street angels book
The following is an excerpt from the recently released ebook “Street Angels” outlining stories of projects and changed community:
Chapter 26 Tenerife – The Living Room
Rachel Scott (Co-ordinator The Living Room) writes:
“Tenerife!!!!?”. The thought is written all over this lady’s face as I tell her about the work I do at The Living Room. I laugh to myself, I am used to this reaction, as this lady, along with so many others before her, are surprised to hear of Tenerife as a place for mission.
Tenerife, more specifically, the nightlife resort of Las Americas, is the place where hundreds of British adults aged between 18 and 30 years old, arrive each year to live and seeking adventure and a party lifestyle. They arrive with huge expectations but inevitably end up wrapped up in drugs,alcohol, sex and end up in very messy situations. It is true that this is not your typical place for mission however Las Americas has been on God’s heart for a long time.
Over twenty years ago a Swedish couple began to prayer-walk up and down the nightlife strip and over fifteen years ago a young Christian girl, fondly known as “Scottish Carol”, used to visit the strip to chat and pray with the young people. Various other young Christians over the years have moved here to work in an attempt to witness to their peers and by 2003, they were regularly visiting the nightlife strip to befriend the people they met. Jesus was beginning to move and people were getting saved however with no place to follow up what He was doing, the work was limited. Around this time God had been powerfully speaking to the leaders of a UK charity called Grassroots Trust who felt a clear leading to begin a work of some kind in Las Americas. After spending several years working together with local churches and the team on the ground, God miraculously worked his hand and in April 2003, Grassroots Trust opened The Living Room Centre, the team finally had a base and the ministry was born!
So what is The Living Room?
The Living Room is a centre situated in the heart of the nightlife resort of Las Americas. We aim to reach people through love, support and friendship and use The Living Room Centre as a way of doing that. Many from the community come to chill out, chat and hang out with friends. Some, however, come out of a real sense of need when their party lifestyle on the island gets to them. This means that beneath the great atmosphere of people laughing and joking around God is always moving. We support people, listen to people, share our testimonies and pray with people. God gives us so many opportunities to speak into people’s lives and to share his love with them.
At night we visit the bars, clubs and streets of the nightlife strips; dancing, having a laugh and chatting to the people we meet and it is out of these times that the real conversations come. Loads of young people have come to Las Americas for a good time but they actually find that it’s quite empty. They are so close to falling off the edge and yet they are so open to Jesus. Many off-load issues and problems they are going through, many listen and ask us the answers to their soulsearching questions, some people even take bibles and accept prayer from us.
We exist in an environment in which every night is a Saturday night, young people come here with the sole purpose of letting their hair down and letting down their inhibitions and boundaries. We see open drug-taking, binge-drinking, vomiting, people collapsing in the street, fighting, nudity, and people having sex in public places yet alongside all of that, we see Jesus really changing lives here.
We have had so many encounters with people on the streets of Las Americas and in The Living Room centre over the years that it’s impossible to remember or even count them all. We have had so many young people asking questions about Jesus, wanting prayer, coming to church and opening up about their lives. We have seen people saved, baptised and go on to walk with Jesus for years, becoming pastors, evangelists, leaders and even setting up ministries in other places. We have seen addiction broken, unbelieving people slowly start to wonder if God is real and people ask for or accept prayer for the very first time in their lives. We have heard young people who have never ever met another Christian before decide we are “quite cool actually” and that we “ make a lot of sense”. We have seen a broken man on the brink of suicide be persuaded that there is hope that things could be better and a young girl abused by every man she has ever known start to believe in a God that loves her. Drug dealers have been reduced to tears by the powerful words of Christ, girls have decided not to sell their bodies anymore.
Through love and months of conversations we have seen someone who was absolutely convinced that science is the only answer, slowly start to wonder what a living relationship with God would be like. A stripper hears the bible explained in a way that she understands and then wants one, whilst a heroin addict who is unsure if he still has a soul, comes to ask us what we think. A man diagnosed with hepatitis c and sentenced to a slow and painful death is miraculously healed one week and the next a young guy is moved to admit that he wants “what you all have”. Young people start to realise that sexuality is precious and question the way society lives and lies of the enemy are broken down as Jesus opens up the way for us to speak truth into people’s lives. “Do you think one day I will be a Christian like you?” one girl asks one night. “Am I going to heaven?” asks another. We have stood bible in hand, sharing Christ, in the middle of the madness, prayed with people in the middle of the vomit and comforted and reassured in the middle of the desperation. A 20-something year- old lad with no church background stands reading a chapter out of our bible and is amazed as he explains “the words just jumped out to me”, a homeless man, addicted to heroin smiles as we sit and have coffee with him, a child whose
mum sells her body to support the family, forgets the situation, whilst we play football with him, the mentally ill become sane as we pray earnestly for them and the sceptic becomes slightly less sceptical as they watch us day after day, night after night loving this community…..all because Christ first loved us…..
