This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. -John 5:12
Often in churches and missions communities I hear it said that people matter, all people matter. We chant it on the streets while holding signs that say “Jesus Loves You”. We sing it in our songs, we hand it out in the form of charity to the homeless and impoverished, we even hold fast to it in our political ideals. Do we truly believe this in the core of our hearts, though? Or do we simply follow the trends that those in our communities set for us? It’s easy to hold a sign and chant the words we have read, but it’s a bit harder to live a life of bringing value to all, especially those who you don’t exactly understand.
I believe that Mim Daughtery is one of those rare few that is on the journey of actually living and loving others in this way. Mim, who is British herself, did her DTS here at YWAM Harpenden in 2012 and found herself at a crossroads with God. Her response to the challenges that DTS presented to her was to do something she never desired to do: quit her job, and her ideals of a ‘normal life’ and join staff at YWAM Harpenden. She has since joined the communications team and #OvalSkate, a skate park YWAM Harpenden hosts for local skaters.
“I think I came back on staff because I was hopeful; not only hopeful but desperate for myself and others. I had seen so many bad things happen, to myself and others, that I felt the desperation for God to use me in others lives. This was my mission, and it was like an unspoken mission between God and I.” To this mission, I believe she holds true.
She first heard about #OvalSkate when she came on staff, and as a previous skater she thought it sounded like an amazing thing to be a part of. In the last year after she joined the team, she has since become the #OvalSkate ministry leader. #OvalSkate is open every Friday from 7:00-10:00 as a safe place where local kids can skate and hang out. Once a month they also host gigs for local bands from Hertfordshire, and receive about 100-200 kids. #OvalSkate is a dry venue, a no-alcohol, drug-free zone, and they exercise that on a weekly basis. Mim consistently meets with the staff to discuss with them the appropriate ways to build relationships with these kids, and how to be respectful in dealing with those trying to smuggle in drugs and alcohol. They have learned first hand what ‘loving people as they are’ truly means. The #OvalSkate staff do not condone this behaviour, but choose to love them as individuals and form relationships with them; because of this, they often have opportunities to share their own perspectives on issues like this with the teenagers.
“I’ve fallen in love with skating, I’ve fallen in love with that atmosphere, and I’ve fallen in love with these kids,” Mim comments.
#OvalSkate is about skating, but more than anything it’s about loving people exactly where they are. “#OvalSkate is a safe environment where kids are not judged, no matter their race or sexuality or their style or religion. [It’s in this space that] we get to act like Jesus.” Mim loves the ability to be a follower of Jesus and be pursuing showing these kids, who most people judge on first sight, the love of Jesus.
“I had this one kid say ‘is the Jesus you talk about a different Jesus than they talk about in Church? Because you make this one sound so interesting.’ And that’s what we want. We want old, religious ideas of what Christianity is, knocked down.”
The #OvalSkate staff view every Friday night as an outreach, a practical outpouring of their love for Jesus and the community that they have found themselves in the midst of. The kids who come are questioning, searching and seeking, and Mim and her team are there every week offering support, love and acceptance, as they believe Jesus would. It is an open missions field, yet it is something that not a lot of people are willing to pour into.
And what does Mim say to those who question the importance of this ministry?
“We have a skate park because we think that everybody’s important. If this is going to be the only encouraging relationship they’re going to have in their youth and it comes from a Christian, you know I’ll happily waste my time with this. And personally, I don’t think I’m wasting my time.”
I believe that love comes in different forms for different people. For some it is offering hospitality, for others it is quality time, and perhaps for these kids it’s creating a space where they matter and are heard. Mim acknowledges that she and her team may never see the ‘fruit’ of what they do on a daily basis for these kids. But, to Mim it’s not really about the ‘fruit’ or proof that it is ‘worth their time’, it’s about loving those that are not often loved. Is this a challenge? Absolutely. But is it worth it? Absolutely. This is radical love, and this is missions.
Photos: Lauren Malpass, Penny Bird