When Jesus told the disciples to go into the world, He asked them to bear witness. In other words to tell stories of faith. To share with others the story of how their faith in Jesus has made a difference.
People have always told stories. Before we had books oral stories were shared and cherished in communities.
Stories of faith enable us to remember the important things about our lives. They enable us to make sense of the world in which we live.
Stories of faith can nourish us, encourage us and challenge us. Stories are part of what it means to be human, to reflect on our place in the universe and the meaning of life. To enable us to make sense of our journey through life.
We see and hear stories every day but sometimes we see and hear stories that we want to know more about.
At the moment we are asking people to share what it was and how it was that they became a follower of Jesus. Each of these is short but well worth listening to. We will be adding to them throughout the autumn of 2014:
Will Cookson – Former Minister
Talks about how God grabbed him and met him over a long period of time.
Talks about how it was friends at a toddler group who introduced her to what following Jesus meant
Talks about how Jesus met him and saved him from a life of drugs
We have also have collected other stories about people who have had their lives changed. Who’s lives have been impacted both at Springfield and with people that we are in relationship with elsewhere.
Bati and Mati
They talk about how God became real for them even though they grew up in a Christian environment
How God led him through his life
Steve tells how a child brought him to faith in Jesus and through this child his whole family became followers of Jesus
Ana shares with Springfield how the prayers and the care kept her family going through the nightmare of her daughters illness
Evis's storyBringing reconciliation to a family
We didn't know where they lived as they had moved without telling my friend. Her aunty found out that they lived in Devon in a place called the Point (not the real name).
We decided to pay them an unannounced visit and chose a date to visit. We didn’t know whether they would be in the country and had no idea what reception we would get. All I knew was that my friend was desperate to see her mum and so she booked the only hotel that was within our price range. Other family members tried to dissuade us from going as they were concerned because we were going into the unknown.
As the day drew nearer I became nervous and worried because I knew how much this reconciliation meant to her and I so much wanted for it too. I knew how much the situation pained her and she missed her mum terribly. I asked help my church family for prayers for a positive outcome.
We set off on our long train journey into the unknown on Sunday night with the intention of finding their house first thing Monday morning. When we got to the town where he mother lived we asked several people if they knew where the Point was and nobody could help us. We even got the hotel to google it but nothing came up. My friend felt very dejected having come such a long way. My sister texted me some verses which I repeated throughout the night.
First thing Monday morning we set out from the hotel. We had no idea which direction we should take, whether to turn left or right. After a silent prayer we decided to turn right. After about 10 minutes walking we stopped to decide how long we would wander aimlessly. At that point I looked across the road and saw The Point.
We knocked on the door and her stepfather through the intercom told us to go away and come back in three hours because her mum was sleeping. I said we had come a long way and my friend said that she really wanted to see her mum. He then told us to come back in half an hour. Thank goodness for mobiles. I sent out a prayer request updating everyone on my prayer list. We duly returned and he let us see her mum.
It was wonderful to see my friend and her mum. Her mum said that she had recently become a Christian and she had been praying that her daughter would find a way to come.
Unfortunately her stepfather wasn't as happy to see her and after about an hour he started shouting at her and being verbally abusive, bringing up the issues that had caused the rift originally. I calmly said that we didn't come to cause any trouble and we had to leave. We left the mum with my friend’s mobile number.
We walked back to the hotel with my friend in floods of tears. I sent out another text. We sat in the hotel lobby not knowing what to do. Then her mobile rang and it was her stepfather. He apologized for his behaviour. He came to meet us at the hotel and asked us to come back with him to their house. He said that he wanted to start afresh, move on and rebuild their relationship. We spent the day with them and they have continued contact.
Andy's StoryGod brings healing
Life sometimes bites you on the bum! Life can be very scary and the only thing you have control of is how you respond to the circumstances you face. When you hurt it's so easy to drift into self-pity. I've lost the desire to be alive at times. When trouble comes God can seem very remote and very silent sometimes.
I've learnt the hard way that I must rely on the promise that God loves me and has a future for me -not necessarily the one that I'd choose. I've learnt to praise God when life hurts. When I'm scared or hurting, I've had to fill my mind with good, positive stuff (not put my feet up in front of the TV.) Reading my Bible (Psalms,) or Christian books, listen to praise music - singing along! This helped me to silence the fear and self-pity.
About 3 years ago 2 people independently urged me to read a booklet about healing. It's got short paraphrased Bible verses to speak out loud each day telling your body to work properly. It's not denying you're ill, just speaking out in faith. I thought "It can't do any harm, but I might feel a prat doing it!" I started to get better. The doctors started taking me off drugs that were causing complications. I'm now off all pills for rheumatoid arthritis now and inject myself with a half dose every 10 days now. A tiny amount. When I last saw my consultant she described my health as "amazing!" I'm in clinical remission, praise God!
