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alpha News

No. 50

U K ED ITI O N

al pha. org

One man’s story

From a £1m home to a caravan in a few weeks

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

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Above: Some of the 1200 delegates attending EMEA week at Holy Trinity Brompton in June Inset: Anderson Mudhara, Alpha office director in Zimbabwe is carried aloft by delegates in prayer following persecution during which he was imprisoned seven times (story: page five)

eight archbishops The 2010 Campaign at alpha’s big week Also inside...

Pages 10-11

Full story - pages 2-3 Country reports - pages 4-5

Theologians at HTB Pages 26-27

1200 attend 77 countries 38 bishops conference represented also present

INSIDE: Who we are 2, Directory 30, Conferences 31, Publications 32


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Alpha News is published three times a year to keep church leaders and congregations up-to-date with the spread of the Alpha course and associated ministries. The Alpha Course is an introduction to the Christian faith which has seen extraordinary success at stimulating faith among those who are not churchgoers and also given a new dynamism to many existing Christians. The number of registered churches worldwide at the end of each year since 1992 was: Year Courses Attendees (cumulative) 1992 5 1993 200 4,600 1994 750 25,000 1995 2,500 100,000 1996 5,000 400,000 1997 6,500 800,000 1998 10,500 1.3m 1999 14,200 2m 2000 17,000 2.7m 2001 19,800 3.8m 2002 24,400 4.7m 2003 27,340 5.7m 2004 29,051 6.7m 2005 31,167 8m 2006 32,592 9.3m 2007 35,092 10.8m 35,385 12.3m 2008 ** 2009 44,365 14m 2010 46,053 15m (est) If you wish to know more about Alpha please see page 30. If you wish to advertise in any edition of Alpha News, please contact: Tel: +44 (0) 845 644 7544 e-mail: advertising@alphacourse.org Note: The acceptance of advertisements does not indicate editorial endorsement

archbishops, bishops and other church leaders of

EMEA People

In the booths: Interpreters translate into five languages NINETEEN translators were involved at EMEA week providing a simultaneous translation into five languages – Spanish, Russian, French, Polish and German – for the delegates. There was a cheerful atmosphere in the booths set up in a chapel adjoining the church (see picture above). Many of the interpreters – all of whom are well acquainted with Alpha – offered their services free of charge.

Archbishop holds reception at Westminster Cathedral

Number of registered courses in some countries: Australia Canada France Germany India Indonesia Japan Kenya Nigeria Romania South Korea Switzerland UK USA Zambia

2,268 700 602 1,472 7,864 525 350 188 286 552 4,794 719 8,742 10,659 98

Alpha International Holy Trinity Brompton, Brompton Road, London SW7 1JA Tel: +44 (0) 845 644 7544 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7589 3390 e-mail: info@alphacourse.org website: alphacourse.org

** From 2008 a new system of counting

Alpha courses was introduced to take into account a wide variety of different locations rather than just churches

The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, hosted a Mass for delegates of Alpha’s EMEA week at Westminster Cathedral. He then welcomed them to a reception at Archbishop’s House, which adjoins the cathedral. Four Catholic archbishops, seven bishops, and many priests took part in the service and attended the reception.

Hundreds of volunteers serve guests throughout the week

Order copies of Alpha News FREE If you are running the Alpha Course you can order up to 100 copies of UK Alpha News FREE. Please call the Alpha hotline on 0845 758 1278 to order extra copies or to ask for more information.

Around 280 volunteers took part in serving at Alpha’s EMEA week – welcoming, offering accommodation to the delegates, serving food and drink, and helping with administration. On the Thursday evening they served a special ‘Cuisine from the Nations’ including Jerk Chicken and rice and Chicken Biryani.

ROWAN WILLIAMS

What they said...

WELCOME TO ALPHA NEWS

Alpha News

Archbishop of Canterbury

It’s a very great pleasure to be able to welcome all those who are gathered for the Alpha conference at this time – church leaders and others who have come from across the world to join in this very important event. Here at Lambeth palace we’re delighted and very grateful to be a part of the Alpha programme, to be associated with this work, and we pray this will be a time when you all truly discover the universality of the gospel and are able to bring it to new communities of people across the globe.

’ A week

Eight archbishops join delegates of 77 nations at biennial EMEA week More than 1200 church leaders from 77 countries and 28 denominations attended Alpha’s week for leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Holy Trinity Brompton in June. Eight archbishops and 38 bishops, including three Catholic archbishops and an Orthodox bishop from Bulgaria, attended the biennial event for church leaders, which was translated simultaneously into French, German, Polish, Russian and Spanish. The conference was opened by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who said, ‘It’s really good to be thinking globally as Christians. I thank God for this Alpha movement...’ The Archbishop of Canterbury sent a video message of welcome, as did Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household. A special Mass was held at Westminster Cathedral led by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols on the Tuesday evening. He hosted a reception at Archbishop’s House afterwards at which he said he ‘saluted the work that Alpha does all around the world now in so many different countries.’ Nicky Gumbel shared his vision for Alpha during the week and interviewed representatives from all the countries attending. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Lucia spoke movingly of the ecumenical nature of Alpha. He said, ‘I have rubbed shoulders

The Archbishops who attended

• Mons. Pedro Barreto Jimeno, Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru (Roman Catholic) • Mons. Robert Rivas, Archbishop of Saint Lucia, Barbados and St. Vincent (Roman Catholic) • Most Revd. Justice Akrofi, Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa (Anglican) • Most Revd. Vincenct Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi (Roman Catholic) (pictured above) • Most Revd. Ignatius Kattey, Archbishop of Niger Delta Province, Nigeria (Anglican) • Most Revd. Emmanuel Egbunu, Archbishop of Lokoja Province, Nigeria (Anglican) • Most Revd. Edmund Akanya, Archbishop of Kebe, North Nigeria (Anglican) • Most Revd. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster (Roman Catholic)

with Anglicans, with Pentecostals, with Orthodox, with Methodists, with so many church men and women over the past five days and one of the things I have realised out of all this was that over this period of time I never felt that I was different. I felt a sense of ‘We are one, we are united’ - that God is doing something very wonderful here and that he is shaping our lives for something very special.’ Throughout the week prayer was offered for delegates, many of whom where staying as guests in the homes of members of the Holy Trinity Brompton congregation. There was also a 24/7 prayer room open for prayer day and night throughout the week. Hundreds took part in a barbecue on Thursday night which concluded with a celebration of praise and worship in the church.


