WHEN Olivia Campbell agreed to marry Stevo Scott she knew that would mean marrying his other woman as well: but she was quite happy – in fact it was what Olivia wanted.
Sounds weird? It’s just that Stevo has a love affair with Briar Hill – a rundown area of Northampton.
A couple of years ago, Stevo was chatting to a couple of Briar Hill local lads – twin brothers – and the conversation had wound round to Jesus.
“If Jesus was on earth today, where do you think he’d live?” Stevo asked.
“I reckon he’d live in a really big posh house” one of the twins replied before the other chipped in, “Nah – I think he’d live somewhere really rough”.
Which is, in essence, the reason for the newlyweds’ choice of home: Stevo and Olivia are part of ‘Living Light’, a new Jesus Fellowship group in Briar Hill.
In fact, Stevo has been part of Living Light for a few years. Brought up in Middlesbrough (ironically, in a big Victorian house), his family moved down to Northampton to be part of the Jesus Fellowship there in the mid-nineties. At 15, Stevo started going along to Living Stones where he found himself part of a group of young bucks, bursting with dreams.
“There were four of us”, Stevo remembers. “We started to really own the vision, to have a sense of ‘This is our church, the responsibility is ours; we love the church and we want it to grow – and we want Living Stones to grow’.”
A couple of years later, the Jesus Fellowship in Northampton initiated an outreach strategy called ‘Pray Northampton’. The town was divided into areas and Living Stones was given Briar Hill.
Stevo and co found themselves in Briar Hill whenever they could be: it soon became the focus of their dreams. “We’d drive down there after work most nights, see if anyone was about – if there was we’d get out and talk to them. We really went for it and made lots of friends. Football and barbecues in the park. After a while of going there every day of the week, we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a house here?’…”
Months later, Stevo and two others moved into a little rented house in Briar Hill, which they called Living Light. Life was never dull. Evenings at Living Light were often ‘overrun’ with local youths. “We were totally out of our depth” admits Stevo.
“We’d have a dozen lads in our tiny house – and they were in control. I mean – we’d try to have some kind of Christian meeting but… man!” Stevo’s voice trails off.
Things got hectic enough for Stevo to reach one point when he’d had enough and retreated back to peaceful, large, rural Living Stones, leaving the others behind.
But it wasn’t too long before he moved back to Briar Hill, accompanied by Danny and Jemma, a young couple from Living Stones. “They came to stay with us for a month” recalls Stevo. “They never left.”
But the decision to move back to the front line hadn’t been easy: “It was utter death. In my mind at the time there was a sacrifice scale with Briar Hill right up near the top!” (He laughs and shivers at the memory). “Oh – it was excruciating: nothing in it for me whatsoever. But I knew it was right.”
Stevo’s return with Danny and Jemma signalled a new departure for the Briar Hill experiment. They had a new sense of family, of community. They moved into a bigger house, a three-storey end terrace in the very heart of Briar Hill which became the all-new Living Light.
Moving into the new house brought new friendships: the local lads piled in to help demolish walls (which lads wouldn’t?) in the “building site” that was now Stevo’s home.
“There’s a lot of crime in the area,” says Stevo. “A load of stuff cracked off with our friends across the road. Some lads broke into their house and trashed it and shouted death threats. They had to move.
“We baptised one lad, Mark, but he was very up and down. His girlfriend had a baby girl and there was a lot of heartache over that – the social said they couldn’t keep her. She went into care; Mark didn’t really know how to cope – he got into drinking. Some trouble followed. There was a gang after him. One time he stepped out of Living Light for a moment and then came running back in, slamming the door behind him, with a couple of lads hot on his tail. Next minute: bang, bang, bang on the door. I answered it and the lads asked, ‘Is Mark there?’ and I said ‘Yes’. ‘Can you get him?’ ‘No’. As I said ‘See you lads’ and shut the door I was thinking, ‘Any minute now there’s gonna be a brick through our window’ – but it didn’t happen”. Stevo laughs. “No – they were escorted away by our angels!
“Mark’s doing better now. He really loves being with us.
“One lad, Wayne, has become a real disciple”. (There’s a paternal pride in Stevo’s voice.) He was round at Living Light loads and then, of his own accord, he got rid of his computer and his TV. Around that time, we prayed for him to be filled with the Spirit: he started speaking in tongues: no prompts – he was just there.
“He’s moved in with us now. His Mum, Rita – a formidable character and a good friend of ours – asked if he could. He moved in the following week and is doing really well.”
It seems hardly possible that Stevo was able to pursue a relationship with Olivia during such a hectic existence: but pursue it he did. They had been school friends without much of a hint of romance, but when Olivia moved to London, they had kept in touch and eventually started seeing each other. A fired-up Christian herself, Olivia was certain that she only wanted to marry a man of vision. On one occasion, as Stevo enthused about Briar Hill, she realised she had found him. They now live in a rented house near to Living Light.
“It’s a grassroots thing” concludes Stevo. “We’re there to love people. That’s how they’ll see that Jesus really does live in Briar Hill.”
‘Living Stones’ is the name of a large New Creation Christian Community house in Flore, Northamptonshire. One of the Jesus Fellowship’s first big community houses, started in 1977, Living Stones has now produced a second and third generation and started a ‘daughter’ house in Northampton called Living Light. Read these other stories of three generations of living stones: ‘Faith of our fathers‘ and ‘76 years of friendship‘. Separate stones – one building. Separate accounts – one story.
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” (1 Peter 2:5)