Andy Hawthorne and The Message Trust are celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2012. A new books, Diary of Dangerous Vision, chronicles their experience working in some of the toughest parts of Manchester.
Andy is Manchester born and bred and heads up The Message Trust which over the last fifteen years has seen thousands of young people reached and kept for Christ in their city and beyond.
Hey, I'm Andy Hawthorne, the founder of the Message Trust here in Manchester. The Message just started, well, actually the Trust started in 1992. We started doing mission all over the city about five years previously.
In 1987, I had a little fashion accessory business in Manchester with my brother, Simon. And we had a big surge in turnover, we think, on the back of Lady Diana wearing a pair of our braces. And the next day, as happens in the fashion industry, it's like every girl in Britain had to have a pair.
So we had orders on, for literally hundreds of thousands of these braces. And not a lot of people to make them. And our factory was in inner-city Manchester, and for no better reason, really, than that's where the grants where.
But, of course, that meant we were surrounded by a lot of need. And when we had this big surge in turnover, we went to the local job center and said, send us some lads to work. And so they sent the lads who tended to have come straight out of the local young offender institution. Into the Longsight job center, and we gave them a job.
And we took on 30 odd young lads over a very short period to make this big surge in orders. And these lads were a nightmare. Not only was there vandalism, and violence, and graffiti, but we felt like there were break-ins virtually every night. And we were sure it was them and their mates who were doing it.
And myself and Simon during this period, went to the Harrogate Fashion Fair. And we were displaying our wares but we had a quiet afternoon. And we spoke about these guys and all the carnage of their lives. And about how little the church was doing to engage with them.
And we said, somebody needs to write to every church in Manchester and challenge them about this. And somebody needs to put something on that makes sense to them. And before we finish this afternoon, slightly arrogantly, definitely naively, we said, let's do it. Let's write to every church leader in Manchester. Let's book the biggest rock venue, which was just down the road from our factory, the Apollo Theatre.
And not for a night, but for a week we had this big, [FANFARE] we're going to save Manchester vision. And 18 months later we had thousands and thousands of kids come to Apollo Theatre. By the last day, they were queued up at half past two to get in.
And loads came to Christ. And churches started working together. Manchester for years and years had been like the fag-end of Christianity, the steepest church decline, the church leaders weren't really getting on. And God started to do something, not just through The Message, what we called The Message. But other things, other ministries were born, and the spirit of God was working. And it was an amazing season.
And on the back of that, we formed this band. And I'm not a singer, a dancer, rapper, but the heart of this band was just to go into inner-city schools. And I started to pull out the business more and more. To go in with my mate Mark Pennells, that was a musician. And I ended up doing this funny, jumping in the house of God rapping.
And to my astonishment, the kids in Manchester loved it. And so I pulled out of business altogether, set up a charity. And for the first few years, World Wide Message Tribe basically funded the thing. Because we would do 35 school weeks a year, turned down everything else when the schools are in.
But in summer holidays, the band got really popular. We sold hundreds of thousands of CDs. And we'd get invited to all these big festivals, especially in America. Because America, is weird, the Christian music scene. The Christian music scene in America is as big as the whole European secular scene.
And so we'd go from some scruffy school in Manchester, playing to a couple hundred kids on a Friday night and preaching the gospel to these vast festivals, picked up in limousines and fancy tour buses. And people queuing for hours for our autographs. And it was a bizarre, schizophrenic lifestyle.
But actually I believe it was the Lord that- I love that little verse in 2 Chronicle 16:9 that says, "the eyes of the Lord range the Earth looking for a heart". And that's what God was looking for in 1987 and these couple of lads, me and my brother. He did see a heart. We had a heart that was after God's heart for these kids that weren't hearing the Gospel. And whose lives were pretty chaotic. And God gave us that heart.
Well, the verse goes on to say, "the eyes of the Lord range the Earth looking for a heart fully committed to me, that man I will strongly support". And World Wide Message Tribe was definitely God strongly supporting our efforts. Because it was like we can't put our foot wrong. And God just favored the band.
And so as that ministry grew, we're able to take on more people, develop more programs. And I'm now full-time. We're flying by the seat of our pants every month believing for bigger and bigger turnover, and more and more people, and more and more opportunities.
February 8th, 2012 - Posted & Written by G M