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all denominations gather in london for big alpha week of vision

VINCENT NICHOLS

Archbishop of Westminster

I congratulate those who have organised this particular week for Alpha, as well as saluting the work that Alpha does all around the world now in so many different countries.... I have heard wonderful testimonies about the work of Alpha in prisons, in poor countries, in many many different circumstances. It is when the testimonies are exchanged that we grow stronger… I pray that God will guide us all in this journey of deeper and deeper understanding and greater visible unity between our churches.

RICHARD CHARTRES Bishop of London

It’s thrilling to be here. It’s really good to be thinking globally as Christians... I thank God for this Alpha movement... We have here what I believe is part of the generosity of a God who so loved the world that he gave His only Son... It is a method which I’ve seen with my own eyes... So you can believe me when I say: I’ve seen it, it works. I praise God for it. I love being here. It’s wonderful to see you and with the greatest formality I can muster at this stage, I declare the conference open!

RANIERO CANTALAMESSA Preacher to the Papal Household, Rome

To all the people especially the leaders, the pastors, the bishops from the Middle East, Europe and Africa loved by God.... It’s a pity that I cannot be physically with you because I am engaged in Lithuania this week doing much the same as what you are doing in London – evangelising (or preparing for evangelising) but spiritually I am with you at this time and I’m sure you will enjoy because I remember once attending one of these meetings – the joy,the enthusiasm, the physical presence of the risen Lord in Holy Trinity Brompton.

’ ’ ’ of ‘global thinking’ Eight archbishops and 38 bishops attended EMEA Week

Delegates from 77 countries came together at HTB Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, opened the conference


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NEWS

Alpha News

NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

from the

NATIONS How some of the 77 countries reported back FRANCE Alpha France is 10 years old this year. We have an office in the centre of Paris. This year we have 550 parish churches who run the Alpha Course and 150 running The Marriage Course. We have translated the Marriage Preparation Course into French and it has been a great success.

training for Orthodox priests and from chaplains and now there are a couple of Alpha courses running in the prisons and in local parishes, and the good news is that this year we will have the second Alpha Orthodox Conference and we’re expecting people from other countries and it’s so great.

SIERRA LEONE Alpha is adding value and great respect to our people in Sierra Leone. We are seeing communities being transformed in the prisons, among the youth, the students.

NETHERLANDS I’m the Vicar General [Catholic] of the south area of Holland. While football is uniting the world on a superficial level, Alpha is uniting the Christians on a much deeper level, so that’s why we would like to thank you and your community for this wonderful gift of the Alpha course.

MADAGASCAR One of the most exciting things that has happened last year was that we were able to publish Questions of Life in Malagasy. In the Malagasy language there are only about 100 books that have been published so we’re very excited about that. Next week we have a symposium where a number of different ecumenical groups – Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed and the Anglicans – are coming together and we’ll be able to present Alpha to the ecumenical community. SLOVAKIA We started the Alpha Course three years ago in the Catholic Church in one city. This year we started Alpha Course for young people and students in 10 cities. Around 800 young people have come to know Jesus Christ. BULGARIA One lady was selling honey in the marketplace and she was inviting people to the Alpha course and they thought the Alpha course was about bees and honey and they came. On the first evening there were so disappointed, but now they are part of the local church. Last year we had in Bulgaria the first Alpha

ROMANIA 2010 is going to be the most important year for Alpha Romania. I’m so thrilled to have with me a representative of the Orthodox Church. We also have two bishops with us and six priests. Romania is an Orthodox country and we really believe that Alpha is such an easy to use tool in any church, we’re looking forward to be a part of the Bulgarian Orthodox Conference in November. SOUTH AFRICA Over 400,000 people have already done Alpha in South Africa, but with a population of about 50million and with AIDS continuing to ravage the country, we feel a sense of urgency. In October this year we have the first ever African citywide Alpha initiative in Cape Town. A lot of things are happening in Soweto and many other people from other township environments are asking Soweto to come and help them with Alpha as well. GHANA Last year, Alpha was carried to the street

children who normally are organised in gangs. Several received Christ and have been adopted by one church which now has four people commissioned as official evangelists. I have come here with three bishops and the Director General of Prisons of Ghana is also here. ISRAEL I am pastor of a Lutheran congregation in Israel and we recently ran Alpha for the first time. We are 25 participants and we all love it. There is a conversation going on now to make a Hebrew version of Alpha and it’s very much needed. MEXICO This year we had three GAT training events with more than 500 people attending. With the first

Catholic regional conference last year in Bogota, Alpha is spreading in all of Latin America in the Catholic Church. Alpha is definitely a tool for us to preach the Gospel. COLOMBIA A regional Alpha Conference was held in Bogota last year organised by the Catholic Conference in Latin America. We are also doing a GAT very soon in July with all the parishes in my diocese. ECUADOR I am the Bishop for Armed Forces in Ecuador and this year in March, an Alpha team came from the UK, invited by the National Ecuador Episcopal Conference to train all the dioceses in our country to run the Alpha Course. In that meeting, there were

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delegates from all the dioceses. I am very interested to run Alpha in the armed forces in my nation. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve already talked with HTB with Alpha International and there is an agreement to send a team in November to train 300 military chaplains to train them for the Alpha Course.

