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Why we walked with them…

Interview with Sarah Sharpe, Youth Minister at Knowle Parish Church

We caught up with Sarah who organised a Walk With Them on Sunday 3rd April. Here’s her thoughts and reflections on the experience…

Why did your youth group do Walk with them?

We had a speaker come from Open Doors and share with our young people about what life is like for persecuted Christians around the world. It was such a powerful experience and during a Q&A slot one young person asked “What can we do?” The walk seemed a brilliant way of both raising money and identifying with those displaced through conflict and persecution.

How was the walk? Did you feel it helped you identify with persecuted Christians who were forced to flee because of war and terror in Iraq & Syria?

The walk was dark and wet as we went after our evening service. I think that helped us to understand the vulnerability of those forced to flee. As a large group we tried to encourage each other along the way and actually no one moaned – even when we got lost near the end! We stopped halfway at a McDonalds (a bit of a treat) and talked about how we’d miss home cooking if we were totally reliant on food we could grab along the way.

We looked at before and after pictures of Aleppo and imagined how it would feel to suddenly realise that home was destroyed and not waiting for us to come back to. Many of the young people were surprised at the items they’d brought with them and how useless they actually were when fleeing and needing to start a new life.

The girls shared how dreadful it would be to be without feminine hygiene products – what would they do? They all realised just how long and exhausting walking is and how slowly it takes to get somewhere. Our walk took us to a place we can get to in the car in just 25 minutes and it had taken us four hours to walk there. With the threat of IS behind you this must be very scary and feel as though safe ground is very far away.

How has the story of the persecuted church impacted your young people?

When we finished our walk we prayed out loud on the street in Birmingham as one group together. They weren’t embarrassed to pray and their prayers were really thoughtful and full of their reflections. They rarely pray so boldly in our groups and I think their discomfort was forgotten in the bigger picture of the discomfort of their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. It was really encouraging as their leader to see just how their prayers were full of a passion and pain.

Would you recommend Open Doors youth to other youth workers?

Most definitely. I decided that we would only do the walk if it was the young people asking to do it. I didn’t want to have to nag them over sponsorship and every step along the way. I would recommend having an evening looking at the work of Open Doors and the daily issues faced by persecuted Christians first and see if it’s something that captures the hearts of young people. It will be so much easier if they are the ones nagging you to do this!

The walk itself is so easy to plan and took very little arranging as the Open Doors pack has everything within it for you. There was a noticeable sense of shared experience and community bonding that took place along the walk that will hugely benefit our youth work back in Knowle too.

Want to Walk With Them?

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.