The truth about the Brits: two Americian missionaries to Britain tell it like it is.

Alan. The article below appeared in the newspaper published by one of the largest churches in America – Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. The person being interviewed is the former editor of the newspaper. She and her husband now serve as youth missionaries to England. They are both in their mid to late 40’s. Dr. David R. Reagan Tom and Ninie Hammon moved to England to do missionary work three years ago. Tom is the Senior Regional Director for Young Life in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Ninie is the former Executive Editor of The Southeast Outlook. Below, Ninie does some “nattering and tattering” about what she’s been doing for the last three years and gives some interesting insight into the European culture.Q. What has been the hardest thing to get used to?A. Life in a foreign culture is like sand in a wet bathing suit. You’re always just a little uncomfortable, never quite in sync with the world around you. You think you’ve communicated, but you haven’t; you think you understand but you don’t. You show up with the illusion that England is merely America with a British accent. Wrong! The cultural differences are huge. The way the Brits see the world, what they value and how they relate to each other is profoundly foreign to American thinking. Q. Describe British culture.A. In one word? Rules! There is no other society anywhere on the planet that so regulates and needlessly complicates every facet of human existence—from how/when/where you can park your car to strangling taxation and child protection laws that make it extremely difficult for any adult to relate in a meaningful way to a teenager. (By the way, it is illegal here to spank your own child.) The British are pessimists who will always tell you 10 different reasons why a thing won’t work. They’re not outgoing and don’t open up quickly, but a British friend will take a bullet for you.Q. What is the hardest thing for Americans to understand about your ministry?A. Why we do it at all. Why in the world does England needs missionaries? Come on. C.S. Lewis. John Wesley. John Stott. G.K. Chesterton. Our cultural heritage is British. But what most Americans don’t know is that Great Britain has turned its back on almost everything it once held to be true. Fewer than 2 percent of the population goes to church; the average age of those who do is over 60. Those charming Anglo Saxon churches you see on postcards—they’re empty! The village church where we used to live is now a pub called the Bell and the Dragon. A grand old cathedral in Birmingham is now a climbing gym. And Islam is spreading across the British Isles like a red tide. In the neighborhood where we have Young Life in Manchester, two huge old churches stood empty for years—until they were turned into mosques. Now it’s standing-room-only. Islam is particularly attractive to British youth because at least the Muslims believe something.Q. What are British teenagers like? A. A youth culture magazine called The Face described them this way: “If identity crisis is a form of madness, then Young Britain is a schizoid manic-depressive with bombsite self-esteem. Our status as the most boozed-up, drug-skewed, pregnancy-prone wasters in Europe is pretty much unchallenged.”England has the highest teen pregnancy and teen crime rates in Europe. Despair is epidemic among Welsh teens. Nestled in the mountains of north Wales, the Vale of Clwyd is an achingly beautiful valley where herds of sheep graze in green pastures beside picturesque stone cottages—and where 23 young people have committed suicide in the past three years. The suicide rate for American teenagers is approximately one death in every 14,250 young people; in the Vale of Clwyd, it’s about 1 in 50.Q. Describe you ministry.A. The typical American view is that you send a missionary to start something from scratch. God was initiating revival in the United Kingdom and Ireland long before we got here; He had prepared incredible people in five countries, then set up divine appointments for us to meet them. God has done all the work. Our job is to blow on the hot coals He’s gathered and see if we can start a bonfire.Q. What is Young Life?A. Young Life started in 1941 in Texas and is now the largest Christian outreach to teenagers in the world. We are in 56 countries. What is unique about Young Life is its incarnational approach to evangelism. Young Life doesn’t build a building or stage a program and expect kids to come to us. Young Life leaders do what Jesus did—they go out into the world, wherever kids hang out, spend time with them and develop relationships. The phrase “earning the right to be heard” was coined by Young Life founder Jim Rayburn. Q. How has Young Life changed since you’ve been there?A. When we arrived in March, 2006, there was Young Life work with kids from around the world at two international schools in London. And work with British kids in three schools in Hertford. Now, Young Life is in five international schools in London and in one British school there, and in five schools in Hertford. We also have Young Life in the Vale of Clwyd and Rhy, Wales; Dublin and Greystones, Ireland; Edinburgh and St. Andrews, Scotland; Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Hoddesdon, England. Tom is training about 100 youth workers in northern Wales, Manchester and Sheffield to lead Young Life in their communities. We don’t work directly with kids. Tom uses 37 years of Young Life youth ministry experience to train indigenous people to build a permanent Young Life organization that will be here long after we are gone. We are entrusting ministry, going by 2 Tim. 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”Q. Tell us about your writing.A. My first book, God Said Yes, the biography of Southeast member Heather Hornback-Bland, was published in 2007. My second book, Sudan, will be published this spring. It’s a novel adaptation of a screenplay that Florida pastor Art Ayris based on a true story. Writing Sudan is the hardest thing I’ve ever done! Art and I dedicated ourselves to telling the truth about a nightmare on steroids—the slave trade and genocide in the largest country in Africa. Every horror described Sudan is taken from actual news accounts of real-life brutality. The book is not rated G! What’s going on in Sudan isn’t rated G, either.  My third book is in final edit. I’d tell you the title, but I don’t have one yet. It’s a novel based on the true story of a little girl who went missing from Ft. Knox years ago.My fourth book, which is written but far from complete, is called Home Grown. It’s a novel about what marijuana growing does to a small Kentucky community, like the one where I was a journalist in the 1980s.Q. How has your view of America changed since you’ve lived abroad?A. I am more patriotic now than I ever was before. God bless America!Q. What do you know now that you didn’t know before you moved to England?A. I know that driving on the left side of the road is just wrong.I know that socialism is an abomination that crushes the human spirit, demoralizes, de-motivates and depresses, and eventually destroys the very society it purports to serve. I know that seasoning makes food taste really good—the Brits should try it sometime. I know that London Bridge is not really falling down, falling down.I know that suggesting it might be a good idea to mow down some of the million miles of British hedges so you could widen the roads is grounds for immediate deportation. I know you need a whole new vocabulary to speak British English. Don’t say “pants.” Say “trousers.” Pants are underwear. A crossing guard is a lollypop man, snogging is making out in public, nattering and tattering is chatting. I’ve never heard anybody actually say, “Cheerio!” But “cheers” is a dandy, all-purpose word that means hello, goodbye, thanks, you’re welcome, oops, sorry, excuse me, and look—there’s the queen!I know my world was once way too small, and I’m not talking about geography. I have a deep, profound love for the people in the five countries we serve—the quirky English, the self-effacing Welsh, the gregarious Scots and the charming Irish. After salvation, Tom and my family, doing Young Life here is the greatest gift God has ever given me. For more information about Young Life, visit


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