The hard part, is that it is impossible to measure a changed life. How can you know when someone who is 20 steps away from Jesus has, as a result of your conversation, moved to only being 19 steps away? Who knows which of these encounters are going to make a difference eternally? Only God. So we give it over to him daily trusting that this small sample of stories are not the beginning and they are not the end, they are just part of someone’s journey…
Kate had always been surrounded by depression and death. She went from bad relationship to bad relationship and was really lonely, so started to drink for confidence and to feel comfortable. She met The Living Room team and used to chat to us about things she was going through as she knew she could trust us. She even came to church once. Kate went through a really hard time in Tenerife and went quite wild to deal with it, she drank more and more and went on benders for months until one day she broke down, feeling suicidal and a complete mess. It was around this time she had a conversation with one of the girls from the team. In her own words she explains, “that conversation changed the course of my life, I admitted that I wanted to come back to church but wasn’t sure. She encouraged me to come and said that I was always welcome, so I did. I felt jealous for what everyone at this church had and I wanted it myself. After church I used to hang out with everyone, I felt like I belonged and I could finally trust people. I had been going for about a month when I prayed and asked God to help me and change me, I broke down in tears. For the first time I knew that things were different and things had changed. Jesus had touched my life. I wanted to give my life to him. My journey of self destruction ended. I stopped drinking as I had changed inside and didn’t feel like I needed to drink anymore. I always thought I needed the love of a man and felt lonely but once I found Jesus he took all the loneliness away. All my friends keep asking what has changed and what is different about me. I know the answer is Jesus. I was at a point where I felt I had nothing to live for, now I have everything to live for.”
After getting into some trouble back home Martin moved to Las Americas. He quickly became very popular in the community and often called into The Living Room for a cup of tea. He mentioned God a few times as he explained that he had been really close to his prison chaplain during a stint in jail. One night, as the team were doing the rounds, he shyly explained to us that he kept having urges to go to church. We told him about our church in Tenerife, a great church full of people who are passionate for Jesus and invited him to come with us sometime. He said he would and proceeded to count off numerous times that he had prayed and seen God answer his prayers in an amazing way. We were all excited about the possibility of Martin giving his life to Jesus. One Sunday morning he turned up at church unexpectedly with his girlfriend who rolled her eyes admitting, “Martin wants to become a Christian and I love him so I am here too”! It was a great service and both of them stayed for hours afterwards asking question after question about Jesus and what it meant to follow him. Martin gave up drinking and taking drugs saying that he had really identified with what had been said and it made a lot of sense to him. A member of the
team was getting baptised the following week and he said he would like to come to that service too. Unfortunately before the next Sunday came he had got himself into trouble with some locals and had to leave the island. We were sad to see him go, but, as we often have to do here, we gave him over to God’s hands knowing that Martin took a significant step in his journey towards Christ during his time here.
Jo moved here and quickly got very wrapped up in the drugtaking, binge drinking scene. She hung around with a group of girls who were very wild and were always involved in some shocking situation and story. The others seemed to handle it but we began to be more and more worried about Jo, the decisions she was making and the situations she was putting herself in. She was becoming known as “Crazy Jo” and no-one wanted anything to do with her. We knew we had to do something. We contacted her family through facebook (something we never do!) and explained to them how urgent it was that they came and took Jo home. We were really praying that her sisters would see how desperate her situation was and not think we were a group of interfering christians! God worked a miracle though, helping us to find Jo, allowing her sisters to understand how serious the state of Jo’s mental health was and convincing her to go back home. We left all her stuff behind and even managed to get her on a plane without a passport! Her family thanked us again and again for being there for Jo when no-one else cared.