I don't believe that only those with strong faith are the ones who get better. I do believe that God answers prayers and I do believe that He wants to help us through anything that life throws at us. Your faith doesn't grow when life's easy! I don't like taking risks. There's a scared, shy little boy inside this "old" man. I wouldn't chose to be up here with everyone looking at me. I've learnt that God nudges me forward saying, "Go on, you can do it, I'll help you!" God's discipling me. He gives me empathy for others who are suffering and I try to be a joy to be with.
If you remember nothing else that I say - please listen to these familiar Bible verses :
Philippians 4:4-9 Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Rememberthat the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray abouteverything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers.If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderfulthan the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and yourhearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. And now, brothers, as Iclose this letter let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what istrue and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwellon the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for andbe glad about. Keep on putting into practice all you learned from me doing, andthe God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:4-9 ( Living Bible)
Josephine's StoryMaking a difference
To get to Josephine was not a huge distance in terms of miles but the terrain was quite rough down a side road and then off through fields to her hut. Her hut was leaking badly and with the rainy season due was quite unsuitable to house her and her extended family.The idea was that we would help in building her house. There was a good crowd of people to help with the building of it. A number of men had already created the outline and were digging the mud. Lots of women from the RUSH project were there to help out and it all had very much of a communal celebratory feel to it. It was awesome to see the women carry great containers of water on their heads to help with making the mud for the new house.
The day was a real privilege to help make a real difference to someone’s life who was so helpless and had such great need.
Our video that we made of building the hut:
Sue's StoryFrom a life of anger to peace
Lily of the valley,Bright and morning starFairest of ten thousand, you areHow can I perceive Your beauty,I long to see your face Jesus, JesusMore of you and less of me….Jesus
The lyrics above are from a song that has been so significant to me over the past few years. What I have learnt (and am continuing to learn) is that the closer we get to Jesus, the more intimate our relationship, the more we can be transformed by Him. My iPod is often just on random and this song has the “knack” of coming on whenever I need reminding who should be central to my life!
I know that my journey into true and deep relationship with Jesus as my saviour would never have begun if God had not spoken directly to me in 2003 and told me to join Springfield. At that point in my life I was so angry with God. In fact I was raging with a God I professed not to believe in. Various experiences in my life had made me determined never, ever to go to a church again.God was a malevolent being (if he existed at all) and all vicars, priests, elders, ministers etc… were just the worst people in the world and to be avoided at all costs. I was a pretty difficult person, full of anger, sadness and confusion.
I found a church where I could be real,open and obnoxious and still be loved
But something made me respond to God‟s prompting and turn up at Springfield. There I found a church where I could be real, open and obnoxious and still be loved! God gave me so many people who walked with me, prayed with me and for me and people who just loved me. I know that Will and Angie were the ones who saw me at my worst and Will in particular often became the focus of my anger. It was easier to rant at him than at God, he was after all the one in the dog collar — surely it was his job to take it??
I know now that God sent me to Springfield so I could be restored and healed. So that I could be transformed and set free from all my hurts and anger. I am so grateful that God sent me to a church where people did not want to give up on me and did not want to manipulate me into being anything or anyone. People simply loved me intothe space where I had the freedom and confidence to be myself — healed, restored and forgiven.
Now?? Well, in 2010 I left a job I loved and I am currently at Ridley Hall Cambridge, training to be a priest — one of those people who should be avoided at all costs! In 2012 I was ordained and begin a curacy in the Diocese of Oxford at Holy Trinity Sunningdale.
I would never have believed the call or responded to the call if there had not been fabulous people at Springfield who encouraged, challenged and inspired me. God sent me to a church where being real matters more than being perfect. A church where people were gracious enough to see beyond my faults and facade and see my God-given gifts and potential. I thank Will for taking me seriously when I told him in 2005 what I thought God was calling me to. Will walked with me through the process. I am immensely grateful for his wisdom in doing it slowly, not letting me rush ahead, for sensing what areas of my life needed to be dealt with first.
God is awesome, giving me what I need, leading me,guiding me and loving me. I will always remember the first picture I was ever given. Angie told me she had seen a lighthouse with all the dust covers coming off. That was November 2003 and I had no idea what it meant and was still pretty dubious about such things, but I wrote it down and always remembered it. Then in 2010, when we were praying together just before I went on my final selection interview Angie again had a picture of a lighthouse. This time it was shining brightly. Angie had not remembered the first picture, but I had. God speaks to us in amazing ways.
Springfield is an amazing church and there is so much that I will take from it into my future ministry and it will always hold a dear place in my heart. It is the church where I was not afraid to have the mess stripped away and the real me uncovered.God called me to Springfield and for that I will always give thanks.
