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Louisa -Extended Story

I was born in 1967 along with my identical twin sister.

I have been married to my husband for 25 years this year and have 2 sons aged 21 and 16.

I was brought up in a very stable, loving family home with my mum, dad, twin sister and younger sister and had a very happy childhood.

I vaguely remember going to a Sunday school when I was a child.

 

I don’t recollect thinking very much about God until senior school when I began to study Christianity in RE. I did believe in God but it was whilst taking RE for O level that I decided I didn’t want anything to do with him. As far as I was concerned I had a great earthly father so didn’t need a heavenly one and God was cruel for letting bad things happen. I was very opinionated and I remember having lots of heated discussions with the RE teacher who was a Christian.

I can’t remember why and who it was organised through but while at senior school I went to a Billy Graham crusade (who was an international preacher/evangelist) at Gloucester leisure centre. It was the first time I had heard about God & Jesus in real time, like he was relevant now. I remember at the end of the night people were asked if anyone wanted to become a Christian and I went forward. At the time I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was never followed up so I never really understood the decision I had made and didn’t think any more about it until many years later.

I went to college when I left school and got my first full time job at 17, I had my first serious boyfriend at 15. I had lots of friends, went out a lot, experimented with sex, drugs and alcohol and considered that I was fully enjoying life.

One thing I remember very clearly though, is that almost every night I would lie in bed and find myself thinking about life and death, I had all sorts of fears but also a very strong feeling like there was something more, that somehow I was missing out on something, that there had to be something more. I could never express it or put my finger on it but when I was alone it was there. I never spoke to anyone about this and assumed it was part of growing up.

When I was 19 while working as an admin clerk I met my future husband. We went out together for 6 months then got engaged.

He introduced me to his best friend and fiancé and we struck up a very close relationship.

They went to church and we had lots of discussions about Christianity. I was very opinionated and It was obvious I had a lot of questions so they invited us to go along to church.

We put it off a few times then finally one Sunday morning we went along.

I was nervous about going as I was expecting it to be serious and boring.

It was like no church I had ever been to before.

Firstly it was a modern building with seats instead of pews. It was bright and had no stained glass windows. It had a full on band instead of an organ and they clapped when they sang and the songs were lively and modern not just hymns.

Most importantly they were the happiest most welcoming bunch of people I had met. There was a buzz about the place and I felt at ease.

The vicar or pastor as they called him didn’t wear a gown and was a bubbly little man with a Liverpool accent and he played a banjo!!!

We went back several times over the next few months. I listened to what was preached and found that I was familiar with some of the bible stories and the life of Jesus through my O level RE.

One Sunday in March as I listened to the Pastor preaching about Gods love, his son Jesus and how he died for me and that he wanted a relationship with me. It wasn’t all about telling me what I couldn’t do or had done wrong. The part about being loved and accepted touched me deep inside. I felt like all my questions had been answered. The thing I felt was missing, the something I couldn’t put my finger on all made sense.

Back then I remember describing it as a “light bulb moment”. Now I understand it was divine revelation. It suddenly became crystal clear to me that God was real and Jesus was real and that he wanted a relationship with me.

It was common practice that whoever was preaching would ask if anyone wanted to respond and give their life to Jesus and they would come to the front of the church and someone would talk and pray for them.

My heart was pounding, I imagined it like some cartoon and that everyone could see it jumping out of my chest.

There was so much clarity that without any hesitation or thought of anyone else I strode to the front. I had to respond, there was no doubt in my mind. After I went to the front a lady prayed for me and explained to me the decision I had made and where I went from there.

I didn’t know at the time but at the same time my fiancee had made the same decision so we both became Christians on the same night.

It was great that we started our faith journey together and we had close friends at church who helped us. Some older couples within the church took us under their wing and helped us too. I had heard about the fact that you become one of Gods family when you become a Christian but didn’t really understand what it meant but everyone at church did treat us so kindly and generously , people celebrated that we were part of Gods family now and there was always someone there for us. We made some invaluable friendships.

We started to go to church every Sunday and some Wednesdays to a bible study which helped us learn more about the bible. I wanted to get involved in the work that church did so as I had always wanted to work with children I got involved with the children’s work which I ultimately did for 15 years.

