I had always been surrounded by Christians and grown up in a Christian family. Church has always been apart of my life which meant that for a long time I never accepted faith as being my own. My Dad is a minister of a church, so I had always felt this extra pressure. In a sense, I think, I just 'piggy backed' off my parent's faith. As I got older I started to distance myself from the church and from God, until I stopped completely. I got myself into a bad friendship group and was really unhappy. Near my house there is a Christian event called Big Church Day Out which brings in thousands of christians each year. I wasn't sure why I was even there. At the end of the day a guy called Pete Craig gave a short talk about giving your life to Christ and how if you wanted to you can raise your hand. Meanwhile the music was playing and I felt a rush of air pass over me. Everything went quiet. I rose my hand and started my new Journey with God. Even though I have been surrounded by Christians my journey hasn't been easy, but God's love makes it easier.
I was born in 1996 to two parents who had lost a baby girl five years prior. As I grew up, my natural development was delayed - I couldn’t walk and talk till I was nearly three years old, for example. I was bullied for three years until the age of eight, when my parents moved me to another school. Shortly after I was moved, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she thankfully has been all clear from for several years! At the age of ten, I was diagnosed with autism, and told I wouldn’t last one week at secondary school. As I grew older, my autism began to cripple me in ways I couldn’t imagine. I was scared of everything, I couldn’t leave my parents’ side for much more than several minutes (if I was entering new situations), I couldn’t wash myself, the list goes on and on (too long for me to write here!). At the age of fourteen I hated myself. In September 2009 my parents convinced me to attend my local youth group at my church, and although I was reluctant to go, I was convinced to. A year and a half later, I went away on a weekend away with my youth group. That’s when everything shifted. I had an encounter that weekend, which I can only describe as me crying uncontrollably and then being hyperactive for the rest of the weekend. It changed something in me that I didn’t know could be changed. I went from having to be physically dropped off at the school gates by my parents, to suddenly being able to make a one hour commute to school by myself on the train. I went from being scared of everything to being able to take on the world. Again, so much happened - too much to list here. Six years later, I am living 180 miles away from home, and living life to the full. I’m in my third year studying Creative Writing, and I’m now thinking to the future ahead, and researching Masters’ degrees! Throughout everything, God has been comforting me and protecting me. We are told in the Bible that He is our refuge and our strength, and this is certainly true throughout my life, especially where He has given me the strength needed to take on any challenge.
If I had to describe the journey of my life, it would probably be a journey of moving from one mistake to another, from one bad decision to the next, rom being let go from two jobs before I've turned 20, to struggling with my sexual morality. One bad decision to the next. However, the one thing that has remained as a constant in my life, is the love and grace of God, despite all my failings, I am still loved by God.
I was lucky enough to be raised in a Christian home so I was taught from a young age of God's love for me, and that He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross for me that my sins can be forgiven. Despite knowing this, I've often struggled with my identity, and as a result of this I turned to things of this world to define me, primarily: alcohol, sex and social media. I used these as an attempt to improve my self-worth, however they could not fill the Jesus shaped hole in my heart.
And now despite all of my failings, all my mistakes, my identity is rooted as a child of God, and in him I find my strength, because this is what the grace of God is, getting what we don't deserve. I have fallen way short of the glory of God, but whilst I was still a sinner Christ died for me. This doesn't mean that I am perfect, but I trust in the one who is, and all my hope is in Him.
The past few years I’ve been on a journey with God as I have battled with stress over my future. I am the sort of person who likes everything to be planned and organised, so having no plans after sixth form was very daunting. I felt so desperate to go and be independent, and searched for any opportunity to move away and feel like I was achieving something. I applied for every christian gap year going, and after each interview I felt God really tell me that I was where I needed to be already (although it took me a while to admit it!) I reluctantly decided to live at home and got a job at Oasis, a clothes shop in Bristol near my home. Looking back, I can see that God was there with me the whole time. Over the two years I worked there, I made friends for life, I became so much closer with my family, I got more involved with my church, I got to have some amazing conversations about Jesus with some people, I got a promotion to personal stylist, had so many awesome opportunities through that, and found my passion for fashion marketing - the course I do now. I fell so much more in love with God and can now see the amazing plan he had for me from the start! Jesus is so amazing, and I love seeing the journey he has brought me on, to now be at Winchester uni, worshipping him with amazing new friends I have met, and trusting him completely no matter how scary it seems.
As someone who grew up in a Christian family, a question that I have repeatedly been asked is whether I think my religion comes completely from the way I've been brought up. It has taken me a long time to be able to answer this question but now I think that the answer is simply, yes. I have come to the conclusion that my religion, being the traditions and 'norms' of Christianity, has indeed come from my upbringing and I'm very grateful for it. BUT when it comes to my personal, beautiful, irreplaceable relationship with Jesus, I had to find that all on my own. My faith means more to me than going to church on a Sunday or living by "rules" in the Bible, it is a relationship which sets me free and makes me new, even though I don't deserve it. Choosing a life with Jesus is not a one-off event that suddenly changes your whole world forever (at least it wasn't for me!), it is a process and a journey of transformation becoming more like Jesus and growing closer to God every day (even on the days when He feels a million miles away). God has managed to use situations of illness, grief, fear, loneliness, homesickness, sin, guilt, doubt and so much more to do amazing things in my life and I never cease to be amazed when I look back and see how God has used a seemingly hopeless situation for His glory. I don't deserve His love and I never will but that doesn't matter because by His grace it is given freely. Jesus Christ died to know me and to save me - that is why I'm a Christian.
