Category Archives: intervention

6 ways Christians can help stop serious youth violence by Benjamin Lindsay

6 ways Christians can help stop serious youth violence by Benjamin Lindsay

This post originally appeared for Premier Gospel for black history month October 2015

Since 2005 179 teenagers have been murdered in London. 123 have been fatally stabbed (Source Citizens Report). Since then numerous reports have been published by the UK government and think tanks suggesting strategies, ideas and solutions to solve and combat the issue of serious youth violence (SYV). These include: Dying to Belong – An In-depth Review of Street Gangs in Britain (2009), Time for Action – Equipping Young People for the Future and Preventing Violence (2008) and Ending gang and youth violence: cross-government report (2011) to name a few.

None of these reports have managed to stem the tide of serious youth violence (SYV) in London. The capital is currently seeing the highest rate of teenage knife crime fatalities since 2011. In this year alone there have been 11 teenage murders. 10 of the victims were Black Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME). Nine out of the 11 were stabbed. (Source: Citizens Report). While we know that the majority of young people want nothing to do with gangs and serious youth violence, for some young people violence is part of their daily lives and we need to support them to transform their thinking.

So how should we respond? Faith groups and more specifically the Church, have too often been silent on the issue. As someone who has worked on the SYV agenda for 15 years and now works as a pastor of a church in southeast London, the lack of action from Christians both saddens and infuriates me.

The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us to examine our religious and social prejudices. The twist in the Good Samaritan is that the religious leaders do not step up to defend the weak, perhaps due to fear or ignorance. It is the outsider who ‘knows nothing of God’s temple’ who shows those in need the kingdom of God. The Good Samaritan demonstrates compassion. Full bloodied, uncompromising and relentless compassion.  He offers friendship, advocacy, emergency medical treatment, transportation, a hefty financial subsidy, even a follow up visit. To engage in the SYV agenda that impacts our streets, families, neighborhoods and congregations, churches must replicate the compassion and concern shown in Luke 10.

Below are 6 ways Christians can engage in the serious youth violence issue and help save lives. As a Londoner I’m going to give a London perspective but this clearly is an issue in major cities across the UK.

  1. Volunteer

James 2:14 says: What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Austerity cuts, youth clubs closing, youth workers losing their jobs has all impacted those young people deemed disengaged and marginalised. It’s no coincidence that the first year of youth service cuts in this country coincided with the 2011 UK riots. The UK youth engagement teams who were once there to connect with young people are no longer active. The church is unique in having a very strong volunteer force. Churches should be at the forefront of offering time, expertise and encouragement to young people where role models are lacking.

In 2001 a friend and I volunteered our time in the evening to local youth centres in London teaching young people music production skills. We eventually helped them to create a radio station and through this taught them the business and legal aspects of the music industry and other life skills. 15 years on some of these young people are carving out successful careers in the music industry; others work in the education sector or are progressing in other fields. Like all of us, young people need people to talk to. Young people’s lives are becoming increasingly stressful and complex and a wide range of factors can lead to poor decision-making. We can offer hope and shine the light of our Father into dark situations. Whatever skills you have can be used to divert young people away from a life of crime. You may have a career that could inspire someone or a skill to pass on; perhaps you’re a good listener. If you’d like to become a mentor contact a local charity. Many of them will provide training and support for mentors. Suggested charities include: XLP, MAC-UK, Street Pastors, Chance UK, PYE, St Giles Trust, MsUnderstood

Most important is how you as an individual view young people. Do you actually say hello to young people on your street? Do you build relationships with them? Do you place yourself in a position to listen to their needs and concerns? There is a gap between the generations where older and younger people do not engage. Young people need role models.  Christians can be the bridge. As it says in Joshua 1:9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” We need take this command seriously in relation to young people. It could be difference between life and death.