I had always thought that Christian’s were serious, boring and never did anything fun. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were things that had to change in my life but I found that as my relationship with Jesus and my knowledge of faith grew that anything I was doing wrong just fell away. Some things were harder than others. For example I found that I stopped swearing almost immediately without even trying but giving up smoking took several months. I can honestly say that faith in Jesus has never meant that I have had to give up anything that I miss or added value to me life. Most things were not really good for me anyway and I am a happier, healthier person as a result.

We asked our Pastor if he would marry us and he agreed so in 1988 we got married. We went on to have 2 sons , one in 1991 and one in 1996.

Through going to church regularly I soon understood the main things about faith in Jesus. I believed that he was The Son of God and that he loved me and died for my sin (all the bad things I have done in my life) and that this is a continual thing as you don’t suddenly become perfect.

There were however things that I really struggled with. The biggest thing was “fear”.

Mainly this focused on the fear of losing someone close to me. This fear escalated when I had my boys. I found that if I was in control I didn’t worry but if I wasn’t I would be gripped with irrational thoughts and fears that something bad would happen. I would find myself feeling like I was dreaming but I was awake as I would have the most awful tragic thought and I would play scenario’s in my head of what could happen and how I would react. I hated my boys doing anything out of the ordinary. I was also racked with guilt at having the thoughts in the first place. I got to the stage where I felt I was going mad and finally confided in someone.

They helped me and encouraged me to look at what God said about fear. I remember looking up every verse in the bible and discovered that God didn’t want me to be bound by fear. I also discovered that the underlying thing was “TRUST”. I could trust God with most things but not the thing most precious to me, I wanted to be in control. I found I was afraid that if something happened to my boys it was the one thing I couldn’t forgive God for and I feared I would lose my faith.

The thing that set me free from fear was learning to surrender everything to God and to trust him that his ways are perfect. This wasn’t always easy to do as I liked to be in control, I held close to the scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 “ For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster. I will give you a future and a hope”.

I had read about Gods peace in the bible and how it is beyond anything we can understand and I can honestly say I have experienced this time and time again when fear or insecurity has raised its ugly head again. I surrender to God and trust him and he gives me real peace that cannot be explained.

The other fear was not being accepted or liked by other people. I hid it well by pretending that I was confident and always having something to say for myself but behind the mask I constantly compared myself to other people and would feel that I was not good enough. I would put other people on pedestals and put myself down. All the while I would put on a happy bubbly face and pretend everything was okay.

One day at a church conference another divine revelation came to me that would change my life forever. A woman speaker spoke about women as “Daughters of the King/daughters of the living God” and how special that made us. She talked about our uniqueness and value in Gods eyes. I had never fully understood this before.

They unwrapped a scripture to me in Jeremiah 1:5 “I knew you before you were formed in the womb”. I discovered that the word of God said in Psalm 139 that” I was fearfully and wonderfully made”, I was “set apart” and that my life had a “purpose and a plan” that only I could fulfil but most importantly that God created me to be “me” not to be like anyone else and that I was good enough.

God’s word was mind blowing to me and set me free from insecurity and set me on a new journey to find who I was in God and what he wanted me to do with my life. I can’t describe how totally liberating it is not to feel like I had to conform any more, that I didn’t need to be like someone else. There is so much pressure in the world today that can rob us of being happy with who we are.

I have discovered over the years thanks to my relationship with God and brilliant provisions within the church what my strengths and gifts are and how to serve others using my God given talents and abilities. God has also helped me to overcome some weaknesses and to accept that No-one is good at everything, that some are just the way I am. I have done things I never would have imagined I would.

Being a Christian does not mean that you have a perfect life, we live in the same world and experience life the same as anyone else. The main difference is that we believe that our life is not an accident, we believe in God and that he created everything, it didn’t just all come into being through some big explosion, we believe that God is in control no matter what happens.

We believe that life has bigger meaning than just being born and dying and doing the best with what you have in between.

I have been a Christian for 27 years and I have experienced loss, grief, infertility, miscarriage, marriage problems, health issues, debt and much more but I have never felt alone through any of these things.

