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Working With Disadvantaged Children in the USA

Working with underprivileged children in North America in 1980 & 1982 was a very positive time for Kevin & a great learning experience. I applied through BUNAC [British Universities North American Club] to work in a Christian camp for underprivileged children run by the Salvation Army. I was accepted after some interviews & training in London.

Your flight was effectively paid in advance out of your wages for the summer. For ‘skint’ students it was a very helpful & practical arrangement. You didn’t need to be a member of the Salvation Army to participate as a team member but a committed Christian.

I applied to be a General Counsellor for  boys & it proved to be a really good experience with the children. I was in charge of a log cabin effectively of up to 12 American children with a young teenage helper. I was responsible for them over the two week period they were on camp. After two weeks the camp children changed & new arrivals came.

I enjoyed teaching soccer, cricket. & participated in canoeing, lifeguarding, softball, team games, creative activities, team games, camp songs & Christian devotions. After a month of camp we had a few days break with some of the American team in New York State. I enjoyed going up the Empire State building, visiting a giant American mall & experiencing a ‘mini’ tornado, being entertained at my first drive in cinema & sampling American ‘in your face’ TV!

The second month of camp at Saddle Lake saw the ultimate challenge. It drew a particularly tough group of disadvantaged children who were tough & with attitude. I remember we had to ask them to surrender all weapons in a barn before they could be allocated to their cabins & a number of knives & weapons were surrendered! I had 10-12 year old boys & during the first two days was asked to take a lad that no one else seemed able to control. He came up and looked pretty harmless with a sheepish grin. He had a tiny bag to last for two weeks so the first challenge for  me was to kit him out with clothes & toiletries for the camp. Lemar was to be my ultimate test, he was fun but incredibly mischievous. If a camera had been on him for one day it would have made for fascinating viewing! I once had to carry him out the dining room with children cheering because of his behaviour! Each night he would crawl into someone else’s bed as he was scared of the dark. One day I saw Lemar lose his temper, he terrified the older children & was wild with aggression, it took four Americans to contain him. Over the fortnight there were opportunities to teach biblical  truths in drama, visual inputs, through activities, songs, role play, etc. Often these children did not look as though they were listening & you were fighting a losing battle. One afternoon, there was a knock on my cabin door. It was Lemar who wanted to talk, he told me about his vicious temper & how he feared he would kill someone one day if my Godmdidn’t do something about it. I was then able to carefully explain what it meant to give one’s life to Jesus, to surrender yourself to Him & allow Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit. He wanted to pray so I led him through to Jesus & prayed with him. I believe it was the start of a special friendship with Jesus, the beginning of an eternal relationship with the Saviour & the invitation the Holy Spirit needed to begin changing Lemar from one degree of glory to another. One day I look forward to greeting him in heaven. 🙂

During the summer I made a brilliant friend in Scot from Wanlockhead [pictured with Lemar]. He was a character & several years older than me at 24. He encouraged me & challenged me to step out & be bold, to seize opportunities in life. Later that year he worked for the Church of Scotland in Tiberius in Israel. We kept in touch by cassette tapes & letters. I was on my final year of a Graphic Design degree in Birmingham. Later that year Scot became ill & tragically died, I was absolutely devastated. For the first time in my life I was unable to speak due to the shock of what had happened & my housemates had to pray for me when they came in to release my mouth from the shock. I felt that my life in those days had been brought to a crossroads. What was the purpose of my life, what was the meaning of it all, what did God want me to do? I laid my life down afresh to Him & gave Him the final part of the degree to use for His glory. Over the following months I was able to produce some high standard illustrations & inspired graphic posters illustrating great communication skills. Without doubt I had to depend on the Lord more than I had ever done in my life before. I  grew a lot in my Christian faith & prayed & fasted for 10 days to see God at work in & through my life. I passed my degree but would say that I got the degree but He got the Honours. When  I finished the first thing I did was volunteer to be a Volunteer Evangelist for 3 weeks with the London City Mission.

The American experience for me was a development experience, I repeated it a year later in 1982, at a different Salvation Army camp in Sebago Lake in the State of Maine, near the Canadian border.  It was powerful & life changing & it was good to renew some American friendships & make some new ones. I had some important friends to see following Scot’s death to help me move forwards & to answer some unanswered questions they had.

In the break I visited Boston Red Sox in an enthralling baseball game & enjoyed the state of New England. I remember seeing the Northern lights one evening in a dramatic light display in the sky & many shooting stars. One day the young Americans were devastated at breakfast. I asked why many were upset & was told about the air crash that took the life of the American singer song writer Keith Green. I had become familiar with his ministry & music & was challenged that he had died at a tender age of 28. Keith’s ministry was an evangelistic ministry with a real heart to reach out to lost souls. I will never forget the first time I listened to the song, ‘The Sheep & The Goats’,  I was deeply moved. This experience following on so soon from Scot’s reminded me that life was to be invested & used in God’s Kingdom building, it helped me realize that eternal things really matter in the big scheme of things.

After each camp I spent a month traveling within the continent of North America, Canada & Mexico. I was able to contrast the poverty of Mexico with the affluence of North America. The awesome sight of the Grand Canyon with the thunderous Niagara Falls. The amazing depth of the Copper Canyon in Mexico with the isolated Alcatraz, offshore in San Francisco bay. Overall I have some great memories but what makes the biggest mark is the important truths I learnt about Jesus & His awesome love & power to change lives, no matter how hard or messed up they might be. I discovered things about myself, one being my love of working with children & young people & the call to use the art gift He had given to me to glorify His Name.

After returning from America in September 1982, Kevin was immediately offered a job in HM Prison Cookham Wood with ladies. This developed over 9 years to also include Rochester Prison with young men & Maidstone Prison with sex offenders. Kevin also worked in a school teaching 10-16 year olds being peripatetic between the four educational departments. In 1990 Kevin was ‘called’ into full time evangelistic ministry & began this work in the summer of 1991 with Scripture Union as the regional evangelist for East Anglia. In 2011, Kevin helped launch Face2Face Educational Trust that puts on educational & evangelistic projects with children, young people & families.

Kevin Moore, May 2012