Christ, the Cross and the Concrete Jungle
Young people who grow up in poverty, surrounded by negative influences can face a lifetime of hardship. But a new book charts one disaffected teenager’s journey from a jail cell to a Baptist college, to a life of teaching and ministry
Growing up in a deprived area of Glasgow, John Caldwell faced grim prospects. He dropped out of school with barely any qualifications. Frustration and unemployment led to a host of wrong choices, choices that led to an arrest for being drunk and disorderly, breaching the peace and vandalising several cars.
His story mirrors the lives of many young people living on impoverished housing estates, many of whom end up in prison or struggling to get a job, or battling poverty. But John’s story doesn’t end there – his life was completely transformed by meeting Jesus and by a loving church who didn’t give up on him. Now, he is a secondary school English teacher and a ministry assistant in the Free Church of Scotland. He is also a graduate of Scottish Baptist College and before moving to Skye, where he now lives, he was a member of Kings Park Baptist church in Glasgow.
John has documented his troubled years and remarkable conversion in an autobiography: ‘Christ, the Cross and the Concrete Jungle’, published by Evangelical Press.
He explains: “The aim is to provide a snapshot into the communities which are tainted by unemployment, high crime-rates, and substance abuse.
“I’m very keen not to give the wrong impression. Basically, ‘Christ, the Cross and the Concrete Jungle’ is not the portrayal of some gangster turned guru – it’s just the story of a lad growing up in the schemes, making wrong choices – choices that lead to pretty dark places.
“But it is also a story of redemption – because were it not for the grace of God then chances are, like many other lads in the schemes, I would have been just another statistic.”
John continues: “So the book has a turning point – and that turning point is when I hear the gospel. I’m quite keen in the book to show how God worked. God broke into my life in some very strong ways, and I make a lot of that. I didn’t find Jesus, he found me.
“After my conversion to Christ, the book outlines some of the struggles facing young guys from the schemes when they seek to follow Christ.”
Perhaps what is most remarkable is that John has gone from being a school drop out to becoming an English teacher. After becoming a Christian he returned to full-time education.
“The latter part of the book is just simply an outline of where Jesus has taken me from and where he has taken me to. It’s there to provide a contrast. It helps demonstrate something of the depth of change that Jesus can produce in our lives. Further, it ends with a challenge. I finish with a brief explanation of the gospel, and I challenge the reader to think about the direction that their own life is taking.”
As well as for individuals, it is hoped that the book will also help churches engage with communities and people who may be in similar situations.
John explained: “I stumbled into a very small, very traditional but very loving Brethren church.
“They were patient with me, helped me practically when they saw I had a need – for example, when I was unemployed – a business man in the church was continually pointing me in the direction for employment. Or when I ended up back-sliding, the overseer of the church would turn up with a bag of shopping.
“How do you reach people in the situation I was in? Preach the gospel, and live the gospel.”
John concluded: “I’d encourage Christians to get the book, read it, be encouraged by it and then give it away to a non-Christian friend.”
John lives in Skye with his wife and two children. He is currently working as a Ministry Assistant for Bracadale and Portree Free Church and teaches in local schools. In September 2015 he is hoping to begin studies at Edinburgh Theological College as a ministry candidate with the Free Church of Scotland.
Christ, the Cross and the Concrete Jungle can be purchased from www.10ofthose.com/products/17669/christ-the-cross-and-the-concrete