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Sheffield: shining the light to bring fresh hope for youth and families

When Tim Smith first started working with the Edward Street community, prostitution and drug dealing were commonplace ...

As Church Army’s Inside Out campaign continues, we find out more about its Sheffield Centre of Mission’s work with families living in the Edward Street flats …

“I live in the Edward Street flats with my mum and have been coming to the youth club for two years which is run by Tim, who always spends time chatting with me. The games, crafts and activities are really fun and it is a place where I can relax and enjoy myself. There is such a joyful and happy atmosphere. It is a place where I feel safe and secure.” Antonio, aged 12.

“I have been going to youth club since I was seven years old and it is really fun. I love drawing and playing games. I also really enjoyed it when we made lollipops and bread. In the summer we had a barbecue and there was a bouncy castle. The youth club keeps us off the streets and gives us something to do.” Ellie, aged 9.

Antonio and Ellie are just two of the 15 young people who benefit from the Edward Street youth club, which is run each week by evangelist Tim Smith from Church Army’s Sheffield Centre of Mission.

Tim began leading the youth club four-and-a-half years ago after being called by God to reach out to the Edward Street community, and is supported in his work by volunteers from The Vine Church in the Netherthorpe area.

Tim said: “When I first began working with the Edward Street community, it was spiritually a very dark place. The flats were part of the city’s red-light district and therefore prostitution and drug dealing were commonplace. However, thanks to the redevelopment of the area, things have greatly improved and the flats are becoming a vibrant and multicultural community.

“The youth club is a great way to connect with families and to support the young people – many of who are from troubled backgrounds. As Christians, we are there to represent the ultimate parent, our Father God – his faithfulness, constant love, forgiveness and peace.”

Alongside the youth club, Tim and his volunteers also carry out home visits, attend the flat’s Tenants and Residents Association meetings, lead assemblies at Netherthorpe primary school and run special events such as carol singing, picnics and fun days. Over the next year, Tim also intends to set up Bible study groups in people’s flats.

Enabling volunteers

Kevin, a doctor and youth club volunteer, said: “My wife, Lucy, and I have lived in Netherthorpe and attended the Vine Church for nearly 20 years since graduating from university. The Edward Street flats are in our parish but can often get forgotten because they are tucked away and because they are circular in shape with a garden in the middle, the community is quite insular.

“Lucy and I are passionate about the area so I decided to help with the youth club, and Lucy is Chair of Governors at the local primary school. Working alongside Tim is brilliant and as a team we are committed to the community for the long-term. We don’t want people to feel they are the church’s ‘project’; rather we want them to see us as their friends.

“One of my favourite youth club memories is when we held a peace vigil which proved to be really powerful. It was an autumn evening so was getting dark and there had been various world conflicts reported in the news which the young people had been talking about. So after youth club ended we all gathered in the flats’\ gardens, lit candles and stayed in silence for 30 minutes. The kids really got into it and we were able to introduce the idea of prayer to them. It was very special.”

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