Brooke says “I’ve never been the type of person to think too much about things. I never really gave anything much thought – career, kids, God – that kind of stuff. But when I worked in Tenerife, I’d stand there and think about anything and everything! One night I asked the others that I worked with “how do you think the moon got there?” they laughed, said I was off my head! Then, one night I met this guy from The Living Room who gave me a lolly and said he was a Christian. I thought ‘that’s weird, he looks normal!’. He told me about a centre for workers, I went the next day and was surprised how chilled out it was. I couldn’t believe they had PG Tips & chocolate biscuits, as I hadn’t had a cup of tea in 3 months!! Whilst I was there I met Wendy, who worked there and thought she was normal too…She started talking to me and I started off-loading my life to her. It felt weird telling a complete random stranger but I couldn’t stop. I got home and felt like the world had been lifted off my shoulders. It might not sound like a big deal to you – but it was to me. I’d never been able to talk to anyone about how I felt or what was going on. My Dad had been a heroin addict all my life and I shared my life in and out of my Mum’s abusive relationships with men. I lied to both my friends and myself about it and made up an imaginary life for myself. That night I thought about everything I knew to do with God… it wasn’t much! I wondered if God was actually real, then I found a Bible in my drawer. It might as well have been in French – I didn’t understand a thing! After that night though I was different, it’s hard to explain in words but something had changed inside me. I started to think about God all the time, although I didn’t tell anyone. When I read the Bible again it started to get interesting, it was every topic you could think of written in one book. I learnt about how the world had become so bad God had to send His son Jesus to save it. I thought about all the bad things I had done wrong. I had been hurt by a lot of people but I’d also hurt a lot of people. I’d become so angry I didn’t care about anyone including myself. I got angry with God and spent the next few months mainly arguing with Him. God was faithful and never gave up on me though – like a real father. Over time I was able to trust Him with my life and
talk to Him on a daily basis. He healed my heart and gave me hope. Without Him, I’d hate to think where I’d be now”.
Norwegian Lars came to visit us at The Living Room one day as he was looking for friendship. He explained that he had cancer of the liver due to years of substance abuse. He wasn’t scared to die but admitted he was scared to face God. We had loads of conversations with him over the following weeks about Jesus, things slowly slotted into place for him and Lars gave his life to Jesus. Before he left he joyfully told us that he was ready to die and was no longer scared to face Jesus. On his return back to Norway, we received a phone call from him with the incredible news that it turned out Jesus had healed him too. Now he is cancer-free, lives in Norway and is witnessing to his friends and family about the love of Christ.
Anthony was a manager of a failing bar, in dire straits financially, all his so- called friends had abandoned him and his mental health was suffering. Over the last year he had lost both his parents and his uncle, his wife had left him and taken his child too. He was depressed, the whole community were worried about him. One night whilst visiting him, he opened up admitting how close he’d been to suicide at times. We got chance to encourage him, telling him he was a good man and had a future. Later on that evening, he came looking for us and asked us to go back to the bar as he wanted to read a letter to us that he had written a few months ago. It was pure despair on paper, one sentence read “I want to live but don’t know how to”. We told him again God had a plan for his life and he could get help. After a while we left his bar for the second time, however, one of the team felt strongly that God was telling him to go back and to tell Anthony again that he was a good man and had a future. So he did. He actually ended up leaving the bar and going back to say the same thing eight times! We laughed! But God was serious and moving in Anthony’s life. Who knows what was prevented from happening that evening? We prayed and prayed that God’s words would sink into his heart and amazingly a few days later he agreed to go back to the UK and into a rehab where he could get help and counselling. God always seems to lead us into the right place at exactly the right time.
Maria and Jodie were two girls I got to know really well. I used to meet up with them in my spare time and often had conversations about God. As it was coming up to Maria’s 21st birthday I thought I would buy her a bible. So I bought her a funky, pink, ‘The Message Bible’ and handed it to her, slightly nervous about how she would take it. However she really loved it and said it was really cool and kept showing it to everyone. I still pray that she keeps it and God nudges her to read it one day. The surprising part of this story, however, was how much this bible affected Jodie. She was Northern Irish, very closed about religion and had never really chatted about it before but the bible seemed to really touch her and she kept saying how lovely it was, hinted that she would like one and that she would like to start coming to church. She asked me to tell her why I was a christian, how and why I gave my life to Him and asked loads of questions. I don’t know what Jesus was doing in her that day but he was definitely doing something. My favourite part about the work here is the way God uses the long term relationships we build with people. You never know when it might happen but suddenly, out of the blue, someone opens up to you in an awesome way and you can see God really moving forward in their life.
