The fruit of faithfulness
18 June 2014
“There was a strong sense of fear, even just stepping outside of your house. Then Craig and Danni arrived and changed my life and the lives of so many others.” – Jason
Jason and his family lived in a housing estate plagued by drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, crime, youth gangs and vandalism.
Then, almost 14 years ago, at the request of local area commander of police, The Salvation Army’s Craig and Danni Stephens and family moved into the Ivanhoe Estate, near Ryde (Sydney), to work and live in their newly established three bedroom rented ‘No 47 Community House’. Soon children and young people from the area began attending Salvation Army camps, school study sessions, sporting groups, mentoring and church activities.
Challenges to change
Craig, who won 2008 Ryde Citizen of the year for his outstanding work in the area, says of early days in the estate: “The Department of Housing originally gave us 12 months to turn things around or else they planned to bulldoze the entire estate. There had been lots of gang activities, assaults, malicious damage, threatening behaviour, lots of graffiti and cars being torched. Youth gangs would barricade the streets so that the police couldn’t access the place.”
Jason says that Craig and Danni’s faithfulness did indeed bring about “remarkable” transformation, with many finding “deep faith and transformation through Jesus” with others simply feeling safer and significantly more connected with their community.
Jason, who lived in the area from the age of 10 to 17, says while benefitting from a range of programs, the cricket group that Craig started was his favourite.
In 2007, Jason received a Sports Achievement Award at the Housing NSW Youth Achievement Awards. He later completed a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs work and then began working at The Salvation Army’s OASIS Youth Support Network.
Passion to serve
In 2012, Jason was awarded the prestigious City of Sydney’s Youth Worker of the Year.
He has gone on to run The Salvation Army’s Sports Impact Leadership program and, in 2014, is co-ordinating youth programs for the Salvos Youth Foundation to pinpoint areas of need and possible initiatives to help meet young people’s needs throughout NSW, ACT and QLD.
Passionate about investing positively into young lives himself, Jason says the impact of Craig and Danni’s care will always stay with him.
He says: “When they came around and gave us presents and food to have a decent Christmas, or invited us for Christmas lunch, including us as a part of their family, or helped us with homework, encouraged our faith – those memories stay in your mind forever and become part of your life forever.
“And it’s not just my story,” Jason says, “so many people I grew up with will never forget the impact on their lives!”
*Craig and Danni now run The Salvation Army’s Dooralong transformation centre. They handed over the community house to The Salvation Army’s Nathan and Karen Moulds in early 2013.