The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the United Kingdom completed its second phase of the ‘I AM URBAN’ initiative for Global Youth Day on March 16 in the Holloway and Willesden district of churches in London.
‘I AM URBAN’ is a joint venue between ADRA in the United Kingdom (Lead Partner) and the Adventist Community Services (ACS) of the British Union Conference (BUC) and includes partnerships with several other entities of the church in the United Kingdom, including the Trans-European Division. The initiative was established in order for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK to utilize the 17 sustainable development goals outlined recently by the United Nations.
The young people from the Holloway church ‘adopted’ a local care home, and performed ‘random acts of kindness’ on streets and at a local shopping centre. Knife deaths in the capital city was the focus for the #ENDITNOW Knife Crime march in the afternoon led by the Holloway Pathfinders with the Pathfinder Drum Corp.
This was in response to 35 high-profile stabbings in the capital, which occurred since the start of this year. Studies in 2018 reveal there has been an 8 percent rise in crimes involving knife stabbings, and a 15 percent increase in admission rates to hospitals for assaults involving sharp instruments.
Reports from the care home revealed that many residents were in tears to see both young and older adults visit them on Saturday. One resident expressed how lonely they were and asked for the young people to visit again. While showing kindness on the street, a lady expressed her grief regarding the recent loss of her father and cheered her up by giving her a small plant to take home.
“Going out on the streets in the afternoon was an eye-opener,” says Max McKenzie-Cook, urban lead champion. “Two young men in a fancy car, stopped us on the way to ask what we were doing and applauded us for our efforts. ‘It’s amazing how surprised people were that there are other people in the world who were engaged in social outreach and who care.”
As a result of the march, a young man who had recently been released from prison decided to walk into the church and asked for prayer and guidance to make the right decisions for him and his son.
In the Willesden church, they held their march in the morning, but the focus was not “knife crime,” but to make the local community aware of their presence. The young people also visited local care home ‘shut-in’ members and distributed fruit baskets to those in need. On the streets, fresh red roses were given to passersby.
“It was really scary at first approaching someone and offering to help, but after a while it became easier,” says 13-year-old Leah Roswell, “The information from I AM URBAN was very helpful and I definitely would like to get involved with community work.”
According to the United Nations, the urban population of the world skyrocketed from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. With the rapid growth around large towns and cities arose the challenges of rising levels of pollution, population explosion and overcrowding, increased cost of living, economic disparity between those established in urban areas and those seeking a new home and of course, the rising rates of crime.
The purpose of I AM URBAN is to solicit total member involvement, especially the millennial generation, to engage in social action projects in their local communities.
“Over the past year, ADRA in the UK has been working closely with the church to assist with their community outreach, in addition to managing our projects overseas,” says Bert Smit, CEO of ADRA in the UK. “We also have seconded a young pastor, Max McKenzie-Cook as an Urban Lead Champion, one day a week from our local conference, to assist us in reaching the millennial generation, who will often engage in micro-volunteering as opposed to the longer-term projects initiated by previous generations. We are excited about this initiative that already has and will impact the way social action is undertaken in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK.”
Commenting on the partnership, Sharon Platt-McDonald, ACS director says, “It has been an exciting journey embarking on this partnership. Our first phase was launched on International Day of Peace, September 21, 2018 to both lay members and clergy. Since then, I AM URBAN has been working with a number of congregations to listen, connect and serve the community in ways that are relevant to them.
“This has been a humbling and heartwarming experience. The engagement of our youth champions has greatly enhanced the scope of our ministry and more importantly, it demonstrates that as a church family, adults and youth can work effectively together to bring hope and restoration to broken lives,” Smit says.
I AM URBAN will be directly working with young people again on World Refugee Sabbath, May 15, where they will be encouraged to support the refugees in their local areas.
ABOUT ADRA:The Adventist Development and Relief Agency is the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Its work empowers communities and changes lives around the globe by providing sustainable community development and disaster relief. For more information, visit ADRA.org.