Peruvians have not discovered yet. And second, with the love of Christ, also to have love for the environment. There is so much conflict in Latin America regarding the environment and Alpha is a good tool to awaken this conscience. We say thank you so much, Alpha.

ARGENTINA We belong to a religious community called St Johnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Society. We have been working with Alpha for three years now in four main cities in Argentina, with teenagers, with university students and among adults. Alpha gives people the opportunity to process and with freedom to embrace Christ.

RUSSIA Alpha is growing in Russia quite fast â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in Catholic areas, in Siberia, and there are a lot of evangelical churches who are interested in doing Alpha and they are starting. We are even planning to do a small Alpha initiative in Moscow. It will not be big scale but something we have to start with. We have three bishops now with us.

PERU I am the Archbishop of the City of Huancayo which is 3,300 metres above sea level, and all of you are invited to come and visit me. Alpha was started around five years ago in Peru, in different denominations and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why we are so happy to be here today. Alpha is really a blessing from God and we say it that clearly because it responds to urgent matters that we have in Latin America. First, to awake the Jesus Christ that many

LEBANON The Alpha Arabic DVDs have been born in the Arab world. They have been broadcast already on satellite television with Sat 7, and the DVDs have brought a new momentum in Lebanon. We have already run it in different contexts and all denominations. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re running it in student and Youth Alpha context with the Youth for Christ and Campus Crusades. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also bringing a


Alpha News

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JULY - OCTOBER 2010

NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

APTIHI^LÂťZ(UKLYZVUPZSPM[LK\WPU WYH`LYHM[LY`LHYVMWLYZLJ\[PVU ZIMBABWE ANDERSON Mudhara, Director of Alpha Zimbabwe, was carried literally - in prayer by his fellow Alpha delegates on the Thursday night celebration evening. The emotional moment came after Anderson told how he had been arrested and imprisoned seven times between 2007 and 2008. One of his Alpha colleagues had been beaten so badly that he had died. Another had been permanently paralysed. Prayer Director Pete Greig invited Anderson to the stage saying: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to invite Anderson to come to the platform and also those of you

who are from nations where there is significant persecution of the church. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;As a way for praying for those who represent the persecuted church of Jesus Christ, I want us to literally carry them over our heads. I want us to do it as a way of saying to them that we are praying for them, that we lifting them to God. That where others will beat them down, we will lift them up, that we are one family...â&#x20AC;&#x2122; He said to Anderson: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;We honour you, and we honour your family and those that you work with for the price that you pay and we love being one family with you.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

Âş(]LY`WV^LYM\SPUZ[Y\TLU[Âť INDIA 7KH5RPDQ&DWKROLF$UFKELVKRSRI'HOKLVDLG â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The greatest thing that we have been able to do in India was to have a one-hour explosive programme on Alpha to 120 bishops. These bishops were all Latin bishops, and as a result we are already in five dioceses, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Hyderabad and Guwahati. The introductory programmes have already started and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure we will move ahead slowly but steadily. Pope John Paul II said that evangelisation gives the Church its deepest identity and I see Alpha as a very powerful instrument to help the Church rediscover its identity as an evangelising church. God bless you all.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

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new momentum in the Middle East. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had training in Syria and out of that, three courses have now been started, one in a Catholic context. The Bishop of Jerusalem has now adopted Alpha as a course for the diocese and appointed an officer for training for Alpha. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve sent the DVDs to Palestinian Arab speaking churches in Jerusalem and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re now hoping to run a GAT for Arab Palestinians in Israel. RWANDA In mid January we had a very successful training for prisons and we had a team from the UK that was composed of what I may call the best of the best. We trained 72 pastors and prison chaplains. Now, 13 out of 14 prisons in Rwanda are running Alpha courses for prisons and the remaining one is about to start, so will be running Alpha for Prison courses throughout the nation. As you are aware, Rwanda suffered the genocide 16 years ago. God is using Alpha ministry to bring healing by the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ

ST LUCIA, BARBADOS and ST VINCENT 7KH5RPDQ&DWKROLF$UFKELVKRSRI6W/XFLD%DUEDGRVDQG6W9LQFHQW â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;We arrived in London and the word was hospitality from arrival. I forgot my needles for my insulin pen. No problem. Nothing was a problem. Then I realised it was Anglicans who were so nice to me. I have rubbed shoulders with Anglicans, with Pentecostals, with Orthodox, with Methodists, over the past five days and one of the things I have realised was that during this period I never felt that I was different. I felt the sense of â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are one, we are unitedâ&#x20AC;?, that God is doing something wonderful here. I celebrated my birthday on Monday and I took the risk and I went and was prayed for. I left like a desert and I came back next day and we were prayed for again, and I left an eagleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wings.

on both sides. We are experiencing the power of forgiveness. EGYPT Since the establishment of the National Office in Egypt in 2008, Alpha has been growing rapidly and we gained the recognition of all the major denominations in Egypt. Last year at International Week we had Bishop Yohanna Kolta who is the second man in the Catholic Church in Egypt and almost all the Anglican churches in Egypt run Alpha now. Last year, Alpha in Kasr El Dobara, the biggest Presbyterian church in Cairo, began so we are gaining recognition of almost all the major denominations in Egypt. ZIMBABWE I was arrested seven times with my team in 2007-8. We were arrested, beaten and tortured and so unfortunately, I lost one of the team. He died as a result of the beatings and one of them is now permanently paralysed, but we soldier on. And yes, we thank God for taking us through that and

For more information about EMEA week, see alphafriends.org

to be where we are today. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll just mention two highlights: we have been praying for about nine years to take Alpha into our prisons and last year the government allowed us to have a pilot project and we did one course in one of the prisons. Now the door seems to be opened to

have 188 courses running. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been able to run 36 GATs, one of which was with a joint team from the UK here and we thank God for that kind of cooperation. Now we have been reaching out to community groups, single mothers, senior ladies, but one of the highlights in

