Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Another Step Nearer
 Isn't it amazing how quick things change? I don't know why I'm so surprised, that's the way God works at times. In the space of 3 days the reality of going to Serbia has taken a huge leap forward. God showed me He is the provider in very real terms - with a great gift (thank you) and a flat to rent. Karolina and Sretan's flat is available and I have said I will rent it. It's exciting to think I'll be able to make a home from home and hopefully offer some good hospitality (I'm practicing my cooking at the moment!).
There is still one hurdle to get over - I need to rent out 2 of my rooms. I have spoken to Krassi (a Bulgarian Christian who is staying with me at the moment) and she seems to think she may be moving on. She will let me know if her plans change. So if you can think of anyone interested in renting a room - I have a double room for £70.00 per week plus bills and a slightly smaller one for £60.00 plus bills.
The reality of going away is beginning to hit me. There are lots of things to do and things to pack away or got rid off. There's homes for a cat and rabbit (not necessarily together), unless I'm blessed with someone who would like to look after the cat and rent a room - is that too much to ask?, maybe. Leaving the local church is going to be harder than I thought it would be. I know we can still keep in touch via the Internet and link up that way. I know it's only 5 months but leaving family and friends is going to be hard. I've been trying to sell Serbia to them - a great place to come for a break away, or Sofia if they just want to fly somewhere! Not sure if anyone will take me up on that idea.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

To Serbia, With Love
Continuing my testimony - I had just said "yes" to being part of a team to Serbia ...
Saying "Yes" to joining the team was the easy part. The following months leading up to going out were such a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I learned such a lot in a short space of time. There were moments when I was ready to say "forget it, I'll stay at home". I began to recognise the moments of doubt and rode through them. Once I had persevered through each one something significant occurred either immediately or very soon afterward. Unfortunately I cannot remember any to share with you.

What did I learn? Sometimes when we are walking God's path and being obedient we are spiritually attacked. It is a choice to crumble or stand and fight. Another important thing I learned was God gives each of us gifts - sometimes they are for a season, others for longer, sometimes it's part of our personality. I hadn't been a Christian long and seemed to see so much in other Christians and not much in me. I began to accept myself for myself - not to measure myself against others. We are all on a walk and all at different stages and we all different things to learn.

I read before going to Serbia about life changing trips people have had. Little did I know what an impact 10 days would have on me. When we landed in Serbia and arrived in Nis it felt very familiar, as if I knew the place. It reminded me of Russia (I was fortunate to be involved in a student exchange in 1990). It had the same feel, look and smell.

I had only been there 3 days when I was getting upset about coming home. I tried hard to put that aside to enjoy the time. I thought it may be like other times I've been away and really liked a place and not want it to end. It was great to be part of a team and get to know them.

I was out of my comfort zone. At times I did feel completely out of my depth but kept on pushing myself. It made me realise how much could be done if only I keep on pushing.

Friendships were made both within the team and with Serbians (I won't name names out of fear of missing out someone and offending them - how British is that?!). It is good to know the friendships are ongoing even after a year.

I used to think I had a heart for working with children but here I was making friends with young adults. I used to be scared of teenagers and upwards but it opened my eyes to youth. If I could speak to younger people in a foreign country I could do it at home.
I think that has been a pattern since coming home - doing things in a local church. As my passion for the Nations grows so does my passion for my local church.

After coming home in September 2007 I planned to make a return journey as soon as I could - which was December 2007. It was a good time to go back - colder weather (not being seduced by sunshine),fewer British and able to see what it could be like spending time out there. This gave a different view of Serbia, but still one I liked. It was an event to get back out - I had a flight booked for the 24th December, only to find out after 3 hours at the airport it was cancelled. I have never seen such a long, slow moving queue before - I waited another 3 hours to find another flight. I was able to spend a week in Serbia.

At that time my contract for my job was ending in May 2008 so I started to work towards going back to Serbia for a year. Things were difficult and didn't seem to moving in the right direction. After lots of prayer it was decided to put the plans on hold for a while. I still did as much as I could to move things along and remained open. At the time I felt it definitely would not happen in 2008 so engaged more in Wellspring.
There had been lots of ladies over a long period of time at Wellspring saying about having a ladies breakfast. I prayed about it and realised that perhaps I should start things. I think one reason for it not happening sooner was because we didn't have our own building, but that reason had gone. I felt a great need to bring us,the ladies, together in fellowship and thought this may be a good way to start it. Over the following months other people have been involved in organising which is great - it is being shaped by the ladies that attend and it's interesting to see how it is evolving.
I went back to Serbia with a team in August 2008. It was a completely different focus, running a holiday club. I had helped at one or two MAD clubs and had limited experience. It was good to have a different focus as it helped me grow more. It was also good to be back in Nis and to explore. It also helped me pray about what my connection with Serbia was. Was it coming out on teams each year, or something else? Right up to the last day I thought that maybe it was being part of a team but something changed. I cannot explain what but I felt I had to come out longer-term and soon.
Now I am working towards going out to Serbia in January for 5 months. Unfortunately my Serbian language partner is in Novi Sad so am finding it difficult to get motivated to learn on my own. There are lots of other things to do but I think the preparation is an important time too. God has already done so much for me and it's so exciting wondering if He'll do more.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Where did I start?
My blog description says about how I got to"where I am". I find it amazing to look back and see how far I've come. So should I start with my testimony? Do you know something I think I will as it's a good place and I can share some of my passions with you and maybe you'll get to know me a little bit better in the process
I, like so many other people, thought that being christened as a baby automatically made me a Christian. I said a prayer now and again, went to church when we went back to Wales, which was about it.  

