From Norwich to Antigua God at work through the ministry of Street Pastors
by Martin and Paula Callam
We first became involved with Street Pastors when it started in our home town of Norwich in 2006. Martin worked in the local hospital and Paula in a local school. We had been members of the Methodist Church for over thirty years, firstly in Glasgow and then since 1986 in Norwich. Since our children were grown up we had been asking the Lord about our future. We thought that there might be a call to work in Eastern Europe but He had other plans. It became obvious that there was a role for us out here and we came out to Antigua in September 2008. The leadership in Antigua is very committed to the work but they are busy people with demanding jobs and church commitments, so they were unable to give the time needed to develop the work. The vision is to expand the work in Antigua and also to reach across the Caribbean. There are already a number of other islands investigating starting Street Pastors.
Rev Les Isaac, Director of the Ascension Trust, and who is the founder of Street Pastors and was born in Antigua said: "We felt we needed a couple from England to help coordinate, administrate and establish Street Pastors in Antigua as a model for other Caribbean islands.
When I met Paula and Martin I felt very strongly that the Lord’s hand was on their lives to be a part of this great work right across the Caribbean. The Antigua Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers personally think this is a top initiative and they are very excited that Paula and Martin are giving up their time to go and help serve their nation through this very holistic mission."
Paula and Martin have left behind their grown-up children and a very small grandchild to go to the Caribbean. Martin said: "It is a wrench to leave but we feel we have been called to this work and if we didn’t do it we would regret it. We believe that the Lord will be with us."
Paula said: "I feel scared sometimes, but to soar like an eagle you first have to leave the nest and learn how to fly. It is totally different and new ground for us, but we know that the Lord has called us.
It is a lot hotter than going out in Norwich late on a Friday and Saturday night. It is all about meeting people. We are the same all the world round and we meet interesting and exciting people just like in Norwich. We see amazing things in Antigua just like we did in the United Kingdom."
What are "Street Pastors"?
Street Pastors is an inter-denominational Church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets to care, listen and dialogue.
It was pioneered in London in January 2003 by Rev Les Isaac, Director of the Ascension Trust, and has seen some remarkable results, including drops in crime in areas where teams have been working. There are now over 200 teams around the United Kingdom.
Each city project is set up by Ascension Trust and run by a local coordinator with support from Ascension Trust and local churches and community groups, in partnership with Police, Council and other statutory agencies.
Who can be a Street Pastor?
A Street Pastor is a Church member or leader/minister with a concern for society - in particular young people who feel themselves to be excluded and marginalised - and who is willing to engage people where they are, in terms of their thinking (i.e. their perspective of life) and location (i.e. where they hang out - be it on the streets, in the pubs and clubs orat parties etc).
Street Pastors will also be willing to work with fellow activists, church and community leaders, and with agencies and projects, both statutory and voluntary, to look at collaborative ways of working on issues affecting youth and initiatives that will build trust between them and the Street Pastors.
As the Street Pastor gets to know people in the community, he/she will find out what their needs are and what can be done to help. A presence of Street Pastors will earn credibility in the community, so that people know that the Church is there for them in a practical way. The role is not about preaching heaven and hell, but one of listening, caring and helping - working in an unconditional way.
To be a Street Pastor you need to be over 18 (no upper age limit), a church member and able to commit to our training programme. Each Street Pastor team consists of at least three groups of four, each of which will work a minimum of one night a month, usually from 10pm to around 4am.
Street Pastors in Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua & Barbuda is a small twin Island nation at the northern end of the Leeward Isles in the Caribbean. It is a place of sun, sea and sand with 365 beaches - a little bit of paradise. It is a popular spot with cruise boats, holidaymakers and honeymooners. The predominant religion is Christianity with over 200 churches on Antigua. On the face of it an idyllic place to live. So why is there a need for Street Pastors here?
