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Church Army - April 2010 - Fishers of men

Church Army Evangelist Rob Barker works with vulnerable young people and men in the Merseyside dockland through St Paul's Trust. He explains what’s involved in this waterfront ministry

"I have a background in shipbuilding on Merseyside and know many people who used to work on the docks before the industry started to die out 20 years ago. I can understand how these men are still hurting from losing their sense of purpose and identity as the ship-based work dried up.

"Nevertheless, I'm really glad to be here with them in the heart of run-down dockland rather than a glamorous port, because I see that when they come back to the river Mersey their old sense of purpose returns with them.

"And it is through St Paul's Trust that we want to reach out to these men, unchurched men in the main, so that we can share Christ with them and help them to find restoration and new hope in their lives.

"The marine environment is a great place to witness the wonder of God's creation, whether they’re going out fishing, sea kayaking, or simply exploring the wonder of God's dynamic creation.

"There is a great sense of adventure to be had on the water. We find that it is also a great way to unwind and take time from the busyness and difficulties of life. We believe that many personal issues in people’s lives can be addressed through these activities.

"This project enables men to have a rare opportunity to get in touch with who they really are, and hopefully to understand their real value by finding Christ.

"Through the work of the Trust they can see that the Christian faith is not just about going into a church building and worshipping in that way. We help them to realise that Christ is to be found wherever we may be.

"This can be an exciting, hands-on experience, which appeals to the adventurous and masculine qualities of men generally, although we find that men love to drink tea and talk as much as anything!

"It is also an appropriate setting in which to remind us all that Christ called men to pick up the cross and follow him – men of the sea like Simon Peter and Andrew … men like us.

"Spiritual conversations happen in a very natural way when men are grouped around a table and relaxed enough to open up their hearts and really start to talk about the concept and meaning of God. Something really powerful and deep happens then."

Paul Smith is the Project Manager of St Paul's Trust. He has a living faith in Christ and the heart to go out to sea with these men.

He is drawn in particular to those who feel lost, particularly the younger men he encounters, and that makes him ideal for this role.

Paul echoes Rob's words when he says: "We want to help men to discover that sense of adventure when they're out on the water, which sometimes involves discomfort and risk. This leads to conversations about our comfort zones, our beliefs, and how in times of difficulty we see God come into our lives and help us in our struggles.

"We frequently encounter young and adult men who have had a difficult relationship with their fathers. This can often leave deep wounds that last for life.

"The message of Christ reminds us of the immense love our heavenly Father has for us … enough to sacrifice his only Son Jesus so that we can enjoy the eternal love of our Creator. This is the essence of our ministry here, that God restores hope and wants us all to live life to the full."

Rob concludes: "Paul and I love being out at sea with like-minded men, in a unique atmosphere where everyone can get to know each other and share what they believe. Hopefully, through the wonder of this ministry, men will get to know the awesomeness of the Creator and the love he has for them.

"And, for all of us, being out at sea is fun – and God's into fun!"

Go to to see a short film about Rob's work with the St Paul's Trust.
  • This article was first published in issue 30 of Shareit! magazine
  • St Paul's Trust is supported by Church Army

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