Transition: Conferences

NWA1I remember my first real conference. A conference where I was a punter but also part of the team. I was a relay worker and was about to embark on a two-week conference. Lanyards were around our necks, instant coffee was steaming in the corner, nervousness was filling the air. Good times.

Conferences are a strange place. People who look like each other gather together to listen to talks and buy books and drink bad coffee. Sometimes people camp together and it nearly always rains.

I haven’t always enjoyed the conferences I have been to over the years, but the Lord has certainly taught me a lot through them. I have met amazing people and I have heard amazing people speak. I remember listening to Mike Reeves talk about the Trinity for the first time at Forum and I thought my world had collapsed. It was amazing.

I have been a part of the team that serves behind the scenes or in yellow jackets telling herding Christians where to sit and being rather surprised by how angry and rude they are when they can’t sit where they want. The heart spills out, eh? I have also been on a planning committee, working out how a conference should fit together, how best to serve the people, how to problem solve and praying that the Lord would change hearts. I learnt that conferences take a lot of time and effort.

I have been a speaker, opening the bible with people and sharing Jesus, doing group work and seminars. Spending months in prep and prayer. I loved having that opportunity.

nextleadersI have loved conferences where I can meet up with fellow staff workers and chat and pray together, sometimes not seeing each other until the next conference which is months away. I love the randomness, the sharing of rooms and the cake eating.

I love it when students come to Forum or ForumSW and they encounter Jesus. They start to see afresh what the CU is about, they start to catch the vision and then they start planning.

Also conferences are a chance to say goodbye. It is currently Relay 3 as I write this and the relay workers are saying goodbye right now. I remember that and the reality of not staying in touch with people afterwards, but glad of the opportunity to say goodbye. On staff we have final team days next week, a time to say goodbye and thank you. It is good to have time and space for that.

Conferences are a strange bubble. I often find it hard being away and being so close to people that you can’t find any time to just be alone. But conferences have been a huge part of my life over these 6 years and I am glad I have been to them. So thank you for that opportunity.

Transition: Where it all Began

It all began 10 years ago.

Stepping onto campus as a fresher, stuffing all my things in my room, putting the pot plants on the side knowing they will die in a few days. Bringing hundreds of pots and pans for cooking like everyone else and trying to work out how it was all going to fit in the kitchen.

Freshers week was a mixture of working out what kind of person I was going to be and how I was going to use this fresh new start.

I had heard of the CU but only through a little leaflet that came in my freshers pack advertising their events. I missed most of their meetings that week. It wasn’t until someone in our halls invited me to the CU meeting on a Thursday night that I actually went along and worked out whether I wanted to be a part of this strange group.

I didn’t know that 10 years later I would have invested my life into campus student ministry. It is crazy to think that. I came to Uni wanting to do a computing degree and get a good job and earn money, but the Lord had other plans.

As I look back on those 10 years its hard to imagine what it would have been like if I never went to that CU meeting – I imagine that life would be very different for me.

It makes me so thankful for my time as a student in CU. Thankful for opportunities to serve on committee, to organise a mission week that gave me a flavour and ideas for reaching the campus.

I am thankful for my staff worker willing to meet up with me and answer all of my questions. I am thankful for the friends I made in CU and on my course. Thankful for those years of forming my theology as a young Christian and placing in my heart a high priority to reach the lost.

I am thankful to my church who loved CU and supported me through my time at Uni. I am thankful for the relay workers who spent time serving us and guiding us. I am thankful for the training I got through UCCF and thankful for the people I met.

I am thankful that my staff worker put me in touch with a geeky guy from Reading who was on committee at the same time as me, which resulted in the geeky guy becoming my husband.

Those 4 years of serving in CU, where it all began, where so formative for me. I made so many mistakes, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and yet I was allowed to have a go and develop skills and convictions and passions.

It was near the end of my degree that I realised I wanted to serve in CU for longer and that led me on to the journey as a relay worker in the UK and then in Peru and then as staff worker in the UK.

I really treasure my time as a student in CU and I know it wasn’t perfect, but the Lord used it to change me and form me and I am thankful for all those that invested in me, helped me, corrected me and walked with me on this journey.

