Tom's Story

Tom's Story

London, UK

I had nowhere to channel my grief, so I fell into a self-destructive mode.

Growing up, my parents weren’t religious and the only time I remember going to church was for my brother’s christening. I always believed there could be a higher being, but I thought Christianity was outdated and irrelevant.

To me, Jesus was nothing more than a wise guy. I suppose I thought life was about finding success, and that meant having loads of friends, being well liked, and finding my dream job. I expected that once I had ticked all these boxes, I’d be satisfied.

When I was sixteen, a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer and died months later. I really didn’t know how to react and was totally shaken. I had nowhere to channel my grief, so I fell into a self-destructive mode. The easiest thing to do was to push everything down further.

I started going out way too much, drinking and dabbling in drugs. None of these things made me happier and I didn’t understand why. Even though the selling point is, ‘Take these and you’ll have a great night,’ every morning I woke up with the same feeling of emptiness.

When I was nineteen, I moved to Brighton to study Music Business. I kept up this lifestyle but I hit rock bottom a couple of months in. I was alone in a new city and I had no one to turn to.

Around this time, a friend, Lydia, invited me to a student party at church and I thought I’d go along. I remember walking outside the church building thinking, ‘An abandoned church? Great music? This is going to be amazing.’

It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I remember going home and noticing that I had never felt so valued and loved in my life. That night, the emptiness inside me almost began to disappear.

I started helping out at the church’s homeless outreach project. Every week I had so many questions – about Jesus, prayer and worship – that eventually Lydia suggested I go along to Alpha to find out what faith was all about.

I was really surprised to see so many young people in church. When I asked questions, people really opened up about their own doubts and experiences. It was refreshing to see that Christianity isn’t outdated, it’s contemporary and relevant to our generation.

My journey into faith started when a friend invited me to Alpha and invited me to find out about Jesus.

I didn’t become a Christian overnight, and there wasn’t one huge event that made me decide to follow Jesus. It was very gradual, a slow understanding, which suited me as I needed time to think things through. I felt lighter, and began to find ways of channelling my feelings instead of shutting them up like I had done for years.

It’s so liberating to know that there’s someone out there who cares about me, who cares about the way I’m feeling. Instead of hiding behind a lifestyle or material things, I feel a lot more confident in my identity because I know I’ve been created this way for a reason.

My journey into faith started when a friend invited me to Alpha and invited me to find out about Jesus. I’ll always be grateful to her for having that courage. At the time, she didn’t know the effect it would have on my life.

 

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Momentum 2018: How I was encouraged!

Momentum 2018: How I was encouraged!

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Hello! In case you don’t know me already, my name is Abigail Watson and I’m an intern with Alpha Ireland this year. As part of my ‘work’ with Alpha (if you can call it that!), I had the amazing privilege of going to a youth leadership conference called Momentum recently, and I just wanted to tell you about it and how it has encouraged me.

I definitely came away feeling encouraged, equipped and excited. I was also moved, challenged, and very inspired!

The tag-line for the weekend was ‘Encourage. Equip. Excite.’, which sums up the whole thing pretty well, I think. It was a weekend for anyone interested in or already involved in youth work, from those who have never done youth work in their lives to those who do youth ministry as their full-time job! Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone who came, but personally, I found that it more than achieved the promise in the tag-line, as I definitely came away feeling encouraged, equipped and excited. I was also moved, challenged, and very inspired! It was a very powerful weekend in numerous ways, and hopefully will be the first of many more in the years ahead.

  Gathered together for a quiz!

Gathered together for a quiz!


 

One of the most encouraging aspects of the weekend for me was how honest, open and vulnerable many of the speakers were about the challenges of youth ministry. I was particularly struck by Peter Rigney, the National Director of Alpha Ireland, who shared about how difficult things were for him when he first began working with Alpha. It was especially encouraging for me to hear that he often dreads having to do talks like those he was doing at Momentum, as I often get very nervous when asked to do anything from the front! I am not one of those people who loves public speaking and enjoys giving talks to large groups of people, so it was great to see how Peter has been able to do so much as National Director, despite the challenges he faced in this area.


Other speakers were just as open too, and made sure that no-one tried to put them on a pedestal: they made it really clear that what they do and have done is through God’s grace and not by their own strength. They could have told us all about their success stories, made it seem as if they did everything perfectly, and left us feeling overwhelmed, but they did the opposite – as Theresa Cronin (the Alpha Youth Cork Coordinator) commented, it was ‘sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly’. So basically, I left feeling really positive about youth work in general and feeling that I really can contribute something worthwhile, even if I’m not the super-confident, charismatic type!

  Peter Rigney talking at Momentum.

Peter Rigney talking at Momentum.


Momentum was also a great weekend for being equipped in a practical way: finding out about useful games and resources/materials that are available for youth ministry. For example, we heard from Tearfund about their resources for looking at global justice issues with young people, from Annette Evans about prayer spaces, from Youth for Christ about how they use soccer as a fun way to engage with teenagers, from Jonny Somerville about the Nua Film Series, and from several others too! I realised that there are lots of resources available once you know where to look – much more than I had thought! 

  Anthony Clarke sharing about his work with youth!

Anthony Clarke sharing about his work with youth!


Finally, I think that Momentum really did manage to excite those who came about youth ministry (even more than they were already, that is) - most people seemed to leave feeling inspired and all fired up! For me, the most exciting aspect of Momentum was probably the sense of shared community and unity across the denominations, and seeing how everyone there was so passionate about youth ministry. Sometimes it’s easy to think that there’s barely anyone doing youth work in Ireland, and youth workers can feel isolated, but this was 130 of us (including those running the weekend) all coming together and realising that we can support each other and work as one big team.


One participant, Aidan Duggan, commented on how the weekend has given him a great sense of ‘hope and purpose’ and also on the potential of the event: ‘I’ve a feeling a lot is going to come out of this.’ I really think that he’s right – it’s the first of its kind, and really brought people together from different denominations, as well as different places. It’s not often that you get to go to an event that is so ecumenical, both in terms of who was running it and those who attended, and this was very fitting as it was coming up to the week of prayer for Christian unity (which is this week).

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Playing and praying together.

Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention

It was also exciting to dream big and think about how we can step out of our comfort zones and allow God to work through us. Peter shared a great quote from Mark Batterson with us on this: ‘Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention’. I know it might seem wiser to have dreams that are achievable and reasonably realistic, but let’s be ambitious with our dreams and trust the promise that ‘all things are possible with God’ (Matthew 19:26)!


  Abigail Watson            Alpha Intern

Abigail Watson            Alpha Intern

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