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take Alpha into all our prisons and we are doing this in phases. I think we have the biggest delegation from Zimbabwe and with us is Bishop Chard whose diocese has adopted Alpha as its tool for evangelism for the whole diocese. KENYA Exciting things are happening in Kenya. Last year we reported 80 courses running, now we

Alpha has been this outreach to the Masai community in Narok. This is a group that is nomadic and so the pastor has to actually follow them. He has a course in the morning, he has a course in the afternoon. To be able to administer the course, he has actually to keep up with his group while theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re herding the cows, because for them, the cows are really what

itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all about and if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t respect that then you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be able to do the course. One thing weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve also done is translate the manual into Masai and so for those who can read, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re able to follow it. ZAMBIA At the moment we have about 50 to 60 Alphas running and out of that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had a very big, amazing explosion. The Catholics are really doing very well. We have the chaplain general for prisons in Zambia with us here. The government have just allowed us to use the Alpha Course in all the prisons and so far we have trained about 54 chaplains. LITHUANIA This year we had 62 Alpha Courses and 51 in Catholic Church because theoretically 80% of all Christians are Catholics and also we had 11 courses in other denominations. Also we had the first GAT in Lithuania, it was really great and we had 150 participants. POLAND Last year in Poland, there were 27 new Alpha courses, 3,000 guests, eight

conferences, one GAT event... The National conference gathered eight denominations which isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t easy for Poland as we are a predominantly Catholic country. I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even aware there were that many churches but there was a fantastic sense of unity amongst us. GERMANY We have 70 Alpha advisers in Germany who are doing wonderful things helping and serving the 1,500 courses we have (as well as about 160 young Youth Alpha courses). Next September we have an Initiative in one of the main local states with about 10million people. It is the first time we have had the Initiative and a lot of churches have already accepted. BENIN I got to know Alpha last year in Ghana. I went to the training and I came back to my country and I started last year, July, a youth meeting for Alpha. I got 200 youth and 25 churches got to know Alpha in six regions from the 12 regions of Benin. This year weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re expecting 400 youth to spread it more.


JULY - OCTOBER 2010

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Alpha News

NEWS IN BRIEF

Bear Grylls speaks at launch of Winchester Alpha course

A graph showing how the number of people attending Alpha courses worldwide has grown almost every year since 1993

Survey: 2m went on Alpha in 2009 61% rise for Asia Pacific courses Two million people around the world attended an Alpha course last year – a 25 per cent increase on the previous year – according to a new survey by Christian Research. More than 15 million people have now attended an Alpha course somewhere in the world since 1993. The sharpest rise in attendance was in the Asia Pacific region where attendance rose by 61 per cent over the previous year. In India, 414,000 guests attended Alpha during 2009. The number of churches running the course there had risen from 2,940 to 6,900 during the year. The information for the survey by the independent research

organisation was gathered from 162 countries. Alpha commissions the survey every year. Attendance on Alpha was 1.6 million in 2008. Guest attendance on Alpha courses has also risen in the Americas (13%) and the Middle East (8%). In Indonesia, the number attending courses rose from 1,788

in 2008 to 13,732 in 2009. The number of churches running the course rose from 149 to 525. In China, around 45,000 guests are estimated to have attended Alpha courses in 2009 although the precise number is impossible to quantify. There are now more than 46,000 Alpha courses running around the world.

New books launch publishing deal

ALPHA BOOKS will be more widely available in British bookshops following a partnership deal with leading publishers Lion Hudson. Books set to be seen in bookstores include a fully revised and updated version of Nicky Gumbel’s Questions of Life, the book of the Alpha course, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Other books to be published in the autumn include: l A completely revised edition of Nicky Gumbel’s book Challenging Lifestyle – now renamed The Jesus Lifestyle. l A book on the Holy Spirit by Dr Graham

Tomlin, head of St Paul’s Theological Centre, called Free Spirit. l A new volume in the popular The God Who Changes Lives series, called Lifechange. Lifechange includes the stories of 15 men whose lives have been transformed by God. They include England Rugby international Ugo Monye; former prisoner Shane Taylor and policeman Simon Pinchbeck among

others. In April this year Lion Hudson Plc took over the marketing of many of the most high profile Alpha titles in an aim to give the books a larger presence in the general market. The rights to ‘Questions of Life’ and other Alpha titles remain with Alpha International. The books were originally published by Kingsway, but last December Alpha

regained the rights to these key titles. Lion Hudson is the largest independent publisher of books inspired by the Christian faith and its values in the UK. Stephanie Heald, Alpha’s Head of Book Publishing, said: ‘The heart of Alpha is to reach people outside the church, so we want to get our books out into the general market. ‘Nicky Gumbel’s Questions of Life is one of the most well loved contemporary books on the Christian faith. ‘We want it and other books to be easily accessible to those browsing in Waterstone’s and WHSmith.’

Dry ice and camouflage nets set the stage for TV adventurer Bear Grylls as he spoke about Alpha to a 500-strong audience in Winchester in April. Speaking at the launch of Winchester Family Church’s summer Alpha Course, he spoke about becoming the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest at the age of 23 – just months after breaking his back in three places in a parachuting accident. Bear also spoke of how a combination of friendship and prayer had kept him strong through the climb. The star of Channel Four’s Born Survivor series answered questions from the audience, ranging from who would win in a fight – him or Ray Mears. He humbly conceded Ray would come out top.

Alpha is best, says Vicar on BBC 1’s Pentecost service

A south London vicar gave a powerful endorsement of the Alpha course in a Pentecost service broadcast on BBC1 in May. The Rev’d Frog Orr-Ewing was preaching at a service held at his church, All Saints Peckham. In the address broadcast to hundreds of thousands of viewers on Pentecost Sunday morning, he said: ‘Here at All Saints and in many churches around the nation, we feel it is crucial for people to have the time and space to ask the questions, and to begin to search for the answers. All needs exploring.