I also experience God’s grace, peace, love and forgiveness every day, I have received healing, financial blessings, success, I have had breakthrough in many issues in my life and with God’s strength and direction I have overcome many different situations that life has thrown at me.

To have a sense of purpose in my life is so special to me, I love the fact I can look beyond just myself. I have a warm and loving family and another extra special family in all my friends at church.

God has given me a heart and desire to care and serve people outside of my family and friends. I head up the Hospitality at One church, I run a small home group with my husband, I am involved in community mentoring and I have been on missions to Belgium and Belarus. Serving in these different areas in the church are so rewarding.

Most importantly I have great fun. Being a Christian is never boring, I feel I live life to the full.

When I lie in bed now I think about how blessed I am. I thank God that I found what I was looking for. Some people say that everyone has a God shaped hole that only he can fill, this was true for me. I knew something was missing, like the last piece of a jigsaw God was the piece that made me complete.

I can honestly say that I feel whole and complete and I am so glad that I responded to Jesus and gave him a chance.

 

For anyone who hasn’t I would say you really do have nothing to lose only more than you could ever imagine to gain.


Paul

PaulI’ve been a Christian since age 9 and through some ups and downs since then I truly know that God is my solid foundation. He brings;

Peace – I know that my sins are forgiven through Jesus and that God understands and loves me no matter what. All I have to do is believe, ask for forgiveness and I’m clean!

Purpose - I’m not drifting aimlessly, or frantically struggling to make sense of it all. I know that I have a destiny and that the Holy Spirit enables me to apply gifts and talents both within the church and in everyday life.

Pleasure - Serving God and others brings pleasure to God and real personal fulfilment. It’s great to look beyond the ‘I want’ culture that typifies our consumer-driven age. I really appreciate good things, but pursuing these doesn’t consume me.

It’s a great journey!

 

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Dan

DanI suppose you might say I’ve led a pretty average life. When I was younger I drank too much alcohol and took too many drugs, but still managed to work hard and just about keep things together. I’ve been blessed with good friends, a lovely wife, son and daughter, and had reasonably good health throughout.

Despite this I’ve still had to face common issues- being made redundant twice, suffering from bulimia, anxiety and getting into financial debt. The reality is that life still throws up huge challenges, but the difference for me now is that I know my future is in God’s hands and since He has never failed to get me through, I have no reason to doubt Him.

God brings me a peace in life, despite the trials, that I can barely describe and only experience by letting God lead the way. No more bulimia or anxiety, the debts nearly paid off and I have a great job – all this from trusting God – not bad eh?

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Paul – Extended Story

Paul - Extended StoryThe truth is that I’ve believed in God for as long as I can remember, having been brought up in a Christian family and at the age of 9 I distinctly remember praying with one of my Sunday school teachers and asking God to forgive my sins and saying that I wanted to follow Him always.

Having said that, as I went through my junior school into early senior school I found that the way I lived didn’t really match up to that prayer. I often got into trouble at school, was bored and restless and fights and petty theft were becoming a norm for me. Being a dad now its dreadful to think how I’d feel about my own kids doing that from the age of 9!

There were three things that really altered my course and God was at work in all of these;

1. I was caught stealing and my Dad got a copper from our church at the time to come round in his uniform and give me a right telling off.

2. We moved to a more ‘charismatic’ and lively church – my Dad really found that God was real and became wholeheartedly committed to following Him, as my Mum already was. The church was really inspiring for me too.

3. A few years later – at the age of 14, I started going out with the girl who I’d eventually marry – ahhhhhhh! What a Godsend!

So, my teenage years were spent learning more about God, I was baptised at the age of 14 and experienced the Holy Spirit’s power working through me as part of a very active and passionate youth group. Even when I was temporarily ditched by my girlfriend (she soon saw the light!) I knew that God was with me and He got me through a difficult time. All in all I was happy and the future seemed bright.

I found my twenties much more challenging spiritually. Great in many ways – got married, home, mortgage, good career, loads of (before kids) free time, playing in sports clubs etc. etc. But I allowed God to get crowded out as I pursued these other things. And ultimately I had an emptiness because of that.