  1. Get a job

Young people need Christian teachers, teaching assistants, police officers, clinical psychologists, drama-therapists, SENCOs, learning mentors, behavioral specialists, MPs, youth offending service officers, youth workers, probation officers, mental health workers, substance misuse workers, social workers and creatives. Anywhere society comes into contact with the most marginalised and most challenging young people Christians should be present. Christians along with their skill set need to demonstrate the reconciliation, forgiveness, hope and abundant love of our Lord Jesus Christ. As said in 2 Peter 1 we are partakers in his divine nature and therefore through us, God can change the hearts of young people. My first paid role working with young people was as a learning mentor. I not only worked alongside the young people but also connected with parents and teachers. I really felt the presence of God change the culture of the school.

If you feel called to work with young people, start talking to others in the field, volunteer, get training and gain experience.

  1. Wrestle and Pray

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10

This seems like a no brainier but you will be surprised how many Christians do not pray or do not know how to pray (see Romans 8:26) for these issues. We spend our time debating and theorising but rarely commit ourselves to persistent prayer. Prayer should be our first weapon against SYV. Like Jacob and Habakkuk we are to wrestle with God in prayer. We should never be satisfied with what we see happening to our young people in the UK and therefore we should ask God to move mightily to change the circumstances that cause young people to succumb to SYV.

The Lord’s Prayer directs us to pray for heaven to invade earth. When we pray this line “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, we are acknowledging that this world is broken but there is another world which is perfect in every way. We’re asking our Father to send his power – which is just and excellent – into this sinful world. As Christians we know there will be a time when ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). However the Lord’s Prayer encourages us to pray for a piece of heaven to invade earth today. We cannot ignore such an invitation. In 2010 I started working for a community safety team in London. I was tasked with developing and implementing a gangs and SYV strategy. I knew this would be hard and so I prayed a bold prayer. During the year I prayed that there would not be a fatality to SYV in that borough. Heaven invaded earth for that year and no one died. Let’s remember we serve a God who is mighty to save and act on our behalf.

  1. Use your influence and partner with others

We need to recognise the voice we have and use it to advocate for change. Together we can influence and work alongside decision makers to work for the common good of society and in particular for those who may be most marginalised or at risk. For example, you can attend council meetings or join your borough’s Independent Advisory Group (IAG). The role of independent advisors is best described as a “critical friend in time of need” – a group of non police people who can:

  • Provide advice and guidance to the police to help prevent critical incidents escalating (these may be external or internal incidents).
  • Provide a sounding board for the police to understand the potential impact on communities of police practices and operations.

You can also write letters of concern and support to local MPs when SYV incidents occur locally. You can raise money or give encouragement and support when a fatality occurs in your neighborhood. Christians shouldn’t be afraid to find common ground with other faith groups or those of no faith at all. We need to be humble enough to learn from each other and work together to find solutions. In the borough of Greenwich we have Project Mosaic. The project, which seeks to increase community safety and confidence in the police and other agencies, also aims to enhance youth safety and increase access to the range of youth provision and activities in the borough.  In the last six months, as part of Project Mosaic, 130 faith leaders from across the borough of Greenwich have attended training sessions provided by police, Royal Borough of Greenwich, NHS Greenwich and voluntary organisations on a variety of matters including safeguarding children, gangs, youth violence and domestic violence.

  1. Get creative 

With a wealth of resources and volunteers, the Church should be thinking of creative ways of early intervention and prevention to divert young people away from SYV. Many of us have the flexibility to go beyond the traditional boundaries of 9-5 work to offer youth provision in the evenings and weekends. This gives Christians an advantage in creating programmes and activities that can really support the most marginalised young people.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. There are young people who have never travelled outside of their borough or have never gone to a gallery or museum. Attempt to give young people alternative views of life.

One of the biggest challenges facing young people is unemployment. In April 2014 I started a 10-week pilot project. The Grind Coffee School is a partnership between Emmanuel Church London, Browns of Brockley and Positive Youth Expression (PYE). The idea for the project came from a conversation with Ross Brown who owns Browns of Brockley. We both observed that with the increased coffee shops in inner city areas, there seemed to be a lack of variety in the people working in these establishments. We identified a group of young people, a group disaffected with life, demotivated to work who made up a large amount of the 21% of 16- to 25-year-olds (958,000) young people out of work in the UK. This project would aim to help young people identify their true needs; offer relevant support and signpost them to employment. Although challenging at times, we gave these young people an opportunity to gains skill in an area, which was not previously available to them because of various barriers.

