Feature: Keswick twenty and thirtysomethings' on how they became believers
Young adults at Keswick have been talking about their journey to faith in Christ ...
Some people speak as though Christianity was a thing of the past. But the reality is that many young people are finding faith, even when they have not been brought up in church or had parents who believe.
At the Keswick Convention, there is a special ‘Young Adults’ stream, with seminars aimed at people at that stage of life. Some of these teens, twenties and thirtysomethings have been speaking about how they found faith, what it means to them, and why they’ve come to Keswick. There are more than 1,000 people under 40 estimated to be at this week’s Keswick Convention alone.
Jillian Davidson, 34, lives in Perth, and is a youth worker. Jillian had no Christian upbringing and a tricky childhood. “I had begun to think if there was a God, he didn’t care about me,” she said. “My identity was in drinking and partying and clubbing, and I went to uni at 17 to have the biggest party of my life.
“God got my attention through three things,” she continued. The first was that there were two Christians in her corridor, and it intrigued her as to why they would read the Bible. The wonder of creation and studying science at university also made her think about the likelihood of God. And finally, she started to read a Bible that was in her room.
“It took more than six months of investigating it,” she recalls. “God bombarded me with his love and with people. It took me to go to my church to pray, to finally realise. I remember feeling sick to my stomach, sat in church, aware that I’d messed up, and my life was contaminated compared to God’s beauty. I remember seeing the stained glass window, of Jesus saying ‘I stand at door and knock’. I realised the Cross and the resurrection was for me, and for my shame. I asked Jesus into my life, I knew I was living my life wrong, and the Cross made it possible for me to have a different life. I wanted what my friend had, which was purity and contentment.
“To know I am loved, completely 100%, has changed the way I live my life, and the value I put on my friendships. I used to be constantly chasing after everyone’s opinion, especially men and their attraction. God’s love has set me free in my mind – rather than saying to the world, ‘define me, accept me, complete me’.
“The young adult thing at Keswick has been great, meeting people my own age. The John Lennox talk this morning was great, it’s been a real encouragement.”
Eight years ago, Alasdair Macleod, 36, from Stornoway in the Western Isles of Scotland, thought that the Bible was a 'fairytale.' When he nearly died after a serious physical illness, he started to re-evaluate his life. At first he explored Buddhism and Reiki, but he found his physical and emotional health just got worse. One day while in hospital, he reached for a copy of the Bible.
"It was the first time I'd looked at the Bible in years. People had been coming to visit me when I was ill and in hospital; family, friends, elders and ministers, and had prayed and read the Bible to me, but I hadn't paid them any attention. But now, as I read passage after passage of the scriptures, my parched and weary soul soaked in the 'water of life'. After about 10 to 15 minutes I placed the New Testament back in the holder and prayed, 'God, please help me.' I meant it from the bottom of my heart, no strings attached, and I was utterly desperate.
"I felt pure love and perfect peace, as my Saviour embraced me and my head rested on his chest. Around me was white and above I could hear a crowd rejoicing. I believe it was as Luke chapter 15 verse 10 states that 'there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.' I sat on my bed crying with joy and relief, because I knew that God was real. Later I came to understand what Jesus had done for me at Calvary [on the Cross] and again cried with thankfulness and praise.
“The Christian life isn't easy but it is amazing. The love, peace, joy and happiness that I now know is beyond anything I could have imagined. I would quite happily swap the first 27 years of my life for the last eight in an instant. There is no comparison.
“The last time I came to Keswick, it really reinforced that message of the breadth of the body of Christ. Feeling that love and connection in Jesus, is a wonderful, wonderful thing.”
Susan*, 32, from Manchester, had gone to Sunday School as a child, but didn’t like it and stopped in her teens. In her 20s, she started questioning whether faith was true, and found that friendships with other young people who were Christians influenced her as she first started going to church in 2008.
“They knew I wasn’t a Christian, but were patient and kind and opened their church and homes to me,” said Katherine. “There were a lot of people investing in me. Through a lot of investigating for myself, I’m now a dedicated Christian and want to follow God with my whole life.
“I love coming to Keswick. It’s a gorgeous setting. It’s lovely to be on this campsite, and wake up every morning to look at the hills of Keswick. Everyone is always so welcoming, when I go shopping or riding my bike. The residents are lovely, it’s got a really nice atmosphere.
“As soon as I accepted God in my life and said I wanted to live my life for him, I just felt so much happier and understanding of who I was as a person. It’s made me a lot more content and secure in the person I am.”
An Iranian man, 32, who can’t give his name due to potential difficulties with his family, became a Christian several weeks ago. He started exploring Christianity after he found himself in a church one day, and started asking questions. A series of films and dreams had led him to think about the Christian faith. As a teenager he had been passionate about Islam, but this had waned in recent years.
“When I became Christian, a huge, massive, massive peace came to my life,” he said. “I look at everyone differently. I have lived in a small flat for three years, with lots of trees behind. For the first time I realised how beautiful they are. I look at everything like a new baby coming to a new world, everything is new and amazing. The main thing is that before, I read the Bible lots of times, but I didn’t understand anything. Now when I’m reading the Bible, I understand it.”
Murdo Macleod, 19, is also from Stornoway (cousin of Alasdair above). He is on a painter and decorator apprenticeship.
“Two years ago, one of my friends at school invited me to a Christianity Explored group. I started hearing about the gospel. The course answered all my questions, like why Jesus died for me, and why I needed him in my life, and explained about all the prophecies in the Old Testament and how they were fulfilled in Jesus. It was a good environment, it was friendly, and it drew me closer. It was pretty straightforward really. My cousin Alasdair invited me to church. Within a year I got baptised and then went forward at church. It was probably the fear of hell that drew me to the Christian faith at first.
“I can be assured that everything that happens is because God’s got a purpose in my life, nothing happens by mistake. My whole life has changed in the way I think and do things. My desires have changed as well. My dad runs a pub, so I used to like going out with him, and could have easily got lead astray and gone out drinking all the time. I stopped swearing and stuff. I got saved at just the right time.
“I’m having a brilliant time in Keswick. It’s definitely helping my faith, seeing Christians all over the world and with different backgrounds.”
Sisters Faith, 21, and Anna Martin, 18, from South Yorkshire, didn’t grow up in a Christian family, and had hardly been to church in their childhood. When Faith applied to go to a Norwegian school for her gap year, she didn’t realise it was Christian. She loved the worship and prayer, and when she came back she decided to ‘accept God in my life’ and got baptised. Anna was interested when her sister came back, and started attending church with her sister too.
Faith says her life is ‘completely different’ as a Christian. “Life is hopeless without faith,” she said. “Every single aspect of my life has completely changed since being baptised. It changes you. That’s a good thing. I’ve become more patient, less angry, more humble. I was angry as a teenager.
“I’d have liked to go to church from a young age, and wasn’t given that opportunity.”
Anna had wanted to be a fashion designer, but since becoming a Christian has re-evaluated her priorities and is going to Australia to do youth work. “I wanted to become a fashion designer, but since becoming a Christian I realised it wasn’t a great place for me to be,” she said.
* Not her real name