my being. The equivalent of 'love the sinner hate the sin' for Yorkshire folk is something like 'love the Mancunian but hate the city they come from and particularly their football clubs'. But even a White Rose lass like myself acknowledges that the enemy camp has something pretty amazing in youth ministries The Message Trust and the Eden Network.
I was over there recently to interview Andy Hawthorne, the founder, to mark the 20th anniversary of The Message and its work in the inner cities of Britain (this is in the November issue, which has just landed). For the best part of two decades, Andy and a gang of other dedicated souls have been going into the 'sink' estates of the country with the gospel. Through the Eden Network, they send groups of Christians to live in the communities, to help and encourage the young people there, and introduce them to the love of Christ. They've done it without government cash and with little more than a wing and a prayer at times. The fruits of their work are changed lives and reduced crime.
Andy has to be one of the best interviews I've done for this magazine. He's to the point and clear: only the gospel can change this country for the better, and as Christians we ought to be getting out there, living it and preaching it. His enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring.
As Christians we can love people to death; feed them, clothe them, listen to them and comfort them. But unless we're telling them about the God who loves them, we're trying to take on the role of saviour ourselves. It's a tough job and so we soon find out we're not up to it. The good news is that there is someone who is up to it, who never gives up. It's a story that the Christians in Eden and The Message are living out, and it's an exciting one to hear.