When I made the decision to do a gap year in England, I never thought twice about what I was leaving behind. Partly because I didn’t have time to think, and partly because I could focus only what a blessing this opportunity was. C.S. Lewis once said, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” This was probably the biggest decision I’ve ever made, and by far the biggest leap of faith I have ever taken.
For those of you who don’t know, I graduated from high school this May, and was totally prepared to start college at the University of Georgia. I came to Teeside during July on a trip with a group from my church. It was my first time out of the country, and I was so excited about the things God had in store for me and my team. Little did I know, God was changing all my plans, giving me a burden for the people in this quaint little area of northeast England, and making me radically rethink everything I thought I knew. Before I even returned from that trip, I knew that God wasn’t done with me here. I remember praying with tears streaming down my face, Lord just tell me what to do, because I can’t do this alone. Even then I didn’t think it was possible for me to do something like this.
After returning from the trip, I spent a long week or two praying about God’s plans for me, talking to my parents, and weighing my options. In the end, I knew all I could do was surrender to God’s sovereign plan, no matter how crazy it seemed. I knew I was going back to Teeside. Then I had the dilemma of already being enrolled in college. I had to apply for deferment at UGA, which meant that if they found my reason valid, then they would hold my admission, scholarships, etc. When I got the email that my request had been accepted, I got some major reassurance that everything would fall into place. The next task was to tell my roommate that, well, she wasn’t my roommate anymore. This is what I was dreading most. We had been planning to live together for months, and I felt terrible leaving her only a few weeks before move-in day. Before I walked in Starbucks to meet her that day, I prayed that God would give me the words to say, and give her understanding. She was surprised I’m sure, but she was very understanding and happy that I had an opportunity like this.
Then began the process of visa applications, background checks, telling everyone that I was leaving the country, and packing. Do you have any clue how hard it was to compress my life into three bags? I feel like I need so much to survive for a whole year. Somehow I managed, and barely kept the bags under the airport weight limit.
Then came goodbyes. In all the rush of planning and excitement, it never occurred to me how many people I would have to say goodbye to. Of course I’ll be back at Christmas and then next July, but when you see a person every day or even every week, you sometimes take their presence for granted until you can’t see them anymore. There were many tears, and I had a very emotional few days. But as hard as it was, I knew I was doing the right thing. You have to put all your faith in God, if you are following His path for you, nothing will really go wrong. Not to say that it will be easy, because it definitely wasn’t, but it was better knowing that I am doing God’s will.
So then I crossed the pond, ready to start the next chapter of my life. Leaving behind everything I have ever known, and the town I have lived in all my life, for this mysterious place where I know only a handful of people. Here’s what I do know: I love Newnan, and I love Southcrest Church, but that was my comfort zone. If I am to follow God to the ends of the earth (literally), with radical faith, I can’t stay in my comfort zone any longer. Most people don’t realize how spiritually dark England has become. This is where the first Christian missionaries were sent from, but faith has fizzled and tradition has become ritual, and the light of God’s kingdom was growing dim here.
There is some good news. Myself and nine other young people have come together to bring God’s light back to Teeside. I am completely confident that God can start a revival in this place, and I am so blessed to have an opportunity to be a part of this.
I appreciate your prayers and support. I will continue to update you on all the amazing things that God is doing through us throughout this year as we do His work. I am so excited about the team that has been brought together, about the new relationships I will be building, and about all the opportunities I will have to be a light for Jesus here in the Tees Valley.
Please keep this place in your prayers as we start our ministry here, this is a view of the Tees Valley from Roseberry Topping!
Until Next Time,