I grew up in Mt Albert, Auckland, in a loving family with my mum and dad, an older brother and a younger brother … and some weird guy called ‘Jesus’. From birth, every Sunday I was dressed in my braces and bow tie and marched into church at The Salvation Army Auckland Congress Hall. I attended there for 18 years.
I grew up knowing about Jesus, which gradually developed into knowing him. While growing up I was quite selfish, and it wasn’t until later in high school that I realised God wanted more from me. That’s when I started my journey of caring about things bigger than myself.
I had plenty of opportunities to care: helping with the Christmas rush of food parcels, as well as manual labour for the Bethany Centre when my mum was manager. Through these and other opportunities, God touched my heart and changed me.
At 16, God called me to Salvation Army soldiership (membership). From there, my heart for young people slowly started to develop. I loved going to youth group and the belonging I felt.
My incredible youth workers at the time, Stewart and Collette Irwin, listened when I told them I wanted more. They gave me opportunities to test my heart, organising hangouts and eventfor our youth group and involving me in some of the planning. They gave me a taste of youth ministry and I couldn’t get enough!
During my last year of school, I was learning more about leadership from both my church life and school, and I found myself having to lead my peers in difficult situations. I often thought, ‘I could do this for a job …’
At the end of that year, I had a couple of ideas about what I could do, but didn’t really have any motivation until Stewart, who was mentoring me at the time, suggested the possibility of The Salvation Army Youth Work Apprenticeship. The idea of doing this felt so right; I was excited and on fire! So with heart, mind, soul, spirit and voice, I replied an almighty ‘Yep!’
My motivation for doing the apprenticeship (and why I do youth work) comes from my personal understanding that it is life changing to have a positive role model who cares. I choose to work with young people because too many are trapped by the dark in this world, and I want to bring them light and freedom.
I am now halfway through my three-year apprenticeship at Mt Albert Corps, and I’m loving it! I have learnt so much—not just about the way I work with young people, but the way I live my life. God is a focal point of my day-to-day life, and gives me new life every day.
I have all the normal human struggles, but my main challenge is the fear of letting people down and failing the people I am trying to care for. To prevent that from happening, I put my full faith in God.
I trust that God will give me the tools to do what he calls me to do! I am excited for the future. I just love that I am always excited for tomorrow.
By James Adams (abridged from War Cry, 27 July 2013, p9)