Finally, the story comes to an end. Read the final instalment of Bjorn for Youth Work here – then feel hugely inspired. I shall probably create a little index later.
12: Bjorn decides that it’s time to step aside and give the young people the lead.
It’s decided – I’m coming home. I was getting homesick here anyway – especially now that everyone is turning against Sven – but since neither my career as a sauna cleaner nor my secret life as a youth worker seem to be taking me anywhere, I think it might be time to return to Stockholm and return to the pig farming industry. I kind of miss the smell anyway.
The main reason for leaving the youth work of course, is that it doesn’t seem to need me anymore. The handful of young people in the church have been multiplying whenever I turn my back (through evangelism Olaf, I’m not that bad a youth worker), and on top of that, the new minister of St Eric’s isn’t just someone with a passing interest in youth – he’s completely passionate about them. Add to that Dave, who has grown so fast in his first year as a Christian that he’s now as well equipped to lead the group as me (last week he was leading a session and told us to turn to Zechariah, and I thought it was a joke, but it turns out there really is a book called that), and there seems very little reason for me to stay.
The new minister is a great guy though. His name’s Sam, and the first time we met, he was standing in the garden of his new vicarage, wondering why the front garden was completely bereft of plant life.
‘The last vicar was very fond of the garden,’ I tried to explain as I approached on the drive. ‘I think he decided to take a few of the plants to his new parish.’
‘He took the lawn,’ Sam replied, slightly incredulous. ‘I’m surprised he left me the windows.’
‘I’m Bjorn,’ I offered, almost embarrassedly. ‘I’ve been the youth worker here for the last year.’
‘Ah yes,’ he beamed ‘you’re the guy who set the youth work up from nothing! I’ve heard quite a bit about you from the diocese. I bet you’ve got a few things to teach me.’
‘Oh, I don’t know… Look, before we get started, I need to let you know that I’ve decided to go back home to Sweden…’
Sam’s face fell, and he lost interest in his mudbath. We then spent an hour talking, during which I tried to convince him how totally mediocre I had been, and he completely convinced me that he was a far better man to be overseeing Dave and co. than I was. He let me go eventually, after crying three times, hugging me for a full minute and praying for me in tongues. The elderly folk of this church have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for.
Dave was certainly less girly about it, but strangely, his reaction was one of anger. Considering I’d gone straight round to his house to tell him before anyone else did, and was offering him a junior leadership role on Sam’s behalf, I thought he could have been a bit nicer about it. Instead, I was soon up against an exceptionally well-dressed version of The Incredible Hulk
‘I thought we were friends!’ he huffed, stamping his feet. ‘I thought we were in this together!’
‘We are friends,’ I pleaded. ‘We were in it together!’ But it all seemed to fall on deaf ears. Dave kept using words like ‘betrayal’, and ‘cut to my very heart’, which I thought was a bit dramatic to be honest. Then there was a long silence, and he calmed down a little.
‘You don’t understand,’ he half-whispered. ‘A year ago my whole life was heading in a different direction. You helped me see what was really important in the world, and now God is all I live for – Him and this group. And we were just starting to grow, and turn into something really exciting, and then you, the leader on whom it all hinges, decide you’d rather go back to pig farming. It stinks!’
‘You get used to it after a few days,’ I explained. Then I realised what he meant. ‘But it doesn’t all hinge on me Dave, that’s the point. You’ve outgrown me, and if you want the group to keep on growing, I think I’m going to have to step aside.’ I added, ‘I do think this is what God wants me to do.’
Dave couldn’t really argue with that, and so he didn’t. There were just a few more awkward moments of silence, and I decided to slip away.
And sadly, that appeared to be the end of it. One man had cried on me, another had screamed at me, and now there was little else to do but pack my bags and buy a plane ticket. Tying up the last few loose ends took a couple of days, and as I was sitting in my brother’s flat for perhaps the last time, finishing a letter which I am almost certainly going to hand you in person and pretty depressed to be honest, there was a knock at the door.
I opened it to find no one, but could hear the cackle of teenagers bolting from the scene. I looked down, and spotted an envelope, resting on the mat. I opened it, and found this written inside:
Dear Bjorn, I’m sorry that I couldn’t say this to you yesterday – I was pretty mad. But I wanted you to know that I’ve really, really appreciated everything you’ve done this year. I met up with the new vicar yesterday, and he seems really cool – we’ve got loads of ideas for how the youth group can grow. We had 15 kids at the group last night. I think we’re going to be ok. I just really wanted to encourage you too – you’ve been a brilliant youth worker. You set this group up from nothing – and there wouldn’t be 15 of us now if it hadn’t been for you. So don’t ever think that because God’s called you back to Sweden, he didn’t use you amazingly when you were here. Good luck with the pigs. Tommy says hi. Write to us. Dave.
It seemed like a fitting epilogue to my time here. My heart lifted, and my cab arrived. I’ll see you in a few hours.
Bjorn Argen is a volunteer youth worker in Stockholm, Sweden.