Twenty-year-old Jackson Roach is the youth leader at Long Bay Baptist Church. Earlier this year he opened a barber shop called ‘Fresh Cuts for Freedom’ at the church. Jackson tells us about his barbering journey and how he is using his skills as a way to engage people in faith conversations, and to raise funds for causes close to his heart.
Jackson left school halfway through Year 13. At the time he struggled a lot with his self-worth. He watched countless hairstyling and cutting tutorials online to learn how to improve his appearance. When a couple of his friends shared some of the ‘cool stuff’ they were learning at a hairdressing course, Jackson decided to sign up too. It helped that he loved football and idolised the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham who had fancy haircuts!
As Jackson met the Youth Guarantee programme criteria (he hadn’t finished level 3 NCEA and was aged between 16 and 19 years old), he was eligible for nine months’ study for free, a saving of almost $10,000. After completing the entry level hairdressing course, the next step was to do level four. However, it was not to be.
“My tutor realised my heart was more in the guys’ stuff, so he encouraged me to do barbering instead. So, at the end of that year, I applied for that course,” says Jackson.
“I was lucky in that I had a couple of teachers who took me under their wing and gave me a lot of their time. I entered, and was placed, in some competitions. Then I was given the opportunity to work in a barber shop while I was studying, so that counted as some of my study time.”
Fresh Cuts for Freedom
Towards the end of his study, Jackson travelled to South Asia with a group from his church. They spent a couple of weeks at Freeset, assisting as possible. Freeset is a freedom business producing ethically made clothing and bags. It provides safe work for women who otherwise might be forced into prostitution by trafficking and poverty. Jackson says when he was over there, God spoke to him about helping Freeset from a distance.
“Before I left I had organised with Easter Camp back home that I was going to have a haircutting stall in their ‘village’. All of the profit was to go to Freeset. The others working in the stall were people I had studied with. We raised $5,500 over a couple of days. It was $10 a haircut, but some people donated more because of where the money was going.”
Jackson had always dreamed about running his own shop, where he would be free to talk to customers about Freeset, his faith, and a bit about his past. About the middle of 2017 he asked his previous youth pastor what he thought the church would say if Jackson rented out a room and did haircuts there.
“He encouraged me to ask. The next day, James, the Senior Pastor, came up to me and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while. How would you feel if we opened a barber shop here?’ I thought, ‘OK, this is something that is Spirit-led, not just me wanting to do cool stuff,’” says Jackson.
“We applied for a grant from the Baptist Foundation to renovate a room in the church and to buy equipment. They saw it as a great mission opportunity. In the past, I had been doing haircuts at home in the bathroom or in a basement downstairs. It was pretty rugged but people would still come along. There were guys who ended up getting baptised and there were others who were real keen to get involved in our community. I wouldn’t say the hair industry is the most selfless; if anything, it is the opposite. But seemingly God was shaping it to a format he really desired it to be.
“In March 2018 we officially opened the men’s hair salon, which we call ‘Fresh Cuts for Freedom’. It’s a way for me to continue doing what I love, this whole creative side of myself.
“Through cutting hair, two of my clients ended up allowing me to ‘do life’ with them and gave me the honour of baptising them. One of them is now an intern at a Baptist church in Wellington while doing part-time study at Carey Baptist College.
“A few months back I had a client ask me about Jesus and what my faith looks like, as it seemed different to what he had heard about Christianity from his non-believing parents. He wants to be involved with overseas mission in some way.”
It is not just faith conversations that the barber shop is making possible. Jackson says 10% of the salon’s earnings are donated to different organisations—half to Freeset and half going back to the Baptist Foundation to help fund other churches’ projects.
“I won’t have a Lamborghini by the age of 25!” says Jackson. “But essentially the money is the least of my worries at the moment. I could raise my prices but that’s not the point. It’s more the purpose behind it and the culture I want to set.”
