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Inspire Awards: compassion on the streets of Bournemouth

Walking the streets of their seaside town with a flask of coffee, some sandwiches and compassionate hearts was the beginning of a ministry honoured recently in Parliament ...

Meet Inspire Award runners-up Steve and Chrissie Croucher who started an outreach to people on the margins of society. Fellow volunteer CAMILLA HAWLEY tells their story

"As leaders of a small house group in Bournemouth, Steve and Chrissie were becoming uncomfortable with the security of their weekly gatherings and were stirred to start walking the streets of their town.

“Carrying nothing but a flask of coffee, some sandwiches and the hope of Jesus and a life of freedom, they ministered to the hurting and broken – people caught up in addiction, homelessness and prostitution.

“Since those early years, through nothing but sheer perseverance, they have developed a deep love and compassion for those they have met. The Crouchers have continued unwaveringly to meet people’s needs – physically, spiritually and emotionally.

“That small outreach has developed into The Release Project, a ministry which touches the lives of 40-50 people a week. The work is now supported by a team of 20.

“Every Tuesday night, in all weathers, the hope of Jesus shines bright on a small patch of land at the heart of one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

“Steve and Chrissie have never compromised on their faith, and over soup and coffee offer prayer and more help. They have seen the presence of God come and change the lives of some of the most broken and lost.

“Many come for food, some come for prayer. Others come for friendship. Most come for all three.

“There is a wonderful atmosphere and a deep vulnerability because of the trust and unconditional love that Steve and Chrissie have shown.

“Their compassion stretches far beyond the night outreach. Chrissie leads a team in outreach most days of the week, and offers continued support and guidance.

“Over the years they have opened their home as a safe place to stay. They have given a former working girl away in marriage, been birthing partners and have hosted birthday parties.

“They have cried with people, laughed with them and bestowed worth and dignity upon those that have had everything stolen from them. They have walked with them on their journey to recovery, always extending the hand of friendship and family.

“The Crouchers have led us out of our comfort zones into forgotten places, to forgotten people – to be the hands and feet of Jesus, loving them as Jesus does.

“Many of us haven’t had any experience working with people in addiction, yet they model to us so beautifully and faithfully what serving in love and humility looks like, that it inspires us and spurs us on.

“Steve and Chrissie’s arms of love and compassion are open much wider than that of their biological family. They have become ‘spiritual parents’ to many and are looked upon as role models.

“They have a huge and lasting impact and are part of the testimonies of many in our church family at Bournemouth Vineyard, myself included.

“All of this they do as volunteers. Steve holds down a full-time job in insurance and Chrissie works part-time as a nurse. Although life is busy, they have a wonderful sense of fun and the family oozes a contagious joy.

“Their four incredible teenage children have also caught the vision of their parents. The three eldest come out and minister on the streets with us and are wonderful assets to the team. In turn they have inspired their friends, who also come out and we have seen them grow, flourish and blossom into disciples of Jesus.

“Never seeking to glorify themselves, always Jesus, Steve and Chrissie are true disciples. I am honoured to call them friends and mentors. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love and encouragement.

“They have no idea how inspirational they are to such a huge range and spectrum of people."

• The Crouchers were runners-up in the Individual category of the 2012 Inspire Awards.

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