‘The Al pha course is the best way to do this – meeting with other perplexed people to look at some of the important subjects: Who is Jesus? Why did he die? How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit? How should I read the Bible? What about evil? How should I pray? ‘You can find out by visiting an Alpha course near you – ask at your nearest church. Find out about a course near you and go along.’

Cathy Scott wins Vodafone competition to join Scotish Alpha The winner of a telephone company’s national competition to make a difference to their local communities chose to work for one of Alpha’s Caring for Ex-Offenders projects. Cathy Scott, from Callander, Stirlingshire, was one of the winners of the Vodafone World Of Difference competition. Over 1100 applicants applied for the competition, which was launched to empower people to make a difference by putting something back into their communities. Following Cathy Scott’s victory, Vodafone funded her to work for two months for Alpha Scotland on a Caring For Ex-Offenders Project. Cathy is an elder at Callander

Kirk, and has also been assisting with developing Alpha Scotland connections with the Church of Scotland during this period. 132,000 people have been following the progress of the winners on the World Of Difference Facebook group. So Cathy has been busy blogging each day letting people know about CFEO and Alpha.

Lions star talks to rugby magazine about Alpha Lions and England rugby international player Ugo Monye told Rugby World magazine about his Christian faith and passion for the Alpha course in an interview in their April 2010 recent issue. The article began with a description of the tattoo of the cross on his right forearm. ‘If anyone is wondering whether he backs up such a public show of faith with deeds as well, all you need to do is visit the Holy Trinity Church in London’s Brompton on a Wednesday evening and see the man in action,’ the article said. Ugo said of Alpha, ‘I went down to Brompton and immediately fell in love with the whole concept. It is a fantastic tool which gives me an ability to ask questions, learn a lot more and discuss it all with different people.’


Alpha News

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Gary Flynn, 45, of Twickenham, Middlesex, runs his own scaffolding company, London Network Scaffolding. By 2008, he had made such a success of his business that he moved into a £1 million house. But in the space of a couple of weeks, his home was gone, his business was shrinking, he had cancer and he was forced to live in a caravan. Here he tells the astonishing story of his life and how God has transformed it.

M

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Gary Flynn lost his £1m home and had to move into a caravan in the space of a couple of weeks... but God had a plan. Here Gary tells his amazing story....

y dad Jimmy was 29 years old when he was killed whilst erecting a scaffold at Deepcut Army Barracks in Surrey. My uncle and he were working together and my uncle said, ‘Come on, Jimmy, let’s go to breakfast.’ My dad said, ‘I’ll just fill this last bit in and then we’ll go.’ It turned out that a stray army bullet from the firing range in the army barracks had hit a tree, ricocheted off and hit my dad in the heart. I was at school when it happened. My headmaster came and took me out of my classroom. He said, Your dad’s had an accident and he’s been killed,’ and he took me home in his car. I remember walking into the room in my grandmother’s house in Basingstoke and I can still remember the wallpaper, the furnishings. I went in and my mum was lying on the sofa crying her eyes out. There were lots of family there and that sort of stuff. The curtains were drawn. They didn’t think it would be good for me to go to the funeral so I was taken into the town centre but the bus route to the town centre went past the cemetery. It was a very big funeral. Dad was a popular man. Mum got compensation after a while, but nothing could compensate for losing my dad. Over the years I’ve met scaffolders who knew him and they all say the same thing, he was a great man. When my dad died, my mum’s only way of handling her grief was to push me away, because she believed that if she loved me as much as she loved my dad I would be taken away from her too, and she could’nt bear the thought of losing me also. At the time, we moved in with her mum and dad and it was my grandparents that really brought me up. My nan was my best friend. My Grandad tried to take my dad’s place and was very strict – but my nan always defended me. She would say, ‘He’s gone through enough.’ I went to secondary school at Richard Aldworth in Basingstoke, and I was good at sport and also art. When I was fifteen my mum got remarried to a pilot in the American army. He had but got into trouble over there and decided been in Vietnam and the Gulf War and to come back and got together with my ex flew Cobra helicopters, the ones with the wife, and we had another son, Joe. By then we were living in Hammersmith. We didn’t missiles on the side. When they got married, he was stationed bother remarrying. One morning when Joe was nine weeks in Germany and then they moved back to Texas. Mum asked me to come but I didn’t and six days old, I heard his mum screaming go at first. Later I went and even attended and I ran into the room. She was shouting, school there but didn’t enjoy it and came ‘The baby, the baby’s dead.’ Joe was still in his crib. I pulled him out back. I wasn’t really happy in either place. and he was dead. I tried to revive him but I’d been drinking from about the age of thirteen. Me and my mate would go down he was well gone. He was a cot death. Four or five years later we had a third to the local pub. I’d save my money all week and go to the pub on a Sunday son, Jimmy, and we used to have him evening, disco night, and get tanked up. I sleeping with us with a heart monitor suppose I was just trying to block attached, because we were so worried everything out because I don’t remember about having a cot death again. Even though I had my two children I still wasn’t too much of my childhood. When I was eighteen I got married to a happy. When I was twenty-nine I started having girl from school who I’d known for two or three years, and within a year I had a baby mental health issues. I started having son, Tony, and got divorced. We broke up panic attacks on the tube and I thought I because I was messing around with other was going to die. I would get pins and needles and kept women. After that the depression really set in and thinking I was having a heart attack. I I overdosed. I was back living with my went to A & E loads of times – so much so grandparents, aged nineteen and felt that they knew my face and name and useless and alone. I got drunk, came back would say, ‘Oh here he is again. Gary, from the pub and just thought, ‘You know here’s your bed, lets do the checks although what – I hate my life, I hate everything. I there’s nothing the matter with you.’ We lived in a penthouse in Bayswater at found loads of tablets that my nan and my granddad had, filled a pint glass up with the time and I told my ex-wife to lock the them and drank them down with water, balcony doors and hide the keys because my mind was telling me to jump off the and left a note. I remember waking and being slapped penthouse and kill myself. My mind was around the face. ‘Wake up, wake up!’ There telling me to jump, even though my body was my grandfather in his underpants and wanted to remain. I was put on some medication but never my uncle, who was staying that night, and really felt like me and gradually I weaned my nan. They brought me round and I was rushed myself off it over the next two years. I was just training my brain to say, ‘Listen, to hospital and had my stomach pumped, and the next day was seen by a you’re not having a heart attack’. One night I went out with my mates and psychiatrist. After that I tried America again for a bit, when I got home me and my ex had yet

