All Christians are on a journey of faith. Here are some personal stories of how people have come to faith and are continuing to grow in faith.
Hi, my name is Penny, and since 1976 my life has been an adventure of learning more and more about God, faith and his unconditional love for me. I went to Sunday School and church as a child but although I believed in God and Jesus, I didn't realise that to be a Christian was about a relationship.
Briefly, I married in 1969 but was widowed shortly after. Sometime later I met a widower with a little girl and we eventually married and went on to have a son and another daughter. I still believed in God and we married in church but didn't go regularly and it wasn't until I went into hospital in 1976 that things began to change.
Waiting to go to surgery, afraid of the anaesthetic, I picked up a Gideon's Bible from the hospital locker and started to read all the verses in there about fear and anxiety. I started to pray and suddenly I had this overwhelming feeling of being wrapped in loving arms by Father God and knowing that he was in control and all I had to do was trust him. I had entered into that relationship with him.
Since then life has had its ups and downs. I received healing for the grief I had buried after the death of my first husband and learned how to minister healing to others through the power of God. He brought me through when my husband walked out on our marriage after 19 years and has been close to me recently through two operations as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy for breast cancer.
You may be asking why, since I have been an active Christian serving God and people for the last 38 years, has God allowed this to happen? My answer is this; we live in a broken world, broken since humankind first decided to disobey God and as a Christian I am as vulnerable as the next person. The difference is God has been with me throughout my life and since I turned to him all those years ago he has given me the strength and faith to face anything, including death. This is because deep in my heart I know the truth of his promise of eternal life.
Don't get me wrong, I have my struggles and times when he feels a long way off but, if I turn to God, pray and then listen, (I have learnt that this is the most important part), he will show me what to do next. Sometimes I have to wait a while but he is always faithful.
Lastly, I want to say that 12 years ago when I moved to Derby and was wondering which church to go to, 3 different people I met said, "Why don't you try Barney's?" God speaks to me through other Christians sometimes and I felt he was speaking then. I went along and found a group of people who welcomed me warmly, who didn't judge me for being divorced and after time spent getting to know me encouraged me to use my God-given gifts and talents. Now I lead a morning service about once a month; I belong to a great house group, a Pastoral Care Team and get involved in other ways. And have a lot of fun and friendship!
During my health issues of the past 15 months people couldn't have been more caring and supportive, visiting me, bringing me meals, flowers and other gifts and praying with and for me regularly. I wouldn't want to be part of any other church; it is my other 'family'.
My childhood home was in London, and on leaving school I joined the Royal Navy. Only after some years in the Navy did I learn of God's love and grace in giving Jesus to die on the cross for my sin. At the same time I was challenged by Philippians 4,6-7, that my worries about my responsibilities showed I was not fully trusting God, and I handed my whole life over to Him.
Looking back, I realised I had never heard the gospel in a Church of England church (still sadly possible in some churches today), and I came to believe God was calling me to do my bit to remedy that, by preaching and teaching the gospel in the Anglican church. God confirmed this to me through Ezekiel 33,1-9, and Luke 10,2-3. I was allowed to leave the Royal Navy to train for ordination, and went to a residential theological college before becoming a curate in a Lancashire parish.
From there I offered myself to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) to serve in an Anglican church in Malaysia. First I had to attend the OMF candidates' course in London, and there I met my wife Sheila, another candidate. We became engaged shortly after the end of that course, and married at the end of the language course in Singapore. I took charge of a Chinese congregation in Malaysia, but we could not get our visas renewed, and had to leave after four years. A period of homelessness and uncertainty ended with a clear call to a parish in Liverpool, whence we later moved to a parish in Gloucestershire, and from there we retired.
God has moved us around a bit in our retirement, but in the summer of 2013 we joined St.Barnabas church, because we sensed God is in the midst, and we feel loved and supported by a very friendly and caring congregation.
I don't come from a church going family. All my early learning of God came from my school assemblies. I used to think 'you don't need to go to church to believe in God.'
I started going to St Barnabas after I married my husband, Andy, who did come from a church going family. As soon as we entered the church, we were warmly greeted and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly atmosphere, and so my journey started…
My weekly visits strengthened my faith, as did the encouragement of my new friends who supported me throughout my journey and, after 10 years of being part of a vibrant, community based church, I am an active member and even help with some services (which I would never have envisioned when I first started) and now I can't imagine not being part of it.