We changed churches a couple of times and at one point I didn’t even bother going for a year or so – when I look back I clearly still believed in God but just wasn’t focused on growing spiritually or pursuing my God-given purpose – had no idea what it was or how to find it.

Thankfully God orders our steps, even when we don’t realise.

During our time at one particular church my eyes were truly opened to God’s call on my life. This was a period of real spiritual and personal development – during which I changed careers, qualified professionally, my wife did pretty much the same, our two kids were born and a while later my wife’s Mum passed away from cancer. She was really well cared for at the church and that made me realise truly what being church meant, rather than just going to church. I found that God had gifted me in various ways and the church provided a drive and purpose to grow and learn how to use these gifts. I am so thankful for that time.

5 years on, we found ourselves at Robinswood Church (now One Church) and this has also proved to be fantastic. We love being part of what God is doing in Gloucester and more widely. During our time at One Church God has really challenged me to confront fear, to grasp opportunities to step out and taken on new roles and experiences. This has included a mission trip to the Philippines with some amazing friends and the opportunity to lead a Connect Group and more recently the Connect system as a whole. This is way out of my comfort zone – praise God that in him we can do more than we could possibly imagine! Philippians 4: 6-7 are verses that I have relied upon for many years now;

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So to sum it up, without God I believe I’d be living a much more self-centred and limited life. With God I know I have a purpose, I have a peace that rests within me and I know that honouring and following God brings Him pleasure. There’s never a dull moment and I love being on this great journey!


Angie

Angie

I grew up in Germany with Christian parents. We moved back to England when I was 14. Starting a new school and making new friends changed my priorities. I ended up pushing God to the back of my mind, and got involved in things which I really should have steered clear of. But I was happy.

One day this sense of urgency began. At first I ignored it, not really understanding what it was all about. Suddenly I realized it was God offering me a choice; to choose “life on the wild side”, or to come back to Him.

So I slowly started going back to church. It’s been a long journey with ups and downs, and I’m so thankful that He accepts me with all my imperfections. I know I had people praying for me and I’m grateful that I serve a God of second chances.

Without Gods comfort and peace, I know I would not have got through what life has thrown at me.


Rebekka

RebekkaGrowing up abroad I felt at a young age a real sense of destiny, huge love for life and for God. I asked Jesus into my life when I was about 5 and never looked back. Later we moved to Berlin where I saw a lot of violence and heartache around me. Sadly the church we belonged to was unable to meet the needs.

I wanted to run from religion and its double standards, yet felt so hungry for God and his reality. God filled that hole in my heart like only he can.

There was a lot of insecurity in my life and it still comes knocking at times! But I’ve proved God to be everything he promised to be, whether I’m lying on a beautiful beach or on a hospital bed.

I find his love unchanging and tangible and the Bible relevant for today and really powerful.


Heidi

Heidi

At 17 I became a Christian. I thought I would never turn my back on that decision.

Then in 2009 I did. Life got messy. I slowly stopped trusting God and began trying to figure stuff out for myself. Life got worse. I got angry.

In September 2009, I went to watch Joseph at the theatre. Joseph had a dream but life went real bad. But Joseph still trusted in God and didn’t forget his dreams. As I watched I began wanting to remember my dreams. I wanted to believe there was more to life than just existing, to see my future as good.

I went to church that Sunday and couldn’t stop crying. I began to put stuff right with God.

Six months later, I have peace and hope again. I thank God for being patient with me and not giving up on me. The futures bright once again.


Louisa

DSC_2893.1

Looking back I now realise that there was a part of me that was always looking for God. When I was a teenager I questioned things all the time and had an opinion on everything.

I enjoyed life. I had a job, boyfriends, a great family and social life, but I remember always feeling like something was missing. I remember lying in bed almost every night thinking about life and death and feeling this overwhelming feeling that I was missing out on something that I was supposed to be a part of but didn’t have a clue what it was.

Through a series of events I ended up at Robinswood church where I finally found all the answers to my questions in a relationship with Jesus. Someone once said to me that everyone has a God shaped hole in their lives, that was me, I didn’t realise what it was until God filled it.