another row and she told me to leave . I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going’... and I left, I left her everything. Something just clicked in my mind and I knew I had to start sorting myself out. I had started up a scaffold company in Fulham with two friends and so I moved into my Portakabin, which was my office, and lived in there for a while, and also stayed with friends. A year or two later I bought myself a house in Worcester Park and my eldest son Tony came and lived with me. He was 14 or 15 at that time. It was a three bedroom house and we had no furniture to start with. I just had a kettle, some knives and forks, a couple of plates, and some blow-up beds. We had quite a big front room and me and the boys used to play football in there. Gradually I bought some furniture. Two years later Tony moved back with his mum. When he was 18 he told me he was gay, which was a huge shock to me. He was very frightened when he told me. He was shaking. I just put my arm around him, gave him a cuddle, and said, ‘Listen, it’s not what I want and it’s not an ideal situation but you’re my son, and I love you.’ When I was 37, my nan died. She had brought me up and really was my best friend. She had been suffering from emphysema and I visited her in hospital. She said, ‘Oh, I really fancy a bacon sandwich’ and we sent someone to the hotel down the road to get her a bacon sandwich. It seemed like she was on the mend. I laid next to her in her hospital bed and held her hand and said, ‘It’s all right, Nan.’ I drove back to London and later that

evening I got a phone call, saying, ‘Nan’s gone’. I suppose she was in her late 70s, early 80s – not that old. That was a really bad time. Throughout all my times of trouble, she had been my stability, so losing her was a massive, massive thing for me. I would go out on these huge drug and drink nights, ending up in the houses of people I didn’t even know. I was drinking probably in excess of 20 pints a night, and with a eighth of cocaine on top of that I just kept going all night. My second cousin Joanne came to my nan’s funeral and we would speak every day after that. They say one door shuts, another one opens... It’s weird. Joanne says she had fancied me when I was a child even though she was younger than me. She lived in Liverpool but within six months she had moved down to live with me. She’s seen me through all of that darkness. When she moved in I was still crying a hell of a lot and I’d go out, take cocaine and drink, back to my old self. Anybody else would have said, ‘What am I doing? I’ve just left my whole family in Liverpool, I’ve come down here and you’re doing this to me. I’m off ’. But not Joanne. She stood by me and slowly took me out of that. We’ve talked about marriage many times but have never got round to it. We are going to try and do it next year. She is a wonderful, stable person who was good for me in every way. She stood by me no matter what, through thick and thin, when things were good, when things were bad. That’s rare to find. continued on page eight


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continued from page five

Meanwhile, my business got really, really successful and it came to the point where I could buy a house in West Sussex costing just short of £1 million. It was one of them things that you’ve always dreamed of. It was a massive big house with a swimming pool, hot tub, gym in the garage, land... By December 2007 I’d exchanged contracts on the house and completion date wasn’t till the following July, but we had money coming in and there was no problem. One day in June – some months after Joanne and I had moved in – my grandfather came over and we sat in the garden having a drink, looking over the pool and the lights and the hot tub and everything else. As we sat there, he said, ‘Son, I’m really proud of you. No one’s ever given you nothing and you’ve had a pretty hard life, but you’ve got on with it and built a successful business and now you’ve got all this. You must be really happy.’ There was a slight pause and I heard myself saying, ‘Happy? No. I hate my life, I hate me, I hate everything about it apart from Joanne, and my children. ‘I hate where I’m going. I’ve got no direction. What’s going to come after this house? A two million pound house? A five million pound house? Ten million pound house? Where’s it end? ‘I don’t know what I’m doing – fancy cars, nights out. I just hate it, I hate me and cant take much more’’ The words just came out of nowhere. I knew I wasn’t happy, but at that moment with my grandfather it really came out. I had probably been working and travelling for 18 hours a day at that point because the business was starting to struggle. I had also been feeling a bit unwell. I was having persistent tummy trouble and went to the doctor. I was sent to the hospital where I had loads of tests, cameras and this, that and the other. I was asked to come in the following Monday for the result of a scan. I went in and was ushered into a room with two doctors. They said, ‘I’m sorry Gary. This time it is cancer.’ It hit me like a bus and I hardly know what happened next. I just next day. I told the people that ripped my clothes off, took my worked for me who were all jewellery off, got down on my shocked. knees and said, Doctor, don’t let The next day I woke up and said me die, please don’t let me die, I out loud to the sky, ‘Right, you’re don’t want to die.’ not taking me from Joanne and He said, “No, listen. It’s bowel the children.’ And I decided to cancer and if it’s diagnosed early fight then. there is lots we can do.’ Who was I saying that to? I don’t I left the hospital and got into know. It was just in my mind. the car. Joanne drove. I’d never been to church apart I phoned my son Tony, who was from weddings and funerals. working for me at the time. I told There was just one strange thing him to meet me at his brother’s that had happened some seven house. I said, ‘I need to speak to years before. I was putting up you both.’ some scaffolding and this young He said, ‘Ok, Dad. What’s the lad wearing a hoody came up to matter?’ me. I said, ‘Just go to the house and I thought he was coming over to I’ll see you both there.’ borrow some money for some So I got to the house where they drugs or alcohol, but he said to were waiting. My ex was there me, ‘Do you know about God?’ (Jimmy lived at her home with All the blokes on the scaffold her) and so was Joanne of with me were telling him to get course. stuffed and get out. I went, ‘Oi, I told them to sit down and I leave him alone.’ said, ‘I need to tell you something.’ He stood and spoke to me for I told them and my younger son about ten minutes. went ‘Dad, you ain’t going to die A couple of weeks later I sat in are you?’ my office and thought, ‘I’d like to I’ll never, ever forget that. see that lad again.’ I said, ‘Son, I can’t tell you that. And then a bizarre thing That’s not in my hands … but you happened. The fellow walked know what? I don’t want to leave straight into my office there and you and I’ll do everything I can so then. that I stay here with you.’ I didn’t know him, didn’t know Then I just broke down. I had to where he lived... It turned out he walk out. had recognised the company Joanne and I went to Sainsbury’s name on the signboard outside where I bought the largest bottle and walked in. of Jamaican Spice Rum, a bottle I went, ‘You know what, that is of lemonade, a bag of ice and a amazing. I just thought of you... plastic glass and I sat in the car He said, ‘Shall we go and buy a park in Sainsbury’s and drank Bible?’ the bottle of Jamaican Spice I said, ‘Yeah, come on then’ and Rum. in the middle of my business day, I was quite numb for the whole we drove to Hounslow Trinity