How to enjoy Relay Homestart

Around this time a few years ago I was getting ready to go on my next adventure by doing Relay Homestart in Peru. I know all the feelings of being excited, nervous, unsure, insecure, scared, happy, sad to leave friends etc… with a million emotions all in one I knew I would be boarding that plane soon with no language skills and no real understanding of what it means to live in a different culture and really no idea of what I was really doing. So as I am guessing that some of you will be feeling these things at some point, I want to write a quick guide on how to enjoy and make the most of Relay Homestart and also short term mission – whether that’s in Europe or China or South America…

  1. Pray and continue praying – this may sound like a given. But we are sinful creatures that like to draw upon Gods help at the start and then when we get use to the culture and the language, suddenly God can be out the picture. Don’t be complacent, continue praying and bring everything to God
  2. Don’t expect it to be like Relay – On Relay you had amazing support every week, you had theology to read, students to meet up with and conferences to build fellowship. But its all different on homestart, don’t expect it to be like Relay at all – you may not get weekly support and it will take you a while before you can speak the language enough to be able to meet up with students one to one. This wont be like fitting on a glove. You are not the star relay worker in your university spouting Grace and Grudem. Your the foreigner that cant speak the language. But there are lots of advantages for it not being like Relay and you will find them out.
  3. Jump into the culture – The Culture your going into is different and can seem scary and you may get culture shock. The only way I dealt with this is by not shutting myself away but being apart of the lives of others in the culture. I was living with a family and so I joined in on everything the family was doing – watching TV with them, going to church events, going shopping with them etc…although I couldn’t speak Spanish, my actions and my time shared with them proved to be shouting louder then words. So join a youth group or prayer group, join in with a family, be with different people and don’t just hang out with English speaking people. Also try and eat everything or at least a bite – it shows your willing to try things.

  4. Don’t live on Facebook – Its very tempting to hide yourself away on facebook everyday. My suggestion is to not touch facebook for the first month – your friends will understand. Its more important that you get to know people where you are living then keep updated on the facebook feed. Your relationships where you are will be better off.

  5. Enjoy the Differences – everything will be different – smells, food, people, clothes… but don’t be cynical – its easy to believe that the English culture is always right, but you will see that its not and there is so much to learn in the differences. At times it will be frustrating, but as much as you can enjoy the differences – don’t complain about them to other people, but let your words be encouraging and pure.

  6. Your Identity is in Jesus – This is a huge lesson I learned. It is very easy to place your worth and Identity in everything but Jesus. You will want to place it in your language skills or how many one to ones you have or what you are doing compared to everyone else. But quickly you will see that when you place your worth in those things you will fall apart because they will not stand up – your language will fail, you will find yourself at times doing nothing or not knowing what to do! But Jesus will always remain and if your identity is in Him you will not fall and he will never fail you. Ever.

  7. Don’t expect to stay in touch with everyone – Some people are good at keeping in touch, some are not. Some will be annoyed that you are not emailing them everyday. The truth is, is that you wont have time to be keeping in touch with everyone and that’s a reality that you will have to not feel guilty about.

  8. Read your bible – Keep yourself in the word even if you don’t have a routine. You will find that church wont be a place where you can get either teaching you understand or teaching that’s going to feed you. But the Word of God will feed you. Keep in his word, enjoy His word, Delight in his Word, Weep over His Word and Rejoice that you have the Word of God in your hands.

  9. Be prepared for crazy emotions – At times you will find yourself so happy your skipping down the road and then the next moment you are crying. You will feel alone and then very loved. This is normal, so don’t worry. But remember your emotions are not reliable – but God is. Your emotions go up and down but God stays the same. God is still God. That is a good truth to hold on to. Don’t be subject to your emotions, but know that God uses you in your weakness and when you are alone, you are actually very close to Jesus.

  10. Love – Love the people, love the fruit lady, love your team mates, love other missionaries, love the crazy drunk man on the street, love the unlovable, love Jesus and do everything in Love. And enjoy every moment.