Everyone has a Just Love story. I think that comes with being part of such a new movement. When I ask students, colleagues and supporters how they came to be a part of Just Love, I’m often told long stories involving friends of friends and chance encounters. And that is part of the beauty of Just Love – it creates community across cities, universities, churches and friendship groups, and from this community it sets about changing the culture it is in.
My Just Love story starts way before my time at university. My first clear memory of Church is of my parents leading a congregation of around 10-15 homeless women and men in Sheffield. Over greasy full English breakfasts, my parents made friends with these women and men, offered them advice when it was needed and always greeted them with love. This version of Church, complete with sticky counters and chewing gum ridden carpet, formed my understanding of a God who truly loves the marginalised. There was no Sunday school, so me and my brother, helped out as much as we could. And when we couldn’t, we sat at the back and coloured. In hindsight, it was whilst I was colouring in, at the back of a bar, surrounded by the homeless community of Sheffield, that my Just Love story began.
Fast forward a few years and I’m starting university studying geography at the University of Bristol. By this point, I had been accepted on to a Tearfund run programme called Emerging Influencers. This was a really formative time in my Just Love story, not only because I met Josh (our northern coordinator) but mostly because it opened my eyes to how the decisions I make in my personal life could be part of our worship. Consequently, I severely cut down on my meat consumption, started considering ethical fashion and reduced my food waste.
But whilst I was understanding more of God’s heart for justice and seeking to live that out in my own life, I was also becoming aware that this wasn’t the case for those around me. This got me thinking; how much more difference could we make if all of my peers were inspired and released to pursue social justice?
A few months later, I received a message from Josh asking if I fancied being involved in setting up Just Love Bristol and I jumped at the chance to meet up with Hannah Mitchell. I maintain that this is one of the best meetings I’ve ever had and I left eager to get started. The Just Love Bristol committee was soon formed and we began planning our first event.
Setting up Just Love Bristol was challenging, in so many ways. Our first event was a Stand For Freedom – in shifts, we stood outside for 24 hours campaigning and advocating for the fight against human trafficking. It rained almost solidly and we were miserable. But it was also one of the stand out moments of my final year. To see Christian students from churches across the city come together to stand against one of the most desperate injustices of our time was an experience worth the soggy feet. Later in the year we joined with Bristol Churches in a pilot scheme to create a temporary homeless shelter through January. We volunteered on different nights, at different churches to ensure that some of the many homeless women and men in Bristol had a warm place to sleep through the coldest month.
Just Love has connected me to a network of Christians actively pursuing justice in their everyday lives. It has enabled me connect the dots that form the narrative of justice throughout my life – from my first experience as a child, to now, as I support others who carry the biblical call to justice in their university context. It is an absolute privilege to work with these students, and it excites me every day to think of the impact these students will have as they leave uni and enter the workplace. Because of Just Love I know more about the injustices that are currently affecting our world, I’m better equipped as a leader and most importantly, I feel motivated to ensure that I am doing the most I can to live my life reflecting God’s desire to see His world reconciled.