Poppy had lost both her parents. She was absolutely devastated by it and had no idea how to handle it so she had tried to block out the pain with drink and drugs. She admitted one night that as a result she couldn’t understand how there could possibly be a God. Not long later one of her friend’s from The Living Room was getting baptised and so she agreed to come to church. She was really touched by Jesus in the service and sobbed all the way through. She said it was the first time she’s been happy in ages and she slept better that week than she has in ages. She said she felt like someone was hugging her as she fell asleep.
Jess was a mixed up girl with a lot of issues. She wasn’t taken seriously by people over here, in fact, they used to bully her as she was a little bit slow, didn’t always wear the cleanest or the most fashionable clothes. She had a bad reputation for sleeping around a lot and was looked down upon by the other workers. Jesus broke my heart for her straight away and I wanted to talk to her. After realising I was from Sheffield, where she was born, she opened up and explained that before she moved to Tenerife she had been in an awful relationship, suffered a miscarriage and was still incredibly upset about the way her ex was treating her. Not only that, but she had lost her brother a year ago and had been drinking every day since. We talked about dealing with her issues and I asked if she’d ever spoken to anyone about what she was going through or if she had ever received counselling. She hadn’t and admitted she had no- one to talk to. I told her she could always come to The Living Room Centre and talk to me if she wanted to and she burst into tears and said she would really like that. Over the next few months she became a regular visitor, saying “I love it up there, everyone is so friendly and nice”. She was such a sweetheart and looked upon us as her big sisters, she came for advice but mainly she came because we loved her.
Peter was a northern lad who came from a broken family and had lots of emotional pain. He didn’t believe in God due to the things he had gone through but liked the Living Room Team and became our friends. He became a regular at the centre and used to socialise with us on our days off too. If there was a day at the beach, he would come, if there was a BBQ, he would come, eventually he realised all his best friends in Tenerife were Christians. They all went to church so why shouldn’t he? He began to come along and was quite impressed with how he found it, nothing like what he had expected. These people were real. He had questions and asked the team. He also admitted that he knew God was real and loved to hear all the stories about how he had changed people’s lives. He never made an official decision to follow Jesus but we know that God will still be chasing after him and we were lucky enough to be used to be part of his story.
Polish Karl started coming to The Living Room as his friends all came. He was very skeptical of us and seemed just to watch us for weeks. Eventually he warmed to us and began to open up admitting “we were good people”. The months went by and a real friendship developed between him and the team. He was intelligent and talked endlessly with us about what we believed. We spent hours talking to him about Jesus and had some very powerful conversations with him but each time he seemed to get close to a breakthrough, he would run away from it and not come to see us for a while. Suddenly we didn’t see him for a long time. The months went by, then, one day, we received a phone call. It was Karl, he was in prison in Poland as the police had picked him up. He missed us and still calls us to say hello. Though he had originally been skeptical of us to begin with we became the only ones he stays in touch with.
Rebecca told us one night that she had borrowed a book from The Living Room and found that it was one of the best books she had ever read. It had changed her view of Christians and she wished her sister could come out here and meet us as her sister struggled with depression yet Rebecca knew that we could help her. In her opinion we had a certain way with people that was unlike any professional she had ever met. She said she didn’t know what it was but she could see something in us. We told her, it was Jesus!
Alex moved to Tenerife with a serious heroin addiction. After putting himself through cold turkey and managing to kick his addiction he replaced it with another – alcohol. Everyone in Tenerife drinks a lot but Alex had a serious problem. He couldn’t recognise the people he worked with and was never sober. Things hit an all time low and he found himself homeless. Alex had met the Living Room team as they did the rounds at night chatting to people and he also used to receive a christmas present from them every year so as he lay on the street pavement one night, he thought to himself “If anyone can help me, The Living Room can”. He decided to come up and ask for help. We managed to help him get into a christian rehab on the island where he gave his life to Christ. Alex went on to overcome his addiction, got a good job, a house and is now a wise man of God who is married to one of The Living Room Team!!
Working here is just an incredible adventure with Jesus, one in which you never know where he is going to take you or what he is going to do through you. People often ask me “Does anyone really want to talk to you though?” The answer is Yes! because we don’t bible-bash, we don’t preach at people, we just step into their world and make friends, praying and trusting in God that he will open up the door in people’s lives and move in the way he wants to move… and he does.