Stories of faith

The way faith in Jesus Christ takes shape in individual lives is fascinating. People encounter God every day and in all manner of ways, through prayer, reading the Bible, through conversation, going to church, even sitting having a cup of coffee and reflecting on life. God is one who likes to be in relationship with the people He has created. Click on the local people below to read about their story of faith. Ask yourself what your story is at this stage in your life and share it with us!

My testimony – Debbie Alcock

debbiealcockI am 48 years old and as a child through to my late teens I was full of faith and Jesus’s love for me. Sadly my Vicar at that time shunned my sister for her sexuality. I felt I could no longer worship in a church that did not practice the love I saw in the Gospels, and so I sought another church family. I did not find one, and over the years I drifted away from being a practising Christian. At this time my life began to get hard, but I consoled myself that I was doing God’s work through my work protecting children. Over the years I stopped praying. I did no form of worship and life got tougher.

My partner of 10 years was then diagnosed as having terminal heart failure with an expected life span of six months. His dying wish was that we got married, and he wanted to get married in Church. We chose St Bartholomew’s in Bobbing and as this was a partnered church, our Banns were read at Holy Trinity, Sittingbourne. We went to hear our Banns being read. The minute I walked in I felt the Holy Spirit strongly and spent the next few Sundays crying out my grief at having lost my faith. My husband was now waiting to see if he could have a heart transplant. In April 2011 he had a further scan that revealed his heart was very distorted and was not functioning well. He also had arrhythmia and a distorted valve. In May I took part in Prayer week and communicated and worshipped God like never before. In June my husband was beginning to walk better and we went for the transplant work up at the Papworth Hospital. The new tests and scans showed that his heart had now shrunk back to a better shape, his valve was working, but he still had arrhythmia. He did not need a new heart and they said he should have no problems for another 15 years or so – Miracle.

But this is not the end of my story I then began to become a faithful disciple of Jesus (or at least I try to be). I went to New Wine for the first time in Summer 2012. After one evening service I heard God tell me very clearly to go and study Deborah – my own name, and shamefully I didn’t immediately understand. I was also told I had to give up my job in the civil service. This was hard as my wages were the only income. However I did this (my husband was not amused as despite the miracle, he struggles with his faith and does not yet believe). In short the lessons in Deborah are about fighting injustice by gathering people around her.

I am now two years later running a Christian business, training others in Early Years work to protect children but more importantly lobbying government and Ofsted and have gained success in changing policies alongside others.

Had you told me this story four years ago I would not have believed it, but in God all things are possible.

Thank you Lord.

My testimony – Tom Keenan

oldsandalsI was brought up in a non-Christian family, but a really loving one at that! One summer when I was 15, I met a girl who suggested I come along to a youth group, after hearing it was about God I mentioned, “I don’t believe in God, but if you’re going I’ll be there!”

That summer I became curious about faith after the particular girl I was interested in lost interest in the youth group – people there were “living for God”, a God I thought had died and existed only 2000 years ago.

I went to Soul Survivor the next year, with many questions but with the desire to just have a laugh camping with my friends. On the first day we heard the Gospel, and after hearing from the guy in a poncho at the front that they were going to do “healing” my ears pricked up. Seriously? Healing? Have a laugh, I thought. The week beforehand I had been surfing in France and picked up a nasty ear infection – foolishly I had forgotten to finish my cycle of antibiotics and the pain had come back on arrival at Soul Survivor. As the preacher began to “hear from God” he pointed out different specific ailments he sensed people around the room had – “A 25 year old male with tennis elbow” – people were standing up and being prayed for.

He then went on to call on someone who “had no expectations of the week, but had an aching right ear” that he felt God wanted to heal. Knowing this was me, I timidly looked around the room. Nobody stood up. He called it again. Still, nobody. I caught my sister’s eye (who knew my condition), and she encouraged me to stand up.

I was prayed for and healed (after several denials of me being able to feel anything, I then felt way better).

The week was great, but I didn’t want to be caught up in the bubble that was a week away from home, without the parents, and without distractions of my world back at home, so I decided on “trying out” faith at home.

The first night I came home I closed my door and prayed to God. I said something along the lines of “God, if you’re real, you’re going to have to make it pretty clear to me, cos’ this could change everything”. That evening I had a dream of God telling me to sit a particular way and that he’d speak to me through it. The next evening I decided to try this. Immediately I began receiving words (I had no idea this was the Holy Spirit, and that I was welcoming him). Bewildered I wrote them down, with a particular phrase “Pass the baton” coming to mind.