We sat outside my new house overlooking the swimming pool and hot tub and I said, ‘I hate my life’ Church and bought a Good News Bible. I never saw him again. I picked up the Bible a couple of times and just flicked through it then just put it on a shelf at home. From the moment I was told I had cancer, my business life began to fall apart. Because of my illness, the mortgage I was due to have on the new house was pulled and I lost every penny of my initial deposit. I had also bought £28,000 worth of furniture and I lost all that. Within a week, Joanne and I had to move out of the house into a caravan in my yard in Hampton Court.

everybody because I didn’t want my kids to think that, but inside I did. I told Joanne and my mum and my new dad, who had flown over from America. When I said goodbye to the boys. I just gave them a kiss and cuddle and said, ‘Just remember your dad loves you’. It was horrible. Just before I went into the theatre, Joanne said to me, ‘See you when you wake up’ and I went, ‘I ain’t going to wake up.’ She went, ‘Yes you are.’ Six hours later, I woke up in an Intensive Care unit with a cable from my neck, I had all this stuff on my chest. When my mum saw me, she said,

I got down on my knees and said, ‘Doctor, don’t let me die, I don’t want to die...’ I began to wonder if God had heard me scream, ‘I hate my life’ because a week later, I had the cancer, the mortgaged pulled, and boom, in a caravan. My business also went into freefall and I had to lay off nearly all my staff. When I was diagnosed with the cancer I was nearly 21 stone. I was told keyhole surgery might not be a goer because of the size of me. The operation was booked for two weeks time. I said good-bye to everybody because I was sure I was going to die. I didn’t say, ‘I’m going to die’ to

‘You look the best you’ve looked in years.’ Very soon I said, ‘I feel all right’ and I started asking for food and drink. The doctor said, ‘Give him a cup of tea.’ The next day I was eating and on a ward with everyone else. They were quite shocked how quick I recovered. By the fifth day I was allowed home to the caravan – in fact it was a brand new American motorhome that my mum and stepdad had bought for us. They had offered to get us a flat but I decided that I needed to start at the bottom and earn the right to

have anything good. Then the chemotherapy began. It meant going to Charing Cross on a Friday all day. They would feed me chemotherapy through my Hickman Line, I had an operation to have this fitted, which was a tube that went into my neck and out through my chest, and this fed me my treatment. They would send me home with an American bum bag and inside was a plastic bottle and inside the plastic bottle was a balloon which contained my chemo. Over the weekend, that balloon would shrink, feeding the chemo through this pipe into my neck for three days, and then Sunday night, you have to disconnect. Just before the chemo started, Geoffrey, a friend of mine who is a fruit and veg stallholder in Fulham, came to see me. He went, ‘Alright, how are you doing, mate?’ We sat at my caravan, outside in the sunshine, and he went, ‘So do you reckon you’re going to kick the bucket or what?’ And I went, ‘I hope not, God willing.’ He went, ‘God willing? Do you believe in God?’ I went, ‘I don’t know. I hope there’s something there because I need some help. I’m looking at maybe dying.’ Two days later, the phone rings. Big deep voice. ‘Hello, Gary, it’s Geoffrey. I’ll pick you up in the morning. We’re going to Alpha.’ I went, ‘What?’ He went, ‘Just be ready.’ He said it was something to do with the church.


Alpha News

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

PAGE 9 Gary Flynn uses every opportunity to advertise Alpha on his scaffolding.

You don’t say no to Geoffrey, so next morning he picked me up and took me to this church in London called HTB. I owe my life to Geoffrey because he introduced me to the church and kick started my relationship with God. As we walked in, we were met by these three ladies – Pippa, Helena and Jules – and Geoffrey said, ‘This is Gary, he’s got cancer …’ So I sat down and everyone was so lovely and friendly. I never felt out of place. I really enjoyed the first week and I even went to church the following Sunday. It was the 11am service at St Pauls in Onslow Square and I when I went in I thought, ‘This ain’t a church. This is all right.’ I was very surprised how laid back and relaxed it all was. There were bacon sandwiches, coffee, sofas, cushions, lots of young people there. It was such a lovely welcoming feeling. I began to look forward to Alpha. Everybody I met in the church were blinding, absolutely blinding, wonderful, friendly people. They made me feel as welcome as going in my own house. Then we had the Alpha weekend, which Geoffrey also came to. I was given my own room because of the chemo and I just loved it. . On the Sunday morning, there was a chance to welcome the Holy Spirit into your life. I thought, I’ll stand at the back by the door.’ I had heard about this speaking in tongues business and I just thought, ‘No I don’t fancy none of that.’

