We had a chance to catch up with Ant Ryan, the new National Chairperson of Scripture Union South Africa.
Ant, are you a soccer or rugby supporter, and dare we ask what teams you support?
I am an unashamed Rugby man. Played it at school and club level, certified as a school, club and provincial level coach, and then finished off my rugby phase as a provincial rugby referee. As we don’t have DSTV, my passion has waned a bit, but I still cheer for Ireland and anyone else who beats the All Blacks.
If our readers met a younger you, what differences would they notice?
- They would notice how different I look as a younger me – My youthful chest has slipped about 6 inches and my red hair is now a figment of the imagination.
- How miserable I look as a younger me – I have been married to Sue for 38 years and she is the one who puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
- How lonely I look as a younger me – my 4 daughters and 3 grandkids are all in our close orbit and are never very far away – this is what keeps me a happy chappy
When did you first connect with the ministry of SU South Africa?
As a 12-year-old I came to know the Lord at a S and V camp. Stan Fish was the Camp Commandant. My tent officers were Les Underhill and Charlie Paine. I went on to lead SU Froggy Camps, Holiday Missions and Holiday clubs. Then Sue, and I headed up the Adventure Outreach programme for YFC for a few years before I returned to the SU fold as part of the SUMMIT committee and then as Chairman of the Western Cape region.
We are curious, what does the chairperson of SU South Africa actually do?
That’s the million dollar question – I had hoped it involved lots of good food and gentle conversations with sweet people. In reality it is to support the National Director in developing and executing a strategy for the movement that will see young people introduced to Jesus Christ and then grown in their faith, in a way that is financially sustainable and Kingdom building.
Tim and I meet on a weekly basis. We dream dreams and try to make sense of the puzzles we encounter. I have a dream of SU re-establishing itself as a strategic partner with local churches and schools in presenting the gospel in a dynamic and relevant way to children. I would love to see our volunteer base growing and our staff developing, and growing as experts in their fields and as facilitators who can grow the next cohort of leaders.
What do you believe are the key issues young South Africans are facing?
This is what keeps me awake at night and what makes me grateful that I am old! Basically once we have banked the fact that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, virtually all of life is up for debate and dialogue. Increasingly it seems that yesterday’s answers are often not the solution to tomorrow’s questions. We need to sharpen our skills in allowing young South Africans to question many of the things that we took for granted. We need to become more comfortable with the reality that God does have the answers. Our challenge is to learn to look in the right places. Young South Africans have the privilege of developing into game changers and leaders, as we need men and women of faith, character, and competence to lead us into the many opportunities that lie before us.
What is your vision for the role SU can play, given this point in our history in SA?
I believe that SU can be instrumental in empowering young people to do the right thing in a world dominated by political, academic and economic leaders who are often flawed role models. If we have the joy of leading young people to see life through the lens of “What would Jesus do” we will be growing leaders who are worthy of having followers. SU should be at the forefront of the faith and moral revolution that we need in South Africa.
Any inside info / dirt on Tim Black? (we had to ask)
He only begins to talk sense after the second cup of coffee. Provided it is a bigger cup than the first one! Tim and I both serve on the leadership team of a local Church. He is one of those ‘what you see is what you get’ guys. The better one gets to know him the more one likes him. If I could choose a younger (and uglier) brother, he would be in the running.
Ant, a last few quick-fire questions.
A book you recommend everyone should read.
Anything by Yuval Noah Harari. A modern historian who applies a sharp mind to the crazy world we live in. Helping me to unlearn some stuff I thought I knew. And (sorry, I am a bookaholic, and one is never enough) ‘Factfulness’ by Hans Rosling. Another author who reminds us that what we think we know is probably wrong, and needs to be rethought.
One of your favourite movies.
The Sound of Music – it always makes me cry.
A favourite or significant Scripture.
Genesis 1.1 – “In the beginning God…” On a daily basis I love that fact that the God who was, is the God of the now and that He holds the future in the palm of His hand.