Hot Chocolate is somewhere people experience the Gospel. Like any Christian community, we’re trying (in as faltering, forgetful, and forgiveness-heavy a way as everyone else) to be Christ-like: to enact in our life together, the ways, character and actions of Jesus.
Sometimes, this is intentional. Our daily work with young people facing deep pains and challenges would be impossible without constantly struggling in the profoundest ways with truth and grace.
Consider these voices from just two recent weeks:
“I’m too scared to go home”.
“My cousin died on Wednesday. It was legal highs … I don’t know if I can cope with this … as well as everything else that’s going on.”
“I’m worried I might start cutting again.”
“I’m worried about X. Her friend was found hanging in his prison cell on Monday, I’ve not seen her since.”
“I’ve been at court. My solicitor thinks I’ll get two years. I wish I could shake my old self and tell him not to make that stupid mistake.”
“I’ve lost my house. Can you help me find somewhere to live?”
“What colour was the universe, before it was the universe?”
How could we negotiate these paths, without constantly being formed in the ways of honesty and love?
They go out knowing that there is an ‘in’ they can always come home to. Dave Close, Hot Chocolate Trust
But sometimes, this enacting of God’s kingdom is in less conscious ways. For example, our door.
We’ve begun meeting together, outside our normal work, to pursue Jesus together in new ways (“we” being a bunch of the Hot Chocolate team and former young people). This week, we were reflecting on John 10, where Jesus tries to get the disciples to grasp who he is, by telling stories of a sheepfold. He describes himself as the gate, by which the sheep come and go freely, knowing that they will be cared for, that they will find pasture. Dwelling on John’s words, I found myself thinking about Hot Chocolate’s front door.
Three times a week, the door lies open and young people come in and out from the grass and streets outside. We don’t sign anyone in; the power dynamics just don’t fit. We’re not getting them off the streets; they belong there too. They can come and go as they want or need. They are free and responsible for their choices. They know there is a sheltered, safer experience inside; we staff the door for exactly that reason, to welcome, but also to limit who comes in. They know there are expectations and challenges associated with coming in; they choose to take up that responsibility, or not. We love them and engage with them both sides of the door. They come in to find the resources to go out and live; they go out knowing that there is an ‘in’ they can always come home to.
I never think much of Jesus as a gate, and I never see any pictures of Jesus as a gate, but I rather suspect we’ve been proclaiming Jesus through our ‘gate’ for all these years.
Director, Hot Chocolate Trust
About Hot Chocolate Trust
The project engages with local young people by offering hospitality and prayer. They also hold group discussions, reflecting on scripture in creative ways, for example through music and art.