With questions buzzing around my head, I told my youth worker what I’d done and what I’d heard, hoping she could shed some light on it. She told me what I had done, and the word I received was the church vision for the next year that the leadership team had come up with the previous weekend (and had kept it under wraps to announce at the end of the year!).

Here I knew God was real, that he wanted a relationship with me and to encourage me to “pass the baton” too.

When I became 18 I would’ve called myself a Christian, but wasn’t the best example. I recall a significant moment when I had to make a real choice. I was in a club in Madrid at 5am feeling worse for wear. Dancing around like a moron, a friend came up to me and asked if I wanted another drink – everything around me went in slow motion, and I felt the Holy Spirit say, it’s up to you, either go that way or actually pursue me and all I have for you.

The next year I got baptized, and have been following Jesus since.

My testimony – Val

applesAs a child, I went to a convent school. At weekends, I went to a strict Baptist church. There you were expected to be baptised at 13, and although I was baptised then, I didn’t at that time make a personal commitment to God. I was always very aware of God – but I had had no personal experience, no personal encounter with God at that stage.

Years later, probably when I was around 20, a lady gave me a book to read. The book was about an American woman who had had a ‘Damascus’ experience. I ignored the book at first, but one day when I as bored, I started to read it, and I saw how God was alive to this lady – she had a real, personal experience of God. I wanted to get this sorted out for myself. I got on to my knees and asked Jesus to come into my life. I thanked him for dying for me and for doing so much for me. I said that I wanted him to be Lord of my life. I had such a sense of love that was completely overwhelming. It was a real turning point in my life, and I felt that I wanted to mark it with a believer’s baptism – my dying to self and being born again.

Since then God’s Grace has led me closer to Him – giving me the courage to listen to and follow His voice.

My testimony – Naomi Smith

naomismithI have grown up in a Christian family. Being Christian was completely normal – mum and dad read us faith-based bedtime stories, we said Grace at mealtimes, I was always the annoying one to get the right answers at Sunday School. I had a strong sense that God loved us, but I never really told God that I loved him.

When I was 16, I went to a Youth Service at St Peter & St Paul, Lynsted. I listened to one of the talks and had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to confirm to God that I wanted to follow him for the rest of my life. We sang:

‘Father God, I wonder how I managed to exist

Without the knowledge of Your parenthood and Your loving care’

I had sung this since I was small – it had even annoyed me, because it was so familiar – but now the words completely expressed, were the epitome of how I was feeling. I learnt in that moment to mean the words I was singing – I realised ‘I get this song’. I think God had been waiting a long time for me – I had been confirmed at 13, and although there had been glimpses of understanding for a long time this was the first time that I had consciously given myself to God.

It made a massive difference to the way I lived and wanted to live my life. At that point – the specifics weren’t there but the detail that I wanted God to be in all my decisions was clear – boys, which job I did, my friends, university choice . . . From that point on it wasn’t about me – from the everyday to the big decisions in my life, it wasn’t in my hands anymore. And that brought an amazing sense of calm – whatever it was in my life I knew that if I’d prayed about it then the right thing would happen. There is now no constant ‘what if’ – I know that God’s got it.

Since then a major part of my faith journey has included a gap year with a visit to South Africa and preparation for drama school. I knew that I wanted to audition for drama school and which schools were available; and I knew that getting into drama school was very, very difficult. Whilst in South Africa I had a very significant dream – although I was conscious. In my dream I saw three very clear paths covering the next few years: Faversham; Guildford School of Acting (GSA); South Africa. Whilst I was looking, the South Africa path faded and the Guildford path got bigger, and I knew that the Faversham path was meant to lead to Guildford. This was a major thing for me, answering my questions to God – ‘Can you hear me? And can I hear you, God?’ At the two-day audition for GSA, I had an overwhelming sense of peace – I knew that I’d got the place. It’s ridiculous that I should get a place – it’s so difficult to get into drama school – this was a massive God thing.

At the end of my gap year I went to Soul Survivor. It was one of the first times that I’d experienced that kind of worship – it gave me the freedom to express myself to God in a way that I’d not known before, to worship in a more free way. And that has allowed God to do more in me – it’s not about me, it’s all about God.

At GSA I joined a church with an amazing house group. I started dating my now husband, Toby. Toby was at University College London, and worshipped at Holy Trinity Brompton. I enjoyed the style of worship there – it was a new experience for me. Over my three years at university I worked out the way I connect with God – that it’s not about me – and knowing that I can connect with God in many different places and ways.

Over the last two years I’ve learnt more and seen more. I now have a new job as a Children and Families Minister, which is completely new to me – and here I’m going to have to rely 100% on God – I’m going to need God quite a lot . . .