Michelle was already on her feet, trying to get through the door but she couldn’t find the handle. She was clearly shaking, desperate to escape. Someone quickly came to her aid and helped her open the door. I could still hear her screaming as she ran down the corridor. Clearly, Michelle was having a panic attack. I had been sharing the gospel with a room full of young people and had almost finished my message when the 16 year old reacted. The entire room switched its focus from me to her. My message was over – I’d lost the entire group in an instant.

Just an hour earlier I’d arrived at the venue where I had been asked to share a gospel message with a group of young people who were described as ‘at risk’. As I walked into the room I saw a boy of about 15 sitting in the corner on his own with earmuffs on his head, rocking back and forth. A girl in her early teens was obviously pregnant. A young man came over to me and, without any explanation or introduction, described everyone in the room as a shape or object rather than by name. He viewed the world through shapes rather than relationships. I observed the social skills of the group – communication ranged from rushed speech to complete withdrawal. I was in for a challenge. I’d been told none of the young people had any real understanding of Christianity. None had been to church, few understood basic terms of faith and all of them had short attention spans. I gave it my best shot, kept it simple and used stories to explain that there was a God who loved and wanted to know them.

Ultimately, I was trusting the Holy Spirit to speak through me. At the very moment I was about to explain what it means to follow Jesus, Michelle reacted…