My parents were believers but didn’t go to Church when I was growing up. Before we moved to Essex (where I grew up) I know they were very active in their local church. When we moved we couldn’t find a church they liked. They tried different ones every now and again – no-one would speak to us.

I thought I turned my back on God when my parents died. I was 17 when my dad came home from work and had a heart attack. I was (a very young) 20 when my mum died of cancer. I had finished college in the June. I had been told she was not going to be healed. She became progressively worse over the next month and I made an unconscious decision not to look for work but stay and look after her. She died in the November. I didn’t understand why they had died and I started to look for an answer. I read lots about different religions and took bits and pieces and followed my own way.

I held onto my grief for a very long time and was angry with those around me (mainly my brother - sorry). I suffered from depression for many years following the death of my mum having good and bad times. Looking back it seems as if I was on self-destruct. I began looking in the wrong places to heal my pain - mainly in the arms of men. If a man showed me interest I would pursue him, sometimes it developed into a relationship sometimes only for a few hours. I felt good and loved for a while but when I was back on my own the loneliness and rejection was overwhelming at times which would make me search more company.

I was taking lots of time off work and hit a bad time and couldn't go on and had some time off. I was becoming more and more agoraphobic (scared to go outside the house) and very scared about losing my brother and had to keep tabs on him. Thankfully he was seeing Barbie (now his wife) who was very understanding and would phone me each morning after she had seen him at her burger van to let me know he was ok.

Work didn't seem to be too understanding, at least it seemed that way but I now wonder if they thought they could shock me back to work by threatening me with losing my job. They paid for a couple of blocks of counselling for me which I went to. It got to the last one they had paid for and it was suggested I took over the responsibility. I did not have much money to spare but found it from cutting back on other areas. I did open up and faced a lot of things I had tried to ignore. I had tried counselling several times before but it didn't work. This time was different. I think I was in the right place to face the hurt and pain. I still had a long way to go but had made a significant start.

I think it was my third visit to Church before I moved and heard about Grace – about how God will welcome a person back despite what they have done in their life. This was an amazing revelation. I’ve heard a lot about it since and am still learning. That evening back home in Essex I couldn’t sleep, I had too many words whizzing round my head. I had to get up and write them down. What appeared on the paper was a prayer. I was astonished – it was a prayer for my Niece who had to spend the night in hospital. I had forgotten how to pray but I was writing one. I thought when I had finished I’d be able to get to sleep. Wrong – I had to keep writing, this is how I felt at the time:

I took time to listen, I took time to see
God is all around us, God is with me
Thank you for welcoming me back
Thank you for allowing me in
Life has much more meaning
Feeling God within
No longer lonely, I don’t feel so alone
A new life to build, I feel I’ve found home
The next amazing thing to happen was my decision to leave Essex and move to East Dereham, Norfolk. I knew it was something I had to do. Jon Beardon said something interesting – I was responding to God’s call before becoming a Christian!
I’m here in East Dereham, a few months go by, I start going to Church then I hear about JC21 in Attleborough. I thought I‘d go and see what it was all about. At the end there was a call for people who want to be saved. I knew I didn’t want to go up the front. I was able to resist a little while – I wanted to make sure I was doing this for me and not because others wanted me to. I was asking God to let me know what to do when one leg moved, then the other, my legs were moving my body to the front – I didn’t know why I was there but I did know I had to be there.
Asking Jesus to come into my life was a great experience. I’m trusting in him now and asking him for help. I found that so difficult, I’ve been used to not asking for help that often, but now it may be a few times through the day! I made the decision to get baptised a couple of months after being a Christian.
I got involved with my cell group and still had up and down times where I would withdraw and disappear. Cell group did the Freedom In Christ course. I made a decision to fully participate. I thought this was the next step. I faced quite a few difficult issues around forgiveness towards others and also to forgive myself. It took a couple of months to address some issues but I am so glad I did. It has allowed the Holy Spirit to bring healing into my life. At the time I had taken myself off the antidepressants as I could not afford to pay the prescription. I haven't needed to go back on them or even thought about doing so for nearly 2 years now.
About a month after finishing the Freedom in Christ course I found myself on the New Frontiers website looking at Change Life trips, being drawn to one to the Ukraine. I had just missed the closing date of this. Unknown to me at this time there was a team being formed to go to Serbia in the September. I mentioned what I had found on the website to Trish, friend at church and also the wife of the person organising the team (isn't it amazing how God puts the pieces together, or is it us that puts the pieces together after God has prepared the way?). The next thing I know is David asking "So you're coming to Serbia then?". I immediately said "Yes" and thought why did I answer so quickly..... tbc

I'm going to end for now as I do not want to rush through some important moments of my life so far. I will continue shortly.