The Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn used to describe laughing as the most important thing in a person’s life. Hepburn would have liked Ben Horrex, the new Youth Minister at St Luke’s. Ben spends most of his life laughing (95% if you believe his Instagram profile) and – if you haven’t met him yet, it is likely you will hear his laugh, before you see his face. “He’s the only guy I know who actually laughs when he loses at a game!” says one of the kids who goes to his Friday night Youth group.
“My job is all about building trust and relationships,” says Ben. “It is not just to care for our youth, but also for our youth leaders, making sure they are fully equipped and trained. When you take into account the different groups we have, and the two camps we run (Harby and Hungarton) there are probably about 25 people involved in the ministry for our young people. They need to be supported.” Ben is also on the preaching team at St Luke’s; and has just written a series on the book of Esther.
For someone so young (22) Ben has crammed an awful lot into a small space of time. When he was only 15 (amidst GCSE’s) he wrote, produced and acted in a couple of plays, got government funding for them, and toured the country with the BBC. One of them was about Asylum seekers and the other about the cowardice ‘shot-at-dawn’ punishment during the First World War. At University (Nottingham) he studied History and Politics, and wrote a dissertation on the reasons the Conservatives and Liberal parties have never merged to make one party (“basically the wings of both parties could never find common ground”).
Since then he has done a multitude of jobs. “I’ve done bits of everything from working for a cruise ship company, to security, and deliveries” he says. “I love the variety. I was once a receptionist at a conference about Ballistic armour! I was a first aid worker at a theatre for a while, and – as well as having to deal with four heart attacks, I had to carry a tipsy mother-of-the-bride out of “Dirty Dancing”.
Ben has just applied to be a community first responder here in Leicestershire for 999 calls, and has spent a considerable time on the streets of Nottingham as a ‘street pastor’. “I was a night leader,” he says. “We’d work from 9 in the evening until 4 in the morning. I enjoy first aid. We’d get calls from the police and ambulance services if someone had collapsed. One night we were called to help two girls, outside a KFC, who were flat on the tables, motionless, like starfish. They’d drunk a litre of vodka each, in a taxi, on their way there; and then – not surprisingly – passed out. We made sure they were OK; and eventually – when they came round – made sure they got home safely. They couldn’t understand why we were there, unpaid, sleep deprived, being covered in horrendous stuff; but simply caring for people. I hope we gave a better impression of Christians. We weren’t shouting at people, telling them they were going to go to hell! I think those two girls were quite shocked about who they met that night.”
One of the first things you notice about Ben’s flat in Scraptoft, after the huge boxes of sweets (for the Youth groups) is there is quite a lot of lego – a calendar, a ferris wheel, a Mini Cooper… “I love building stuff,” he says. “There used to be a London bus on the top shelf of my bookcase, but when I moved some books, it tried to drive off, over the cliff; and it still needs repairing. My parents decided not to give me champagne when I graduated; and instead gave me a 1,000 piece Lego model of the Houses of Parliament.”
Tennis is also a passion. “I used to take a week’s holiday during the Nottingham Open. If you ever watched it, I was the guy with the season ticket, in the front row, next to the photographers! I do the ballot for Wimbledon tickets every year; but so far have been unsuccessful.”
It’s impossible to spend very long in Ben’s company without feeling uplifted and full of the joys of life. His laugh is infectious; and before long you find yourself laughing along with him. “For me,” he says, “the gospel and the message of grace is one of salvation; and that is something to be very happy about indeed! Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. What does that actually mean? Basically, it means he is the answer to everything!”
Interviewed by Jock Howard.