Eager For the Big Day

I’m 11 years old. I have a brother with Downs Syndrome called Luca and I have two lovely parents, Gabriela and Giovanni. I can’t wait to be confirmed as all my family from Italy and Germany are coming to celebrate. It will be just like me getting baptised 10 years ago, except now it’s my decision where before my parents chose my religion.

Confirmation does bring you closer to God but it’s not by ‘magic’. It works because you are spending more time with God, going to church by praying and serving others. I want to be closer to God and I want to be more a part of the church community. I want to follow Jesus’ footsteps and to encounter God more fully and to be the person God wishes me to be.

I now go with Alice, Jasmine and a few other girls after church for confirmation lesson. It’s really fun and Tom teaches us lots of interesting facts!

JESSICA BENAGLIO

It was last year when I asked Tom if I could be confirmed. I’d decided it was time for me to be a more responsible member of the church and thought that getting confirmed was a good way of starting.

My names are Alice Hedd. Hedd is Welsh for peace and is pronounced ‘Heth’. My mum’s family are Welsh and live in the Rhondda valley. My dad’s family are Irish and live in co Clare and co Mayo.

I’m in year 6 at the Blue School and am hoping to go to Christ’s next year with some of my friends. I’m really excited to go.

I’ve been attending Tom’s confirmation classes after church on a Sunday and have enjoyed learning and talking about the bible stories with my friends. I feel really pleased that I go to St John’s.

ALICE CONSIDINE

Being Me Again

I was brought up in the Ivory Coast by my mother and my grandmother. They used to take me to church, and prayer was very much part of our lives.

When I was 7, I got yellow fever. I got really weak and I couldn’t eat. By the time I saw the doctor, he said there was nothing they could do for me. My grandmother took me into the church and she and my aunt, who was a nun, prayed all night for me. From then on, I gradually began to feel better and recovered in about a week. Everyone was amazed!

6 months later I came to live with my father in London, where I have been ever since. It was very hard at the beginning and unfortunately, things have not always gone well for me. One result was that I forgot about God. I carried around a lot of anger. I seemed to end up arguing with those close to me. I got into situations where I shouldn’t have been and I did things I know I shouldn’t have been doing. I felt ashamed and hurt, almost a prisoner in my own body. I got depressed.

My mother died when I was 21. She was in the Ivory Coast, and I was not with her at the time. It was incredibly painful and it brought all my negative emotions to the surface.

Towards the end of last year, I met with Tom to pray. We met in the church and immediately, I felt the burden and pain inside me lifted. I felt forgiven for the first time – and so I could begin to forgive myself and the people who had hurt me. For the first time since I was about 8, I felt ‘me’ again. My depression is much better. I can appreciate all God had done for me – not least, saving me from death 3 times.

My 3 children, Kelis, Josephine and Naomi and I are all being baptised on 28th April, and I will be confirmed. What God has done for me means I feel ready to give my life to him. I feel his happiness, his love for me and his presence.

Lina Chaaroui

Making The Best Of Lent

For Lent this year, rather than fasting, or giving something up, I wanted to take up something I hoped would improve my relationship with God. I decided to spend an hour every day doing this. As it turns out, this was a lot more difficult than anticipated! Some days I would listen to my audio bible, other days I would choose a topic and research it online. Self study is great, but it can lack direction.

I joined in with Christianity Explored. It was a great opportunity for structured bible study, as well as for discussion and reflection on what we were reading. We had a lot of interesting discussions. It has been great to be part of the journey the confirmation group have been on.

My most favourite part of Lent this year, though, has been the Shelter Project. Last year Tom sent out a few emails about volunteering in Shelters, and how much there is to gain in helping. Honestly, I was a bit scared at first. I had no idea what to expect.

Julian was a great inspiration with his motto being ‘Go and have one real conversation this evening!’ We did, and it was fantastic! I came back for more every week. You can really feel the Joy of Christ. The guests came in after a long cold day on the street, to be met with a warm welcome and good conversation over a hearty meal. It has been good fun, and I really am quite sad that it’s over for the year.

Tom and Joanna hosted the Passover Meal on Maundy Thursday. It’s a great experience to celebrate the Exodus, and how it ties in with Christ. I think the ending is a really apt description on my experience of Lent this year, with the song ‘’ You shall go out with joy. And be let forth with peace…’’.

Daphne Lester

A Friend’s Happy Tears

My phone rang. It was a good friend, asking me to go to her baptism and confirmation – in Ealing, and in an hour’s time! So Jessica, my sister and I got in the car and made it there just in time.

The change in my friend has been obvious. She used to be quiet and introverted, and we all knew she had had real problems. But things began to change after a work friend had invited her to church. Now, she was really open and obviously excited about what was about to happen.

There was lots of singing and music in the Service, which the children with us enjoyed. Everyone getting baptized said something. For each one it was different, but there was a common thread; which was the big part God had played in their lives. When my friend was baptized, there were tears in her eyes – but happy tears, which I’d never seen before, except in a film. It left me knowing I wanted to do the same thing. Oliver is going to be christened and I will be confirmed on 28th April.

While growing up we went regularly to church, in Ealing. When I was 13, I went away for a week in the summer to a big gathering with lots of other young people. But then my uncle got ill and we stopped going to church. Once out of the habit, my other friends took over and I wanted to stay in with them. In my mid-teens I lost confidence and kept myself to myself. Then I got pregnant.

Jessica brought me to St John’s one Sunday and also to Wednesday Toddler Church. I have found helpful the discussions we have had at Christianity Explored. And the week we saw the DVD about Herod, for the next few days, I kept on thinking about wanting an inner strength to stand up for what I know is right, and not just to please my friends.

Abbie Guyett

Michelle’s Transformed Life

My father was a fanatic Jehovah’s Witness when I was young. The strain it put on my parents’ marriage proved too great and my mother divorced him when I was 2. We grew up in Feltham.

In my teens, I got involved with street drugs. I was on them until I fell pregnant with my elder daughter. Then, when she was about 6, for no obvious reason, I began to feel spaced out and ill. One day I had a big panic attack and was then diagnosed with anxiety and depersonalization disorder.

As a result, I was admitted as an outpatient for 6 months at Lakeside. Things were not great, but with medication, I learnt to deal with it. I think the street drugs were at least in part to blame for all this.

About 9 months after Nevaeh, my second child was born, I started coming to St John’s. She is a wonderful gift from God. I knew I wanted to give her a start to life which would take her down the right path. So I went to the church nearest us. I love coming, and it gives me a very good feeling. I have met lots of nice people.

Nevaeh and I are getting baptized on 28th April – and I will be confirmed too. I feel my life has been transformed since I was ill – I am now working, I have another child, I am much better.

Christianity Explored has for me opened up a new understanding about Jesus. Leon, my partner, has told me how strong my faith has got. We now read the Bible together at home. I can definitely now say that I believe in Jesus. I am looking forward to the 28t, but I may be a bit embarrassed on the day.

Michelle Trutwein