  1. Get low

John Piper says this: “So this is really clear. Jesus is high. His rank is high. His standing is high. And therefore, by ordinary standards of this world, he should be served. But instead he contradicts the ordinary standards of this world, and serves. From his height he goes low. From his high standing, he goes to lowly serving.”

Or to be more penetrating, let your whole life have this mind-set: you are servants (Philippians 2:5­–8). All that you do, do it with a view to getting under others to lift them up, not getting over others to look down and feel superior. As Churches we should aim to adopt what American church pastor Matt Chandler calls “Incarnational Ministry”. In other words discipleship and evangelism shouldn’t be taking place simply within the church walls but also outside the church walls. The incarnational approach tries to break down the walls of sacred/secular so we can begin to see everything as sacred and quit being so fearful of the secular. In all domains of society the church should be at the forefront of to help providing innovation and support in the battle against serious youth violence.

The incarnational mode of ministry, the church’s mission of evangelism and discipleship has us intentionally living as agents of gospel reconciliation. After all isn’t this what the Good Samaritan demonstrated to the man in the need? He got low, served in these domains and took risks on behalf of those in need.

Social reformer Frederick Douglass said: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. Let’s invest in all children and young people and try to live out Isaiah 1:16-17:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

If we do this with guile, zeal and passion, the Church will demonstrate the light of our Lord Jesus Christ and young people’s lives will be transformed.

Benjamin Lindsay is the lead pastor at Emmanuel New Cross.

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Listen, Understand, Respond: A Foundation for tackling Serious Youth Violence by Selina Stone

Over the coming weeks and months I have invited key professionals to write a piece on my blog about ideas on how we can combat the Gangs and Serious Youth Violence issue in the UK. Our first guest blogger is Selina Stone who looks at the importance of listening to the voice of the perpetrator to help us develop strategies in combating the gangs and serious youth violence issue.

Listen, Understand, Respond: A Foundation for tackling Serious Youth Violence by Selina Stone

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen Covey

In the area of Serious Youth Violence there are many voices to be heard; the newsreader relaying the media story, the police condemning the crime, the victim’s family demanding justice. There is a place given to every voice, except the voice of the one who has committed the crime. In general, we do not recognise the importance of listening when it comes to those who commit acts of violence. Why should we care what they have to say? Because the key to an effective response can be found in the act of listening; not to reply, but to understand.

So what do I mean by ‘listening’ and why is it so essential?

The temptation for any person who wants to create change is to begin with ideas of what needs to be done. This tendency exists because we assume we already understand what the problem is. We have various means of informing our understanding; we can read statistics on the current picture, we can depend on our own lived experience or the reflections of those who have gone before us. All of these sources of understanding take us away from the reality that regardless prior knowledge, nothing is more important than the stories of those whose lives we want to see transformed.

‘Listening is the process through which speech and information is retrieved by an individual before proceeding to storage.[1]

As a community organiser at the Centre for Theology and Community, I depend on 121 meetings to drive the social justice issues we choose to tackle at the grassroots. Before we consider setting an agenda or strategy we begin by listening to the stories of the people who live and work around us. The listening campaign uncovers shared concerns or issues, helps us to clarify a clear objective and to identify leaders. Rather than exerting political power over communities, grassroots organising seeks to develop relational power with people. It is through listening that we uncover what makes people angry, what their self-interest is and who the leaders are who can make change happen.

So how does this relate to youth violence?

Each young person has a story that explains why they think or feel the way they do and how they have ended up where they are in life. The process of storytelling allows them firstly to recognise themselves. A person is able to acknowledge their life journey with its defining moments and influential relationships in order to understand how they have become who they are. The sense of identity and self-understanding this brings causes each of us to have the confidence to imagine the kind of future we want for ourselves.

When we help a young person tell their story and we choose to listen, we give them the respect and dignity due to all human beings. It is an act of humility on our part to listen, acknowledging that in that time and place, what the other person has to say is more important than what we want to communicate.