There are aspects of the country that are not immediately obvious to visitors. Though it is one of the more prosperous of the Caribbean islands, there is quite a divide between the better off and the poor. Twenty-one percent of household’s incomes are below the poverty line and a further fifteen percent are close to it.The mainstays of the economy are tourism and financial services, both of which are feeling the pinch under the present global economic circumstances. A number of people previously employed in the tourism industry or by the Stanford Companies have been laid off and there is little alternative work. Being only a small nation, social services provision is limited.
A portion of the population came from other Caribbean islands in more prosperous times but now, with job shortages, there is a degree of tension between people of different national backgrounds. This is evident from items in the local press and media and in conversations with individuals on the street.
The culture for Caribbean men is very macho, with more emphasis being put on the number of children that they have fathered than the role of parenting. Traditionally Caribbean women have been seen as strong and the ones responsible for rearing children. This tends to leave women vulnerable, many struggling to feed and support their children without adequate support from the fathers. There is an acceptance of domestic violence and sexual abuse, for fear of losing financial support. The government is campaigning against these issues but it needs a change in the mindset of society to really effect change.
Like all places there is an active sex industry in Antigua, though it does not appear to centre around the visiting tourists but is mainly frequented by locals. Many of the girls are not Antiguans and a number may be victims of human trafficking, having been enticed to come to the island with promises of better jobs and lifestyle. Street Pastors have been able to assist at least one girl get out of the trade and into a respectable job.
Drug taking, particularly smoking marihuana, is also part of the Caribbean culture. However, in the long term, this leads to unemployment, homelessness and criminal activities. There are a number of men, who are either homeless or sleep in inadequate shelters, who eke out a living washing cars and doing odd jobs but are regularly to be seen down by the bars and smoking weed. The local police force works hard at preventing substance abuse but with a climate where it is easy to grow the plant in a back yard or with so many beaches that smuggling is easy, it is an almost impossible task. However, on a positive note, there is an excellent drug rehabilitation unit called the Crossroads Centre on the island, sponsored by a charity set up by Eric Clapton. Street Pastors have been able to refer a number of people there. The treatment is free for needy local residents.
What about the 200+ churches? Many people that you meet on the streets can quote the Bible and have knowledge of Christianity but have little understanding of personal faith. There is a distinct divide between the church-going population and the rest. Many churches tend to have a rather inward looking mentality and, in some cases, a condemning attitude. Although most churches run crusades etc to reach the lost, there appears to be few social outreach programmes. A number of people on the street have expressed feelings of rejection by the church and, on occasion, that it is hypocritical. This is obviously a generalised statement and by no means applies to all churches or church members. There are few interdenominational movements, with Street Pastors being the exception with members from right across the spectrum of churches.
This could appear as a picture of doom and gloom but Antigua is a really friendly place with many people who have a heart for their nation. The government is determined to improve the country despite its limited resources and is a huge help to Street Pastors, providing an office and a minibus. Many of the Street Pastors have a great heart for the work despite often having difficult circumstances in their own lives and are seeking to "make a difference in the lives of our people".
How can you support the work?
By prayer: we produce an email news letter / prayer letter at regular intervals. To subscribe just contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you on our list.
Financial: we ask you to prayerfully consider financial support. We are not funded and have to raise all our own financial support. Also there are expenses in connection with the development of the work in Antigua and to fulfil the vision of expansion across the Caribbean. Giving Online: please contact the Street Pastor office at email@example.com for details of how to give, either to support the work in Antigua or to support the Callams personally. If you are a taxpayer, your contribution can be boosted by reclaiming tax via Gift Aid. Donations by post: You can make a donation by sending a cheque payable to, Ascension Trust. PO Box 3916, London SE19 1QE. Please indicate if it is to support the work in Antigua or to support the Callams personally. If you are a UK taxpayer we can claim extra through Gift Aid but you will need to complete a Gift Aid form which we will send you together with a payment receipt.
Martin & Paul Callam are the coordinators for the Antigua and Barbuda Street Pastors Initiative
METConnexion Summer 2010 pp.12-13