The knowledge that God has a plan and purpose for my life gives me peace and confidence in everything I do. I have been a Christian now for nearly 23 years and I have never looked back.

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Phil

PhilI was brought up in a Christian family although church was really just a ‘social’ thing for me when I was young. In my later teens I was trying to make sense of who I was and where I fitted into the whole wider scheme of things and discovered the role that God played and could play in my life – adding him into the equation meant that lots of other questions were answered and now made a lot more sense and my faith in God went on to become the foundation for my life.

 

I believe this has given me the peace and guidance that I needed and was looking for together with the hope and certainty about the future that I wanted. Looking back I can see how he has guided me through the various life stages (although I was sometimes not always aware of this during some of those times).


Nicki

Nicki
Question:
What do you call someone whose life was bound by depression, anxiety and an eating disorder by 14 years of age; a person with an irrational fear of death,  whose first marriage resulted in domestic violence and then went on to suffer with OCD living life in fear of everything and everyone?


Answer:
A mess! 


Solution:
15 years ago a colleague took me to church and I was overwhelmed by a feeling of peace and love – the presence of Jesus.  That night I said a prayer to invite Jesus in to my life and was adopted into the family of God.


Life still has its ups and downs but each and every day Jesus is doing life right beside me.  I am now remarried with a great family and I’m free to be the person God intended me to be, living a life of excitement, fulfilment and happiness!


Jill

Jill

When I was growing up I never gave much thought to God but lived a reasonably good life. When I was 18 something happened that was to change me. Three days after my 18th birthday I was in a car crash and my boyfriend was killed. Six months later I was in another serious car crash but I was alive and all my injuries healed. I thought why has God saved my life? Sometime later I befriended some Christians and they told me that Jesus loves us so much that he died that we might have life, life to the full. I had felt empty and directionless but then knew that God would forgive me of my sins and offer me new life if I came to Him. I gave my life to Christ on 29th June 1981 and felt an overwhelming sense of being loved by God. I had found peace and my life had purpose.


Ady

AdyI always believed in God and thought as long as I did more good than bad then I would be ok with Him. That was how I lived my life until at 22yrs old I heard that God wasn’t impressed with my efforts to “balance the books”. I read that the very best of my efforts were like filthy rags in God’s eyes! But the good news was that all God wanted from me was that I believe and accept that His son Jesus died on the cross instead of me, being punished for all my actions that had offended God. With sincerity I apologised to God and immediately felt a peace I’d never known before – his forgiveness. Since that time I’ve gone through life with troubles still there, but I know God’s there too. He’s always worth a try!!


Dave

DaveI was raised in a Christian home and went to Sunday school and church from a young age. I first made a commitment to Jesus when I was about 10, it helped a lot at the time but as I reached my mid/late teens I got into drinking, smoking, clubs, pubs and all-night raves. I also had several girlfriends but no relationship lasted very long. At the end of one relationship I decided it was time to renew my commitment to Jesus as I found none of these things could fulfil me and I had no peace in my life. From then on my life got better instantly, I got a better job, more friends and in time married my beautiful wife, we now have 2 boys.

Above all I have the peace of God and a meaning and purpose to my life that could never be replaced.


David

DavidBoth my parents are Christians, I grew up in a Christian home and for ages I thought that that was it. I remember when I first decided to be a Christian for myself. It was at a kids’ camp, I don’t remember how old I was and I think it was my mum speaking. But I remember feeling that God wanted me to decide to follow Him for myself.

There were times in my life when I went away from God but I was always brought back to the fact that there is a God who made everything who loves me, who gives me a peace in my heart in my hardest times.


David

DavidI grew up in a Christian family attending church every week.


As a teenager, in my mind, I began to question some of the traditions and beliefs I was being taught. However I couldn’t deny the presence of a power and peace that I could see in the lives of some Christians around me.


I needed to experience God for myself, but it was only when I made a step of faith, and asked God into my life, that I had that personal experience with Him.


A few years later I had an awesome encounter with God when I received his Spirit and spoke in a number of different languages (see “Baptism of The Spirit”, The Bible, Acts, chapter 2 verse 4).


Trusting God’s plan for my life has been really good, he has given me a loving soul-mate in my wife and five rewarding children.