“(Some young people may have) difficulties understanding and expressing emotions, or (display) challenging behaviour as a means to communicate feelings.”[2]

Aside from the stories of individuals, we must also become experts at listening to the collective story being told by the young generation, including those engaged in violence and crime. Nonverbal communication is as essential to informing our understanding as verbal communication. Young people communicate individually through their choices of dress, their facial expressions and their life choices. Collectively, they communicate through their common interests, trends of behaviour and attitudes which become defining aspects of their generation. Before we seek to address social trends and impacts of serious youth violence, we must be willing to listen to the individual and collective stories of young people. Only through this act of humility will be equipped to reply effectively to young people and to wider society.

So what we can do?

This ‘listening to understand’ needs to take place in our families, in our friendship groups, in our faith communities and in wider society.

How well do we understand the young people in our homes and families? How much time do we spend time listening to those who attend our churches, youth clubs or mosques? How well do we understand the young people we are friends with? Do we take time to listen to young people in prisons or detention centres? Do we know the young people in our neighbourhoods?

Through a regular commitment to 121 conversations we can discover the stories of these young people and work with them to redefine their lives with a brighter future. Violence does not have to be the final voice in the lives of our youth.

Selina Stone

Twitter: @Selinars1

Selina Stone is a church based community organiser working to develop the capacity of churches to work on issues of justice in their communities. Her PhD research is looking at the significance of justice in Pentecostal understandings of salvation and mission. Selina currently works for The Centre for Theology and Community



If you would like to contribute to our blog please tweet me @bcwlindsay

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@newdayevent 2013 @RhythmFactory10 Reflections and Observations #YOLO#SWAG#PEAK


Well that was an interesting week.

First a little history. My first experience of Newday was as a youth leader for Kings Church London back in 2007. We took a 100 plus young people from Catford, SE London to Uttoxeter race course in Derby. In a nutshell I felt for the young people we brought with us. Most were Newfrontiers veterans who grew up in this movement and were well accustomed to camping. Talks by Joel Virgo and Stef Liston, seminar streams and Paul Oakley and Matt Redman style worship were the norm. But for many of the young people it was like being a fish out of water. Inner city children, many black, were expected to engage with a culture which was completely foreign to them. Even for myself, aged 29 at the time, and had been in Newfrontiers for 7 years, found the Newday environment a difficult one to participate in and to connect with. The one attempt to engage with these Catford young people was a tent with two broken turn tables playing inappropriate Hip Hop for a Jesus Camp.

I left confused and disheartened and wondered how the gospel could possibly be presented to inner city children in a more accessible way. All around the main meeting, I saw predominately white middle class children meeting with God powerfully, being equipped and commissioned for mission, while inner city children (white & black) were outside the big top meeting, left to their own devises. My own experience of Jesus Camp, Spring harvest was similar but that was in the 80’s and 90’s. Surely we had moved on?

After the 2008 Newday, I was done. I had just helped plant Emmanuel Church London with Stu Gibbs and I was working for the Lewisham Youth Offending service. My two main passions were being met and I trusted God that when the time was right I would re-visit my ire and vexation of Newday. What I didn’t expect was for that opportunity to arise so quickly. It was early 2009 when I was asked by Newday, Jaz Potter specifically, to develop a cafe that would engage the ‘urban youth’ at Newday. Although I have problem with the term ‘urban’, I decided to take on the challenge. We owed it to the increasing number of inner city youth coming to Newday to provide something they could relate to.


At Newday 2009, The Rhythm Factory was born. With the help of my wife and many people from Emmanuel Church London, we developed dance, music production, beatbox and graf workshops for the daytime element of the The Rhythm Factory. In the evening we managed to attract the best in ‘urban’ gospel talent featuring the likes of Faith Child, Victizzle, Tunday, Jaharziel and a 19 year old kid from Essex called Guvna B who had an anthem called Kingdom Skank circulating on the scene. It worked well. Ok thats an understatement. It kicked off. Guvna B even performed Kingdom Skank in the main meeting. Finally these young people had a home. Churches from Catford, Bermondsey, Croydon were happy, the ‘Bosses’ were happy and I was happy. Job done.