The in-between place
Jackson is a youth worker for the church and a 1st XI football coach at the local college. Like many secondary schools, it has had some tragic accidents and has had to deal with the fall-out from underage sex, drinking and drug use.
Quite a few of the college boys come into Fresh Cuts for Freedom to get their hair cut. Jackson describes it as an in‑between place where people can come to the church for a haircut and can continue, or create, a relationship with him.
“It’s been cool to see people realise that Jesus doesn’t work just in this building, and it doesn’t have to be on a Sunday, and it’s not all about Easter Camp. Even while I am sharing my story as I’m cutting these guys’ hair, or listening to their stories, they are seeing characteristics of who Christ is, without me necessarily mentioning Jesus’ name,” says Jackson.
The broken places
Growing up, Jackson had always considered his family as one of the poorer ones around. He was jealous of his friends who had flash lunches, gadgets and clothes, and who did expensive activities. He thought he had it quite hard in comparison to most of the people he knew. But when he went to South Asia, he discovered that he was comparatively amongst the richest of the rich.
“The living conditions over there were so horrific in places that I’m not sure if I even have the right to ever say that I had it somewhat difficult growing up. A cardboard box to fit a family of five under, barely any food and having to use water from the overflowing sewerage system in the streets to bathe themselves—this was the ‘normal’ life that the majority of those in the slums were living in, from what I saw,” says Jackson.
“I knew the world consisted of poverty but being face to face with it is a completely different type of knowledge, one which I think our whole country of New Zealand should be exposed to. Too often we forget how lucky and blessed we are to be able to call this place our home.
“I strongly believe God desires us all to have a heart full of love for one another, and that his heart breaks for the fact that a lot of us lack real compassion for people born into the most broken places on the planet. Love for others is all throughout Scripture as a command of Jesus. We just need to stop trying to convince ourselves that it doesn’t apply to us or that we can’t help.
“My prayer for our people is that the Spirit of God continues to inspire and teach us on the act of surrendering. To lay down all parts of our life to him, and to trust that his will is far more satisfying than anything we could come up with.
“Right now I feel that God desires me to be placed in Long Bay, and I’m excited to see more of the reasons of why that is. What is undeniable is that it’s all in God’s timing when I make a permanent move to be present in an area of poverty. It’ll be hard and uncomfortable in many ways, but that’s what Jesus did and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. We are called to look like Christ, not Christians.”
A senior pastor’s perspective
Long Bay Baptist’s Senior Pastor, James McBurney, says they are always looking at ways to engage their community with the gospel of Jesus. The barber shop initiative looked like a creative way to do just that.
“I am a big fan of Jackson. He has a humble way about him and is very relational. He has grown and continues to grow in Jesus, and it is a joy to be part of that journey. Jackson has always been wonderfully evangelistic and so linking his skills together we were able to give him an outlet for this. People do not tend to leave midway through a haircut!” says James.
“Through football coaching at our local high school, Jackson has good contacts and opportunities for more than a single conversation. He has the support of the church family too, so he knows he is not doing this alone.”
Story: Jackson Kaya Steele Roach, with Linda Grigg
Jackson seeks to serve Jesus and have his life portray who Christ is and what he’s about. Whilst coaching a college 1st XI football team, leading Long Bay Baptist’s Youth Ministry and running his own hair salon, he is gifted with daily opportunities to build relationships with the local community and to share about what Freeset is and does.
- Jackson’s creativity and skills are tools in God’s hands to reconcile people to himself and to set people free. What God-given abilities, talents and resources are you using, or long to use, to fulfil your purpose?
- Is there a young person in your circle of influence in whom you see potential? What can you do to help them develop their ability and to encourage them in their journey of faith?
Baptist Foundation—funding for community ministries
The Baptist Foundation exists to fund new and developing Baptist community work in the Northern Association region. Applications are called for twice a year, closing at the end of March and September. Grants can be for operational and staff costs as well as minor capital costs for outward-facing activities.
For more information or an application form please send an email.