Today, Oasis works to create change, affecting the lives of many people in numerous communities. Oasis has been pioneering change for 35 years, but how did it start? Hear from Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis, as he takes you on his journey.
My Story - Steve Chalke
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why", said Mark Twain.
So, here’s the story of my “find-out-why” day.
I was fourteen. I’d fallen in love. Her name was Mary. She went to the local posh school. I had a place at the other one! And, as I was often reminded by my teachers: “You’re the kind of kid who’ll work with your hands, not your head”,
But here’s the thing. I discovered that every Friday night, Mary went to a youth club in the local church hall. So – using my head – I joined up too. I attended for months until my hopes were finally crushed. Mary, I learned, from a friend of hers, wasn’t interested!
Walking home, on that fateful night, I was faced with a huge question. Rejected by the girl who gave my future meaning, ‘was my life worth anything at all?’
From my school I already felt like the answer to this question was ‘no’, but as I’d got to know the leaders of that Friday night club I’d somehow absorbed their message. It was very different. “You are created by God”, they said. “Your life has huge potential – don’t waste it”.
My question was answered! And a decision was made!
Even if Mary didn’t want me, I was going to keep going to that club and, more than that, when I was old enough, open a school that taught young people their lives counted for something. And a house – a place of safety for those who’d never been shown by anyone that they mattered. And a hospital, to dispense care to the most vulnerable. And, become a church leader – they seemed to have a message worth telling others about. Only this would be a fitting response to the fact that, on this night, the view I had of myself as an irrelevance had been swept away.
So, that was it. My “find-out-why” day! And, though I had little or no understanding of what any of it would really mean, I did know it was what I should spend my life in pursuit of.
I once heard Oprah Winfrey explain to an audience, “Everyone owes themselves an answer to this one question. What is my purpose in life?”
Well, here’s my truth. Until that night, I had no idea what my life was about. But, in those few minutes – walking home from the Holmesdale Road church youth club in south London – I was granted the gift of purpose; a gift which transformed my future.
I say a gift because it was given to me. It came from beyond me. From outside me. In fact, in a very real sense I had little or nothing to do with it. At the start of that short journey home on that dark night I had no idea about the purpose of anything much. But, by the time I reached home, I had been inspired. And I believe this gift was God given, and that therefore, it was my responsibility – as best as I could – to live in the light of this God-given responsibility.
And, from that day onward – though life is filled with strains, stresses, mistakes and messes, and, in my case, an all too slow learning curve – little by little I worked towards what was in 1985 to become Oasis. As a result, over the last 35 years, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of being part of the development of a wonderful team of people who, working together, deliver education, supported housing and healthcare as well as youth work, family support, community churches and many other community initiatives, as we work to build and help others build strong inclusive local communities - across England as well as in various other countries around the world; communities where everyone is given the opportunity to thrive and achieve their God-given potential.
Why? Because as Mark Twain said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."