I was brought up in a Christian home in New Zealand and became a Christian when I was about 10 years old whilst attending a Christian holiday camp. I luckily had the support of my best friend (also a Christian) through secondary school so we kept each other going when it could have been easy to lose faith, since our local church, the only one, way out in the country, was not a 'lively' church.
During my nursing training, an excellent Christian fellowship and church was always challenging and stimulating my faith. When I came to England for further training, again a good church and Christian friends were instrumental in my journey of faith. How important these things are, certainly for me in my life. Following my nursing and midwifery training, I spent several years working in the Third World with Tearfund - a Christian relief and development organisation.
I have now lived in Derby a number of years and been at St Barnabas for about the last 12 years. St Barnabas Church family have been hugely supportive of us as a family during our daughter's long illness and it was having a church to go to and supporting Christian friends that kept my faith going when so much seemed to be falling apart.
As I look back, I see that throughout my life God has always provided that back-up of his people, that is what the church should be - God's people to help and support each other to keep going and to grow, and through that to be able to reach out to others who don't know Jesus.
Twenty years ago I walked into St Barnabas for the first time. I was asked to go with a friend to support her. I was immediately struck by the friendliness shown to me by all who were there. It didn't matter what my job was or where I lived; I was accepted gracefully. The friend later became my wife!
I had been baptised and went to Sunday school and Church as a boy and teenager but had not attended church apart from weddings and funerals for over thirty years but after this visit I started attending on a weekly basis.
I didn't have a "road to Damascus" conversion, but slowly I began to realise despite having a successful career, there was something lacking in my life. Indeed I had noticed this before in Christian friends who seemed to have something that I didn't. It felt a place that I belonged, a place where I could be myself, a place where I was blessed, my behaviour changed, I believed in Jesus.
The presence of Jesus changed my life; I no longer had fears of being alone because I knew that Jesus was walking alongside me on my journey.
I was confirmed in 1999 and each day my faith has deepened through the love shown by Church friends as well as studying the Bible. I have also grown spiritually through courses and retreats, which give me, time to spend in God's presence without any interruptions.
When I retired, I attended St John's College in Nottingham to study a theological course to deepen my knowledge of God's word. While studying, I became aware that I was being called into Reader Ministry and after training and help from all at St Barnabas I was licensed in 2009.
It is amazing and awesome that God still wants to use me in my retirement years, but it is an exciting adventure and I go forward in faith and trust to follow God wherever he leads me.
Hi, my name is Louise and I am married to Alan. We have 2 children; Kobi is 9 and Hannah is 7 and have been members of St Barnabas Church for the last 11 years.
As a child I went to a Methodist church in Ashbourne and attended Sunday School there until I was about 13 and stopped wanting to go. I don't think I really thought about God for many years and in 1995 ended up moving to Camberley, Surrey and moving in with a guy I had met at University. At that point I was working in a care home for people with learning disabilities and I used to enjoy taking some of the residents to the local village church. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the ritual of the traditional service and the sense of peace in the old building. The care home was also close to a Christian café and I was also drawn to the peacefulness and the genuine friendly welcome encountered there.
In 2000 my relationship had broken down and I found myself living in a small flat in Aldershot. Although it was a difficult period, in many ways it was a relief as I had been unhappy for many years but didn't have the confidence to admit it to myself! Around that time I met Alan through a work colleague and was fascinated to hear about his Christian faith; I don't think that I had met anyone who spoke so openly about Jesus! I decided to do an Alpha course at the Anglican Church in Aldershot and really used to enjoy the talks and discussions; I didn't have a moment of dramatic conversion but I did start to feel differently and felt that there had been something significant missing from my life.
In 2001 Alan and I got married and moved back to Derby just around the corner from St Barnabas and have attended ever since! We have made many good friends over the years and really feel part of God's family here. Over the years my faith has grown and deepened and on Easter Saturday 2004 I was baptised by full immersion, which was a very special moment for me. My life feels like it has so much purpose and meaning now and I have so much to thank God for.