Then August 2011 happened.

By this time we had being delivering the Rhythm Factory at Newday for 2 years and the format had been established. In my own walk with God, I was about to be made an Elder at Emmanuel Church London and I was preaching regularly. One of the many problems with me is that I get bored easily. I was already thinking that the format of the Rhythm Factory was getting tired. I felt we needed to be not just giving the children entertainment, not just teaching them how to Kingdom Skank but solid biblical teaching preparing these inner city children for a post Newday world was necessary. Many of these young people come from the most horrific circumstances – domestic abuse, sexual abuse, gang violence, substance misuse and poor mental health. In my job, I was dealing with gang violence and teenage murders weekly. I still felt Newday were not providing answers to these specific issues, for these specific type of young people who were now attending Newday on mass. To be honest, why would they? The issues in Lewisham compared to Eastbourne were worlds apart. But I still felt if Newday were opening up the gates to this new demographic, then provide for their needs. If I’m honest it felt like as long as the Rhythm Factory provided a place for these kids to have a good time, we ticked a box. The problem was that when we spoke to these kids on a level, crazy situations and confessions would come out of the conversations. There was no where to park these discussions. My dissatisfaction was growing.

The weekend after the 2011 Newday, the riots happened. I felt for the children in the RF had been entertained at Newday but I had done them a disservice by not equipping them to the harsh reality the riots brought to the forefront of their lives.

I was done. Finished. The next two years of Newday, I deliberately kept my distance. I was angry, frustrated and annoyed that Newday didn’t see the urgency of teaching specifically to these inner city youth. I saw these children as future leaders, game changers, movers and shakers for Christ. Why did no one else see this? I was upset that what I saw on the main stage didn’t represent their reality and that it appeared that only a few people cared what was happening to these inner city young people. I wanted no part of this. I was happy to focus on my role at Emmanuel and continue fighting the fight at local and central government level in my job.

But I couldn’t get these verses out of mind:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:16, 17 ESV)

The fatherless generation has always played a massive part of why I do Newday and this theme of fatherlessness kept returning to me. A lot of these children from inner city situations had no one to look up to and no one to listen to. The gospel, the answer to understanding who we truly are, was not reaching these young people. Early in 2013 my friend, Owen Hylton, asked me to get back involved in the RF. Owen, now on the management team at Newday, had observed how impactful the RF could be, but also found its lack of bite and reach frustrating.

After a two year break, I felt the time was right to get back involved, but on one condition. We were allowed to run a seminar stream, hosted by the Rhythm Factory for the type of young people we would normally see attending our cafe. I wanted complete control of design, planning and implementation of the stream. Owen agreed and #YOLO #SWAG #PEAK was born.

The basic premiss was to host a week of deconstructing contemporary POP and HIP HOP culture, equipping young men and women to live powerfully through Christ in their day to day lives, looking specifically at the biblical principles in Romans 12. In my experience of working with young people, they can only really focus fully for about 20-25 minutes, so we wanted interaction. Each seminar had a 5 minute video testimony, a talk which was no longer than 25-30 minutes long and then a 30 minute ministry time.

Myself and the fantastic Charlie Rumsby from Revelation Church created and hosted the stream. The five seminar talks were 1) #YOLO (YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE) by myself, exploring what Romans 12 says about Y.O.L.O culture and asks the question ‘Who or what are you conforming to?’ 2) Watch the Throne by Charlie Rumsby examining the topic of belonging, looking at what Romans 12 has to say about the issues peer pressure, gang association and identity. 3) OBEY! – Obedience is boring, right? by Dan Frammingham looking at what Romans 12 says about being obedient and being consistent in your Christian walk 4) God Forgives, I Don’t by Tristan Newman looking at what Romans 12 says about anger, conflict and the power of forgiveness and finally 5) #thatpower by myself and Livy Gibbs exploring the Bible’s definition of power and to facilitate the Holy Spirit to unleash #thatPOWER on those in the seminar.

