“You want to do what!?” by Prince Laryea

I’m 25 years old, and standing on stage at a big evangelistic event in Birmingham. I’m part of a hip-hop band, and we’re the closing act. Following our performance, we present the Gospel and invite young people to respond. The Lord is clearly at work, as we watch the miracle of salvation unfold before our eyes; many hands are raised in response to the invitation to follow Jesus. I’m an evangelist who uses hip-hop as a tool to present the Gospel to young people. It’s not a side job or a hobby. This is me; it’s my full-time job.

Rewind back 22 years, my parents have just arrived in the UK with a young family of three boys in tow. We’re asylum seekers, in search of refuge from the turmoil that ensued following a military coup in my native Ghana in 1981. My parents are first-generation migrants, arriving in a land they don’t know, with very few connections, no home, and no possessions other than the items in the suitcases they’re holding. With a family now expanded to five young boys to settle and provide for, the list of priorities is short and focused, and can be boiled down to one single objective: security.

From the age of five, my parents began to make it abundantly clear to me that there were only four career paths that would be open to me for my future: doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer! That was it – the bar was set, and my future mapped. I’d like to think that every parent has great aspirations for their children, but I think in the case of migrant parents, this is somewhat amplified. It’s the continued pursuit of that same single objective; it’s the hope of a better standard of life, the hunt for security.

The word of Jesus when He sent out His disciples, in Matthew 12, stands in stark contrast to this theme, security, as does His conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, near the end of Matthew 19. These were the Scriptures I’d been grappling with, when I approached my mum to explain my proposed career path. “You want to do what!?” I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went from there, but I do remember that I didn’t do much of the talking! Let’s face it – even the most open-minded, middle-class White parent would wince at the idea of their offspring pursuing a career in hip-hop. Following the footsteps of music icons, such as Jay-Z, Eminem and Snoop Dog was not on the shortlist – even if it was for the sake of the Gospel.

The road between that moment and the event in Birmingham was not straightforward; it was filled with highs and lows, successes, disappointments and setbacks but, through it all, I was growing in my faith, the Lord was providing for my needs, and I was seeing young lives transformed by the power of the Gospel. Reflecting back, it would seem the Lord had different plans concerning my career and, as a result, it has been my privilege to play a small part in God’s big picture of mission, inviting others into relationship with Him through music.

Today it’s a new chapter of the same story: looking for innovative ways to share faith with young people. I am now Director of Mission at Youth For Christ (YFC). It’s my privilege to be part of an organisation full of passion and committed to seeing thousands of young lives transformed through the Good News of Jesus, and taking their skills, gifts, talents and passions and chasing after Jesus’ Great Commission call with great abandon. At YFC, through touring bands, sports teams, prison ministry teams and over 70 local centres across the UK, we’re seeing the Gospel presented to thousands of young people in schools, youth clubs, churches, prisons and in the community each year. But the sad reality is we’re hardly scratching the surface. Jesus’ words to His disciples, in Matthew 9:27, ring as true today as when He first said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

At YFC, we’re constantly wrestling with the questions: “How do we engage more young people in the Great Commission, equipping them to reach their peers with the Gospel?” “How do we work more closely with the local church and local youth workers to ignite a passion for mission in their young people?” “How do we support and encourage the Church in reaching out to young people in the local community, who might never step foot in church?” And so we develop resources, employ evangelists and speakers, undertake research on youth culture, run residential trips and training conferences… anything we can to better equip the Church and reach young people.

For over 70 years, one of YFC’s most powerful and far-reaching innovations has been our gap-year programme. Hundreds of young adults have been through the programme and, as a result, many thousands have been reached and impacted across the UK. Our gap-year programme is called ‘YFC One’, and is a 10-month programme for young adults aged 17 to 25. It can be a year away, or a year staying at home and serving your local church. YFC One provides an intense incubation, designed to grow faith, nurture Christian character, and provide experience in Christian ministry and evangelism. At a time in their lives, when many young adults step away from their faith, YFC One aims to challenge the trend, helping young people deepen their foundations and cultivate their relationship with Jesus, setting them up for a lifetime of loving and serving Him.

It’s an exciting prospect to consider what God can do through a life that is submitted to Him. In spite of circumstance and background, God calls, shapes, transforms and directs a life in order to serve His Kingdom purpose, bringing others to faith and new life in Jesus. As a church leader or youth and young adults leader reading this article, we’ve no doubt that you feel the same. We’re excited about the prospect of working alongside you.

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about YFC One, or if you’d like to speak further about how we can partner together in mission.

 

Prince Laryea

Director of Mission at YFC, and founding member of UK hip-hop crew, The 29th Chapter

Web: www.yfc.uk

Email: prince.laryea@yfc.org.uk

 

About the writer

Former front man and manager of UK hip-hop pioneers, The 29th Chapter, Prince has a passion for speaking and inspiring a generation to chase after the things of God, taking the Good News of Jesus into the highways and byways of mainstream culture. Through sharing his own journey, Prince seeks to inspire more Christians to push into the mainstream arts, media and entertainment space. He and his wife Laura live in London; they have three children, aged nine, seven and three.

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