Everyone has a different story of how they found God – some have dramatic tales of redemption while others have humble origins.
I never really thought about mine until recently – I became a Christian in one church and stayed there for so long… they all knew my testimony. Having moved and settled at a new church, meeting new Christians, I find myself telling my story a lot.
I became a Christian at university, but my story doesn’t start there – it goes back much further.
My mum’s parents were Christians, and my dad’s mum was too. So they felt obliged to put us through Sunday school. I can’t remember any of the teaching in the old, run down Anglican church in our village – but I remember the corner we went to for Sunday school.
As we got older, my parents stopped going to church and I wasn’t really sorry – I didn’t miss it. I went to private school from year 5 and in assembly we sung hymns and said prayers – but it was all a game of trying to keep your eyes open without the teachers spotting during prayers and how little of the hymns you could sing before the staff told you off… it still meant nothing to me.
I took an unplanned gap year, as I didn’t get into the university I wanted to go to, and I needed to rethink my options.
I eventually decided to attend the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff campus to study sound technology. After a year, I realised I didn’t want to continue studying my course – I just didn’t enjoy it. I’d always known I wanted to specialise in radio, but thought I was better off studying a broader topic. I asked to switch courses but the lecturers told me it wasn’t possible. If I really wanted to do it, I needed to finish my undergraduate degree and apply for the postgraduate course in broadcast journalism.
I was also finding I had very few friends in Cardiff – I wasn’t getting on too well with my housemates and I was finding more and more often, I just wanted to go home.
I was starting to contemplate dropping out of my course and leaving university because I felt so miserable. I have the perfect memory of sitting on my bed in my room in my shared house feeling particularly low and sorry for myself (I was crying and being generally very self pitying) and just feeling at a total loss – I had no idea what to do or how to proceed in life. Then suddenly I felt a wave of absolute peace. I felt so still and right and I knew that everything was okay and I felt absolutely content. I didn’t know how I knew, or why I suddenly felt that way, I just knew I did.
The feeling slowly wore off and I wondered what the hell had just happened (I promise you I never experimented with hallucinogenic drugs at university). So I started to type things into Google and eventually came to the conclusion there must be a higher power at work. I think I eventually got to the phrase “What is Christianity?” or something similar (my high school RS teachers rolling their eyes that I never paid attention in class). I stumbled across the Christianity Explored website where I entered my email address and postcode and closed my browser and forgot about it.
Several days later I received an email from a man called Dennis from a church down the road. He’d been sent my details via the Christianity Explored website. He apologised and explained that the course was actually just finishing – the last week was that coming Monday. I’d be welcome to come, but it was the last one. I politely said “Thanks – but no thanks.”
Dennis was a very patient man (hallelujah!) and he invited me to church on Sunday and told me a bit about himself – turned out he was retired and had been a lecturer at my university, and he knew a handful of my lecturers. It instantly put my mind at rest – I’d been imagining this man was a serial killer and he had my email address he’d find me and no one would know he did it because they’d never link him to me (I have quite the imagination).
I still didn’t fancy church though.
I didn’t hear from Dennis for a while and I’d forgotten about it – when I had another email inviting me to church on Sunday again. I was miserable again and just arrived back in Cardiff after being at home for Christmas break for 3 weeks. I was feeling very homesick again and decided I had nothing to lose. So I finally accepted his invitation.
I was nervous walking through the door for the first time, and left it to the very last minute to go – Dennis had been waiting patiently for me just inside the door. He introduced me to a few people my age and sat with me during the service. I was surprised to find I actually recognised some of the hymns – they were the same hymns we sang at school. The worship band reminded me of the group that played in every assembly on a Wednesday and the message was exactly like school assemblies. Suffice to say – sitting in the congregation, I didn’t feel so homesick anymore.
After the service, Dennis and his wife, Freda, invited me to their house for lunch (and as a poor and hungry student, that was not an invite I was going to turn down) and I just kept going back. I liked the familiarity and I got to know the Dennis and Freda and eventually I went on the Christianity Explored course and enjoyed it so much (and had so many questions) that after the course finished I started going to the bible study that replaced it. Then when the course rolled round again, I did it again.. I must’ve done it about 5 times before I realised that I knew Jesus, and I knew he’d saved me. So I asked Dennis and Freda about baptism.
I went through a course about baptism and decided to take the plunge for Jesus. I was baptised August bank holiday in 2012 with Kate and Beth Jennings – sisters who became my sisters in Christ. I’m so pleased we got to share that day together.
Whilst all of this was happening, entirely separate to my journey, my sister had found faith and had gone through the Alpha course. She beat me to the baptism pool by just a few months. Our parents couldn’t understand what had got into their kids (especially my sister as her church was a little more…. evangelical I think the term is, than my church was) so they investigated by visiting both our churches. My sister was adamant that she didn’t want my parents to not go to heaven, knowing that the only route to heaven is through Jesus. So she plied them with books and media, found them a local church and Explore course to try so they had somewhere to go and ask questions. In October 2015, our parents were baptised.
I became involved in the life of the church and when I confessed I’m quite crafty I was convinced to help at the quarterly kids craft morning, despite my dislike of children. Fortunately my love of glitter and making a mess meant I had an amazing morning. I was told this was my skill and I should help at the summer camp (they were desperately short of helpers). I promised I would help only in the background, but the leader had other ideas. I was made team leader and had the best week of my life. I quickly signed up to teach Sunday school and to become a volunteer youth leader.
I made myself available to the youth leader and helped present school assemblies, lead RS lessons where we were invited and volunteered with several Christian organisations that brought the gospel to primary and secondary age children.
I found that running youth club and Sunday school and being so involved with youth ministry in the church made me realise how much I love working with kids and young people – being able to inspire and encourage the next generation and help them to find faith.
I thought I was on track to becoming a youth leader, so applied for an internship at a big local church. When I was rejected I was devastated. So I threw myself into my job. Just months later I was involved in a workplace accident and my life changed entirely. I couldn’t believe God would do this to me – that I would suffer both mentally and physically for so long. I stopped going to church, stopped reading my bible, stopped praying. I didn’t understand for a long time.
I moved home and lived with my parents because I couldn’t cope on my own anymore. I found it difficult finding a new church but started to understand that although God didn’t cause my suffering, he was doing everything he could for me in the aftermath.
My aunt was getting married in January and we (my mother and I) were coming and visiting relatively often at weekends and we would visit Hillsong Guildford each time we were around on a Sunday. I was utterly blown away and for the first real time for a long time I could hear God’s voice. He was calling me home. I knew this was where I was supposed to be. So I started living with my grandmother in Sutton on weekends.
I’d been through counselling and was starting to feel mentally myself again, so I decided to apply for jobs in Surrey, knowing God had called me there. One of the first jobs I applied for, I was called to interview. I had such a lovely time meeting the people that I was ready to be incredibly disappointed when they eventually got in touch with me to tell me I hadn’t got it. I couldn’t believe it when the next day I had an email offering me the job. I knew God had gone before me and paved the way. So I asked my grandmother if I could become a permanent resident in her spare room (paying a little to her in the way of rent and bills).
So here I am. A member of Hillsong Guildford – I serve on the host team and I’m just young enough to fall into the Power House (18-30s) ministry. I have no idea what the future looks like for me here, I just know this is where Jesus wants me right now and I look forward to filling you in on the next part of my journey!