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February 5, 2010

On my first day in York as a student I wandered around the city centre in tears. I was, by appearance on my own and had no-one I could turn to within York that I could trust. Three years on I may still wander round York in tears some days but I now have people I can trust and who care for me. These people I met through attending a church in York and who have supported me over my three years as a student in ways I could never have predicted or imagined. I can honestly say that without being part of a church I would have left university and York, they have helped and supported me so much.


I quickly got associated with the Christian Union at my University and through that I was introduced to several of the many churches in York.  I felt God had a specific church for me to be part of and when I found that place it would be apparent.  After five weeks searching I walked into a parish church, about twenty minutes walk from the town centre.  Quickly I knew it was the right church for me. I was surprised. It wasnít the sort of church that I would have chosen for myself, for the first part it was Church of England by denomination.


There were no studentís part of the church at that point, but by the end of that service there were two of us. The church made us feel very welcome. Soon the student population in the church started to grow and the vicar was asking how the church could support and encourage us as students.


 If I thought my first year of university was tough I had not predicted what would happen in my second semester of second year.


On the last Sunday before I went home for Christmas break in 2008 I had sat myself next to two of the women in the church. During a conversation one of them expressed her disappointment that I was going home for Christmas; people were going to miss me in church. I was so touched that she cared and that people were taking a notice of my presence in the church, it felt like I belonged.


When I came back after Christmas I, unknowingly, started the hardest semester I experienced at university.


Till now I had toyed with the idea of joining a church cell group. Finally I plucked up the courage and asked one of the women I had sat with at the service before Christmas if I could try their group. Eagerly she collected me that Wednesday evening. It was a night full of change, excitement and fellowship. It became the first of many.
Joining a smaller group enabled me to get to know some people in church better. They in turn introduced me to more people in the church and so on.


Two weeks after joining cell and starting being back in York I ran headlong into a storm of events. Tension had begun to build in my shared student house as housemates formed cliques and were harsh about other members of the house as soon as they were out of earshot. It made living painful and stressful, to say the least. I was continuously hurting, while trying to show Christian love and forgiveness to non-Christians who did not share my same principles or perspective. To make matters worse, one of the two Christians I lived with had been a close friend and she had started to push me out of her life. My other Christian housemate and I were thrown into a conundrum of where we were going to live the next year and with whom, while we tried to support and encourage one another. It all seemed too much.


It wasnít just house stuff. University life was tough full stop. The course seemed harder this semester than it had been before. As if I needed any more stress; friends from the Christian union started to turn away from me too. One person told me they didnít want to be friends with me anymore.


On top of all this my health was not good. The stress I was enduring daily had left an impression on my body. Having fallen into bed one evening in so much agony I could not move, with a pain that felt like my insides were intensely burning up, I went to the doctors. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The conclusion was it was due to stress. I felt like I was living a drama programme. I couldnít believe this was my life.


I regularly yelled at God telling Him I was going home. I was leaving university and I had had enough! I couldnít face any more stress. I couldnít face any more pain. I wanted to be somewhere I felt safe. Somewhere I called home.


All the while, I had the constant support of church. Every Wednesday night I met and shared with my cell group. Every Wednesday night they listened, prayed and gave advice. Every Sunday people in church asked how things were. They laughed when I laughed, cried when I cried and prayed for me every day. I was challenged and uplifted through the preaching and worship. I was helped by people who were gifted in my areas of study. I was asked and encouraged to use my gifts in the church.


Now, I would wake up on a morning and know I could face that day however tough because my church were praying for me. For the first time I realised I had a home and a family in York. Now when I yelled at God, He reminded me that I belonged here. I had a family and they loved me. He loved me. I knew He was right because they never gave up on me. They kept supporting me.


The church was there for me through me failing a module and then passing the re-sit. They were there for me when I needed to know where my giftingís lay because I felt I had been stripped bare off everything I knew and built who I was. They were there to celebrate and rejoice when the storm passed and things got better. They are still there for me.


If it wasnít for Clifton Parish Church, I would not still be in York. I would not be doing what God had planned for me to do in this city. I thank God that through Him a church here was willing in to support me when I needed it. I have learnt what it truly means to be a member of the body of Christ. I am no longer worshipping at Clifton but I am still supported, loved and challenged by that church. I am still very much part of their family.


 

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