Their commitment to a gap year designed to inspire their hearts for lifelong mission – and quite possibly turn their worlds upside down in the process – is remarkable. After all, instead of working in some of the most challenging parts of the world, they could all have stayed living comfortably at home!
It is wonderful that they are inspired by a God who is extraordinarily partial to young people. He loves them dearly and often uses them to carry out some of his most important tasks. Think of Joseph, David, Jeremiah … Mary.
The Xplore programme will prepare our young people to deliver the message to others that they are loved by a God who wants to be in their lives. I picture young people around the world being able to say for the first time: “God loves ME!” because of the impact that our Xplorers will have made on them.
It is my privilege as President of Church Army to meet some of the Evangelists who are trained and equipped to serve the seven out of 10 people who live beyond the reach of church.
Our Evangelists go into the communities where compassion is often a rare commodity – just like Jesus did. They commit their lives to working with families on impoverished housing estates, young people with experience of self-harm, asylum seekers, homeless people, prisoners and sex workers – just like Jesus did.
I discussed with Mark Russell, Church Army's Chief Executive, this combination of evangelism and compassion, and how it made us think about chapter nine of Matthew's Gospel.
We see Jesus as an agent of forgiveness and healing. He is the Son of a God whose love is poured out for us, not because we are nice and good and worthy – quite the opposite: “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Isn't that incredible? A God who sides with the unworthy, the weak, the hopeless, the sick.
As Jesus moves through the towns and villages – teaching, preaching and healing – his compassion for the people is paramount. He risks mockery when raising people from the dead, and opposition from the authorities for exorcising demons.
Jesus even puts the resurrection at risk, because he cannot walk past people who cry out in their suffering, stopping instead to heal them. Matthew 9:30 says: “Jesus warned them sternly: ‘See that no-one knows about this.’”
However, the news about this miraculous man spreads like wildfire, causing great concern to those who would have him stopped, thus putting Jesus' journey to the cross in jeopardy.
But, most important of all, Mark and I were moved by the manifest love of God for the crowds “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.
It is this realisation that leads Jesus to instruct his disciples: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In other words, go and be Evangelists for me! Take my compassion and show it to others, who will show it to others, who will show it to others … and lives will be transformed because of you.
With Easter fast approaching we are reminding our supporters that this ‘Love Changes Everything’. It is Church Army's way of summing up the message of resurrection, salvation and eternal life.
It shouts out loud that compassion continues to be at the heart of our work, be it with the homeless women of the Marylebone Project, the asylum seekers of Sheffield, and the impoverished communities of Belfast, Cardiff and the Scottish Borders.
‘Love Changes Everything’ is our appeal for prayerful and financial support for Church Army’s ‘harvest workers’. Like all Christians, they have been called to evangelise and need to be equipped to continue sharing faith with everyone they meet.
I would ask you, therefore, to consider standing with Church Army Evangelists by praying for them regularly. You can receive a free copy of our Prayer Diary by returning the form at the bottom of this page.
This Diary will enable you to get a taste of the many different ministries which come under the Church Army umbrella, and pray for those who have committed themselves to changing everything, through God's love.
Go to www.lifetothefull.org.uk
to download materials for Church Army's appeal and to see films on the work of its Evangelists.
Go to www.xploreglobal.org.uk
to see a film on the new Xplorers who are now on their global placements.
Or find other articles on a similar theme using our search box at the top of the page.