Pete's StoryBrought up a Catholic but drifted
Now this went on for a couple of years until our daughter was able to go to Holiday Club and then Roadrunners. But the thoughts of leaving my little girl and then disappearing with my youngest to the garden centre was not so appealing now — so we decided to give the Sunday Service a try. Well I found it amazing; I listened to the sermon and the worship songs and found it so different to what I had experienced before. Not only that but everyone was so friendly and yet they did not know us!So we went again, and then on the third or fourth Sunday that I went, it hit me, during the sermon I felt an intense feeling of peace, as if the sermon was directed solely at me. And then came the worship songs and I remember calling out to God, in my head of course, that I hear him and that I want to do what he wants me to do. It was such an emotional experience, I could not hold back my tears and for many weeks after that I would just start welling up if I just thought, let alone talked, about that Sunday.But it did not stop at Sunday Services, I was introduced to the Men’s Cell and started attending every Wednesday night, I could not get enough of talking about God and our walks (strolls or runs!) with Christ. I did an Alpha Course run by Springfield which explored many of my ‘hang ups’ about Christianity that I had developed as a youth.
I had been set free from my secular mindset to love God, to have a Personal Relationship with God. And all this because God had placed it on the hearts of the congregation of Springfield Church to welcome my child into Holiday Club and Roadrunners without any conditions on us attending Church. This always reminds me that we must let God decide when the time is right; it is in God’s time and not ours.
Strange how things seem to go round in circles, I’ve since been on the team for a couple of Holiday Clubs and have been a Roadrunner Leader for the last eighteen months. My life has changed forever, I thank God for that and I also thank the people of Springfield Church, in particular my Cell (past and present), the Roadrunner Team and of course the group I currently lead in it.
Lee's StoryAtheist to Christian
How did it all start?
Towards the end of the summer term of 2004, I had two children over five who were at school and two under five at home and I was looking for something inexpensive for them to do in the long six-week school holiday. I found a leaflet in one of my eldest two children’s book bags about Springfield’s holiday club at St Elphege’s school. It sat on the side for ages — I thought it’s not my thing as I had never done anything ”churchy”. But it was cheap and only two and a half hours long, so I asked around outside the school gate and found one other mother who was going to send her children to it. I decided to send my two eldest children, Ellis and Marnie, and thought if they didn’t like it I’d pull the plug.At the end of the first session, Ellis and Marnie came out all buzzed up — they’d loved it and couldn’t wait to go back. Every day they took pictures and jokes to put into a box (“Lyn’s Bin”). As the week went on, my secondyoungest, Tierney, seeing all the fun they were having, got more and more upset that she was too young to go too (she was four) and so she drew a picture to put into the box.
“Are you coming on Sunday?” he asked me. I thought, “Oh no, I will have to go”When we arrived for the next session, I asked a man at the door if Tierney could put her picture into the box. He said yes and took it off her, but by the time we were leaving Tierney was sobbing. A man in an orange t-shirt on the gate stopped us and asked why Tierney was crying. He promised that if Tierney’s name was on her picture and he could find it, he would hold it up at church on Sunday. “Are you coming on Sunday?” he asked me. I thought, “Oh no, I will have to go”. True to his word, the man, who turned out to be Will Cookson, called Tierney out during the service and she stood at the front holding up her picture.
Why did you go back?
I was nagged by my children. One time in the car, Ellis turned to me and said, “Some children get to do that every Sunday”. I decided it was no different to taking them to a playgroup and so we started going along to Springfield. I remember asking Will if it would be okay for me to be there and making it clear that I was not a Christian and had no intention of becoming a Christian—I was just using the children’s work. I sat in silence during the services. I just did not think God was real. Ithought talking about God was like two adults discussing a cartoon character — He wascompletely imaginary, like Mickey Mouse.
I thought talking about God waslike two adults discussing a cartoon characterI expected someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, “You should not be here—you are in the wrong place”. It never happened. But there were things about going to church that I found very difficult and alien. For example,I was outraged when people offered to take my children to the toilet or out to the children’s work. I thought you wouldn’t do that in Tesco’s with strangers’ children.
What happened to make you change your mind about God?
I was at a Springfield service in September, a year or two after I’d started taking the children. Jackie Mole was praying in tongues behind me and then Sue Vernon gave a prophecy at the front. Suddenly the light went on and I realised God was there. The experience frightened the living daylights out of me and for around six weeks I ran away from God. I knew if I became a Christian my life would change totally. Finally, I remember standing in the garden making the decision to do so. I phoned Sue Cook and told her that I wanted to be a Christian. She wrote out a card for me with the words of a prayer and cameround and prayed with me. That was just the start of my adventure with God