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Pushing through the hard times

In Middlesbrough, the charity SixtyEightFive mentors young people and encourages fathers who have no role models. Ian Williamson explains how it’s making a difference ...

In Middlesbrough, the charity SixtyEightFive mentors young people and encourages fathers who have no role models. Community Chaplain Ian Williamson explains how it’s making a difference

Ten years ago Ian Williamson was a nightclub bouncer with a drug habit. More recently he worked in prison ministry, but since January last year he’s been running the charity SixtyEightFive. It takes its name from Psalm 68:5 which speaks of God as being a father to the fatherlesses.

Working in local schools and colleges, sheltered housing, youth groups and with churches, it offers support and guidance to the community of South Bank, one of the most deprived wards in the country.

“Most young people I work with just want time and attention,” says Ian. “They are crying out for love.

“Crime, drugs and promiscuity often come about as a way to fill a void in people’s lives. God speaks of being a father to the fatherless, he defends the widows and the oppressed and he sets the lonely in families so, as Christians, I believe we need to show that same love and compassion and help meet the needs of these young people.”

Ian has found that many of the men he works with were raised in fatherless families and their role models have often been negative ones.  “[They] like myself, grew up thinking muscles, fighting and violence – along with numerous sexual partners – determined your manhood.

“As I Christian I had the model of Christ and Christian men to follow. Through reading the Bible and receiving discipleship from godly men, I’ve learned that being a man takes emotional and spiritual strength rather than physical.

“I had to learn to be responsible and to persevere when things got tough. So I try to demonstrate the same values and behaviours I have learned whilst offering support and encouragement to these men.”

Ian, who set up the charity with his wife Rachel, says running SixtyEightFive has not been an easy task on several fronts.

“The most challenging aspect of the work has been persevering and trusting in God to provide. There have been days when finances have been short and even non-existent and I have wondered if this job is too big for me and we should call it a day.

“There have been times when the people we are trying to serve avoid us or fall back into addiction and crime and I think I am the wrong person to be doing this. Then I cry out to God and realise that it’s not about how able I am, it is about trusting in God and pushing through the hard times.”

Ian would one day like to be in a position where he can support groups and churches in other parts of the country to develop similar programmes – and be able to fund another pair of hands to run the business side of the charity.

Meantime he continues to take the long view. “The most rewarding thing is sharing about God’s grace – and seeing the hope in people’s eyes as they realise that Jesus provides a way out of any negative situation into new life.”

Ian is looking for 100 supporters who could donate £10 a month to fund “an extra pair of hands” in the office.  If you can help please contact him.



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