This song has AMAZING words about what it means to be on a journey with Jesus:
I was bought up in a Christian family. Every week we went to church in the morning and evening. I never doubted God’s existence but never fully understood Gods deep love for His son Jesus and people like you and me. For some time, a fear of hell developed in my mind and the concept terrified me. I was scared. I would not listen to sermons or talks that mentioned hell because I was too afraid that I may end up there myself. Eventually, a sermon on heaven and hell (in a book of the bible called revelation) came up in church one Sunday evening. I finally realised there was nothing to be afraid of if I put my trust in Jesus as my Saviour. Gods grace is truly beautiful and it hit me hard. That night I prayed with my mum asking Jesus into my life. Since then going on Christian camps has really allowed me to grow in my faith and deepened my relationship with God. Being on this journey and living for Jesus and holding out in faith is not always easy, but with the power of God giving me strength, anything is possible.
‘God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ — Romans 5v8
Growing up in a Christian family, I have always known about Jesus and His love for me.
I have been surrounded by good Christian friends and am blessed with amazing family who taught me about God from an early age.
When I got to the stage where I realised I needed Jesus as my saviour I felt like I was getting no response from God, I felt like something was going to happen or change but it never did.
I hadn’t realised what God had already done! He sent his son as a sacrifice for my sins so that I could be saved!!!
Even though some days can still be hard you have to believe that God’s love is beyond anything you could ever do and that with God by your side you are never on your own.
My name is Rhodri Mayer, I am 19 years old and currently studying BA Comedy: Performance and Production.
I was born on the 18th of December 1997 as the youngest of 6 children. My parents brought me in to my home church from when I was born – and they soon began to notice some rather odd behaviour from me. I didn’t really talk, communicate or engage with people in any way, shape or style. I didn’t really connect with God or what the bible taught at that time – though I loved the thought of being able to read and do things for myself even then.
When I was 5 years old, I was diagnosed with high functioning autism – meaning that I had social and learning difficulties. I struggled to make friends and connect with people. I spent all my free time either playing on the computer or watching cartoons. Anytime I was forced into doing something social, it would normally end in anger, tears and tantrums.
At around the age of 10, I soon began to feel even more distant from the church as I felt it wasn’t cool to be getting up early on a Sunday morning and going to church. I much preferred staying in and playing on the Play Station. This kept me further from coming to know the lord.
When I moved from primary to secondary school, I underwent a time of change, uncertainty and stress. My grandparents had just died causing a rift in the family and my closest friends from primary school were all off to different places. This caused me to become more depressed. I didn’t fit in with my classmates at school, I lost confidence in making new friends and I felt uncertain about my childhood dream of becoming an actor. This was all going on in my life!
But things changed when I was 13 years old and my Mum was about to leave for a baptism taking place at my church. I sort of, unconsciously, asked if I could come along. Something inside me said that church was where I needed to be at that point in my life. So, we went to observe the baptism - and not only were the people at church lovely to me, they also seemed happy with what God had given them. I didn’t fully understand it, but I knew that I wanted to become a part of God’s kingdom from that point onwards. And I was baptised on the 15th of May 2011.
My situation at school didn’t really change massively, but the way I related to my life, with the knowledge of what Jesus did for me on that cross, did. I soon became more confident with making friends, developed the audacity to join some local youth theatre and am-dram groups and I even became a more active member of my own church being involved with the youth and the camera work during Sunday morning services. My life group eventually became like a family of sorts and I got comfortable sharing situations of my life with them.
God certainly has gotten me through some rough patches since then. Through the power of prayer, I was able to gain my GCSE and A-Level qualifications, force myself out of the comfort zone and try more daring things and even leave move away from home to study a degree in Comedy: Performance and Production at the University of Winchester.
I have now found a new home with the Christian Union during the week and Vineyard Church every Sunday evening. I know that God has great plans for me and the talents that he has given me (He has done since I was conceived within my mother’s womb) and I pray that God will reveal them to me.
My favourite bible verse is: “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God”. I think it’s all too easy to become wrapped up in your own personal struggles that it’s easy to forget that God is always there and that he’s always listening. This is something that, at times, I need to be reminded of.
My biggest prayer for the events week is that we gain new members into the kingdom of God. I would consider it an honour to share God’s word with anyone that is curious to learn more about it. I also pray that God will touch the hearts of those who feel they have sinned too much to be welcomed into the church. I think we’ve all been there, and it often breaks my heart to learn that people feel this way. Here’s hoping JOURNEY can change that!
I also need prayer to use the shower more often.