The response from delegates, youth leaders and has been overwhelming. “real” “straight talking” “easy to understand” “life changing” “relatable” have been some of the words used. One youth leader even said “thank you for cutting out the bull s***” (are we allowed to swear as Christians?). All the ministry times went over by about an hour. Young people who would not normally go to the main meeting were meeting with God powerfully. It was such a beautiful thing to see. One pleasant surprise was the diversity in the room. We were averaging 250-300 young people a day in our seminars and it was such a mix in terms of ethnicity. I have always said that things have changed. Attempting to navigate through popular culture is no longer such a niche task. When I was a teen and wanted to listen to music or watch things that were not mainstream, I had to really hunt for the things that interested me and subcultures developed. Now, with the Internet and fast moving technology, everyone can access everything so easily. Barriers have come down. What an inner city youth listens to is now the same as a kid from the valleys.

A personal highlight was my good friend Tristan’s talk on forgiveness. We prayed and fasted as a team and church before Newday and someone brought a picture that our seminars would be like a thunderstorm, like the heavens opening in our seminar stream. This happened – literally (we had buckets to catch the water) when Tristan spoke. God moved so powerfully. Tristan opened up about the most personal and private things and young people responded. What I also loved, was the synergy of our seminar with Joel Virgo talking on forgiveness in the 15-18’s in the big top on the same day. This wasn’t planned but I think this is a good model for the future. The fact that Joel plugged our seminar meant we were not seen as an additional extra but part of the DNA of Newday. It was a good look.

This quote from the Newday news letter meant a lot to myself and the team:

“The Rhythm Factory has always been a popular venue, particularly with young people from urban contexts. The team are going all out this year to ensure that the teaching meets their needs as much as the entertainment does. From what we’ve seen, they’re doing a great job of engaging minds as well as hearts”

I met some incredible people this week. Young people are truly great. From ‘Man Like Malcom’ to the girls from the Plumstead church who were ever present, there were some fantastic youth who I will be forever inspired by. The motto in the Rhythm Factory was that God Transforms Minds, to Transform Lives so you can Transform Cities #TTT. This is my prayer that the people who were at Newday go back equipped, filled with the Holy Spirit and have an increased love and understand for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, applying it to their day to day lives.

My last point, is really a plea to the bosses of Newday, not to give up on thinking about the diverse demographic at this event. This isn’t just a black and white thing. It was great that we had Darrell Tunningley on the Wednesday evening and Tope Koleoso on Friday evening but I challenge Newday to keep looking outside the box when it comes to speakers and with regards to the format of Newday. Presentation is everything and I do feel for some of the more marginalised young people, when they look up on the main stage they are put off. They do not see anyone they can relate to. It goes deeper than just having a black man in a cap on stage singing with Simon Brading. Who has authority on stage?, who hosts the meeting?, who is invited up to pray or lead a response? It’s a bit like when you first meet a girl who you might be interested in. You are first attracted by how they look. The rest comes later. For many children the same applies when they are in the big top. I’m not calling for the sacking of Stu Gibbs, Simon Brading et al but I am calling for a deliberate consideration for the changing face of the delegates coming to Newday. I would personally like this reflected on stage and throughout marketing of Newday.

Finally I would like to thank some people. Phil Gray and Owen Hylton for their continued support and dedication to myself, the vision of Rhythm Factory and Newday in general. The fantastic Rhythm Factory team for their dedication, hard work, laughter, joy and professionalism throughout the week. Guvna B for just being a decent and humble chap who continues to serve year on year. All the seminar speakers who poured out their hearts and souls to make this stream work. Special shout out to Charlie Rumsby for believing the vision and helping me to construct something fresh and new (all those meetings paid off mate). To Claire Bulman and Laura Price who allowed me to focus fully on the seminars while you took control of running the RF during the day and evening.

Thanks for a great week.

See you in 2014


Video testimonies shown in The Rhythm Factory 2013:

Gem’s Story from First Light on Vimeo.

Charlie’s Story from First Light on Vimeo.

Rebekah’s Story from First Light on Vimeo.

Dominic’s Story from First Light on Vimeo.

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