By Keith Morris
2010: Norwich youth worker Luke Brendling
passed up the chance to play professional football to fly across the world and attend Hillsong International Leadership College
following an encounter with God.
Now he is a youth leader with a pastoral heart for all generations, helping to lead the youth work at Taverham Evangelical Church, works as a support worker for YMCA Norfolk and has travelled to Holland on numerous occasions speaking to churches and youth events large and small.
As a teenager, Luke was a promising young centre forward who had trials with Exeter City and Wimbledon before being signed up by Rushden and Diamonds for a season. He moved on to play for King’s Lynn for two years.
At the age of 20, Luke had a life-changing experience.
“I had been invited to a wedding of some close family friends. I found myself becoming emotional but I didn’t know why. After the ceremony some old friends of mine who I hadn’t seen for a few years invited me to come along to a special youth night their church was putting on the following week, I really didn’t want to go but something in me said I should… So a week later I went.”
“Everything the speaker said was about my life and with tears in my eyes and my heart racing I had an encounter with Jesus which changed my life and set me off in a completely different direction,” said Luke.
“The next day I made several big decisions, left my old life and moved back to Norwich to start again.”
Twelve months later and Luke’s life was to take another change of course.
“I felt God speak to me about going to Bible College, I thought I was hearing things as that was certainly something I didn’t want to do. But God has a sense of humour and after much thought and prayer, a door opened up for me to go to Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia. I went originally to do one year but ended up doing two.
“It was an incredible experience where I learnt so much and was fortunate enough to be a Head student. This gave me an opportunity to speak, lead and encourage students including speaking briefly at the 2007 Graduation Ceremony.” (pictured right)
Luke made many friendships at Hillsong, including one with a fellow student from Holland, who subsequently invited him over to speak at his church. From that, word got around, other ministries and churches got in contact with him and he has now spoken all over that nation addressing congregations up to 1200 people. He has also spoken at various places locally and will be speaking in Preston in June.
Comfortable speaking to large audiences, Luke is equally happy speaking one – to – one with the residents in his care as a support worker at YMCA’s Norfolk’s Throckmorton Yard supported Housing project in Norwich.
“I love preaching to large audiences but I also love talking to individual young people in my role as a support worker. I am passionate about the work we do at Throckmorton Yard, equipping these young people with the necessary life skills to move forward in life.”
“But we are about more than just housing and life skills. Many of our residents come to us broken and hurting, so to have the opportunity to come alongside them, encourage them, build them up and believe in them is a privilege. We truly want the best for every young person who walks through our doors. We want them to succeed in all they put their hand to in life.”
“It is all about building relationships with the young people, taking time to listen and invest into them… investment and love is the key to good support work.”
“My motivation is that I know I can make a difference to the young people in my generation. I am passionate about helping young people to succeed. To help them see, reach out for and fulfil their potential. It is far more rewarding seeing people making positive changes in their life than scoring a goal in football.”