1) 1 Samuel 3:1-10, the child Samuel in the Temple. Message: Listening for God’s call. “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth”.
2) John 1:43-51, Jesus calls Nathaniel. Message: Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? “Come and see.”
How you heard your call to follow Christ?
I grew up attending the Junior Church here, more than 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until I went to University that I really encountered God calling me personally for the first time. I had been attending an Alpha Course with students from my local church at University. We explored and discussed the Word of God in an informal setting, grappling with the challenges of the Gospel and its meaning in our lives. For a long time, I had an intellectual understanding of God’s calling, but had the idea that it was for all those great Christians around me, but it couldn’t possibly be meant for someone like me.
During exam time, I had some particular difficulties under the pressure of the University workload and I became quite unwell, struggling with my work and health, and shutting myself away from my friends. Eventually I turned to my room-mate for help. She was a Christian, and I remember her saying “Take it to God… because He loves you”. Just like Samuel, I needed someone to help me to recognise God’s voice and experience his Love. I began to understand that God was inviting me to communicate personally in prayer, and I became aware that there was a real need for that in my life.
Since then I have relied heavily on times of sitting in quiet, to listen and hear God’s guidance. I believe that He has guided me to care for others and to care for creation, using my practical skills and gifts that he has equipped me with for this work. There is always a challenge for me, when I face decisions about my life, because I want to find the path that follows God’s will, not only my own. It is hard, but rewarding to humble myself, identifying myself as God’s servant in the way that Samuel did. Sometimes this means making sacrifices, and sometimes it takes courage to go and see what God has planned and to trust that it will be good.
“Come and see” – what made you apply to attend the conference?
I have a deep concern about the impact that human society has on the rest of God’s world, and have been seeking a way to take meaningful action to protect life and the environment for future generations.
Last September, I helped at a Christian Environmental Festival in Cheltenham called Greenbelt. Many organisations were present including a conservation charity called A Rocha, which runs the Eco-Congregation church-greening programme. I was helping at their stand in the exhibition area– greeting festival-goers, providing information, and talking about the importance of caring for God’s creation. I also took an interest in Christian Ecology Link, and was invited to sign up to receive their email newsletter.
A few weeks after the festival, an email message arrived about the opportunity to apply for a World Council of Churches “Youth for Eco-Justice” programme, taking place alongside the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Durban, South Africa in December. Climate Change is a global issue, which is already affecting thousands of communities in Africa, causing extreme droughts and food shortages across wide areas. 30 young Christians from around the world were selected to participate and would be committing to take action on environmental issues in their home contexts. I knew that it would be an excellent opportunity to meet people who shared my concerns, and a chance to engage in transformational projects back in the UK.
And what did you see there?
When I received the invitation to “Come and see” what was going on at the United Nations regarding stewardship of God’s world, I was quite excited by the opportunity to participate in this international setting for the first time, and excited to be able to meet and maybe influence representatives from all corners of the world. However, there had been a lot of disappointment from previous events of a similar nature, like at Copenhagen in 2009. So there was a lot of cynicism about the process, with seasoned skeptics questioning whether anything good could come from Durban. Politically, it is a very great challenge to coordinate almost 200 countries in open negotiations about the future of our planet. Demand for urgent action was high but expectations for any meaningful commitment was low. The young people and over 1000 civil society organisations there had the job of remaining hopeful, and continuing to work optimistically to persuade our world leaders to make the changes we need. The faith communities, having a Firm Foundation of hope in God, were one of the strongest and most positive-minded groups present. We gathered to form a large campaign with the slogan: We Have Faith: Act Now for Climate Justice! and carried a set of our demands for the UN, which I’ve got here on a poster. We were striving every day to make the voice of the African people heard, to fight for their rights to a life and livelihood not threatened by the devastating impacts of Climate Change and Global Warming. For me it was a real blessing and a chance to live out the gospel– standing beside the hungry and oppressed in Africa, and speaking out for social justice, in the face of adversity and to the authorities in power. The World Council of Churches states that:
“Faith Communities are addressing climate change because it is a spiritual and ethical issue of justice, equity, solidarity, sufficiency and sustainability. The situation is critical. We must all act now.”
One of my highlights from Durban was helping to create a human work of art on the beach, with 2,000 school children forming a Lion of Courage, which was photographed from the air and hit news headlines around the world. It was also a great joy and inspiration to meet other young Christians working for positive change in the world, and God certainly led me to a place where I could serve others and demonstrate care for His Creation!
From your experience there, what do you feel is your Christian duty for the future?
I feel that my duty as a Christian is to continue growing in knowledge and trust of God, so that I am ready to listen and follow Him wherever he calls me. I have given up trying to plan any specific details of my future, because God always seems to have another surprise in store. Instead, I am focussing on hearing God’s Word and attempting to put it into action in my day-to-day life, to follow the example of Jesus, to care for others and to care for God’s world. I hope to continue to work with communities to spread important messages about human responsibility for the environment and for the resources we use and sometimes take for granted or waste.
I also want to emphasise the importance of standing up for justice and equality– standing up for what is right. I believe that Christians have an important job to care for the most vulnerable or disadvantaged people in our society and further afield. For me, this extends to a responsibility for those in other parts of the world who are in great need. In addition, I am concerned that we treat God’s beautiful creation as the precious gift that it is– leaving the natural world in a better state, and not a worse state for our children and generations to come.
Finally, I believe that there is a great deal of reason for hope and optimism, not doom and gloom, when it comes to the future – the future of the world, the economy, the environment, for communities and for you and me. We have a powerful and loving Creator and Saviour, who watches us even when we forget to watch Him, prepares many blessings for us, calls us, leads us and promises even greater things to come. So the best thing I can do is to keep saying: “Here I am”, “Your servant is listening”.