When they said, ‘Come Holy Spirit’, I was out the door, bang. I got really angry walking back to my room. I was swearing at myself saying ‘You idiot, you’re never going to get right. You’re going to end up down the same road as you always did.’ When I got back to my room I lay on my bed and cried violently. And all of a sudden, I felt a presence in the room and I thought, ‘Wow, what’s going on?’ While I was in my Alpha class, someone had come in with little book markers with Holman Hunt’s picture Light of the World on, showing Jesus waiting at the door.

said, ‘Are you all right, Gary?’ I said, ‘Something’s happened.’ Later, one of the other lads, Michael Emmett, sat down with me and said, ‘Tell the Lord your sins and don’t hold nothing back.’ And he prayed for me and said, ‘Come, Holy Spirit. Gary’s here, your son...’ When I went home, I felt completely different. I felt this peace. I told Joanne the amazing thing that had happened. A few weeks later, before the Alpha had finished, I was staying at my grandparents’ house in Basingstoke. Lying in bed I sat bolt upright – eyes wide open – in the middle of the night. A beam of light was coming from the ceiling into my tummy and moving round. I sat looking at this light coming out of the ceiling into my tummy. It was like someone was pushing a hand on to my tummy and moving it around. Then I looked to the right of my bed and Jesus Christ was stood there with his hands out. I just said: ‘Thank you, Lord, oh thank you, Lord.’ I lay down and closed my eyes. I left it for a couple of minutes because I was so stunned and thought I was dreaming, then I

We sat at my caravan and he said, ‘So you reckon you’re going to kick the bucket then?’ There’s no handle on the outside, and it was explained that you have to open the door and welcome him in. So when I felt this presence in the room, I said, ‘If you’re there Lord, come into my life. Please Lord, I need you. I need saving.’ It was like I was floating, I just felt this mass presence of peace, of love. I was crying and I went, ‘Just save me, I don’t want to be Gary no more.’ I’d had enough of Gary, ‘I hate me, I don’t like me, Lord.’ After about 30 minutes, a couple of people came to the door and

opened my eyes again and He was still there. It was a miracle. I wasn’t scared and I just thought, ‘Well you’ve come to me, Gary the scaffolder. You’ve come to me.’ I knew I didn’t deserve it From that day on, I can’t get enough of Jesus. He has taken over my life. That was November 2008. I was carried by God all through the chemotherapy. The two times I felt sick during a Sunday service I went, ‘God, you know how much it means to me being in the church. I don’t want to walk out of the church if I’m feeling really sick.’

And it was like someone pressing a switch. In that instant my sickness just went. That happened on two occasions. I often think of psalm 40, which I used to read when I started my chemotherapy. ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’s help; then he listened to me and heard my cry. He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure. He taught me to sing a new song a song of praise to our God...’ I used to swear a lot – all day, every day and now my swearing’s stopped by about 95 per cent. When I changed, people began to say, ‘What’s happened to you? You’ve got a peace about you. What’s happened?’ And I’d say, ‘I’ll tell you what’s happened: God. I found him and he found me.’ Although I credit god with changing my life I also have to say that Joanne and my parents have been a huge help to me, always being there for me and doing whatever they can. They have been very patient and are just brilliant. I have even started to like myself a little. When I heard that HTB was sending a team to Brighton to plant a church, I offered to put up the scaffolding around the church. Now it’s up and we have some banners advertising the Alpha course on it. I also spoke to Archie at the church and offered to arrange some advertising hoardings at the site so that it could bring in some much needed income for the church. Since then I’ve put Alpha banners on every scaffolding that I put up, so it’s putting the word out there..., although not a lot of people appreciate them being on their buildings, you see…They haven’t got God in their lives like I have in mine and cant therefore appreciate what he can do for them. But even if it’s up for a day or two, someone’s going to see it, someone’s going to go, ‘Oh look at that, I wonder what that means?’ and hopefully they’ll have what I’ve got. Hanging from the mirror in my work van is a crucifix, and everyone that gets in has to touch it. I’m trying to get Jesus to rub off on as many people as possible! Since Alpha, our group still meets every other Thursday to do Bible study which is fantastic. Not every person turns up, but most people come every time and Geoffrey’s obviously still there. I pray every day and I have my Bible with me all the time – the same Good News one I got seven years ago. I’m also reading The Message version by Eugene Peterson. When I used to go out, I used to binge drink – I’d drink until I dropped. I don’t do that now. I’ve never looked at a line of cocaine in over two years now. I don’t miss it. I’ve been in a situation where all the boys were out one night and an old acquaintance came over, ‘Here you are, Gary, a gram of Coke, help yourself.’ And I went, ‘I don’t do it no more.’ I had been really frightened of going out that evening because I knew that there’d be old people from the past. But I didn’t get drunk, I didn’t take cocaine, I didn’t end up with no women, I

didn’t wake up in some strange house... I got home at a sensible hour instead of an ungodly hour and I woke up in the morning fresh as I went out, with no hangover, and that’s all down to God’s glory, not me. That’s a massive thing for me. That’s a miracle, definitely, without a doubt. God has also given me the strength and pleasure to stand in front of churches full of people on ten different occasions to give my testimony, and I have also been to an ex-offenders church and spoken in Brixton prison. Whatever God wants me to do, I am willing. Joanne has seen the difference. One day I think she will come on Alpha but in her own time. You know what? Jesus is my dad now. I think of him as my dad. Just a short while ago, I was staying at a hotel for a birthday party. I woke up in the morning without an hangover, had breakfast with everybody, and while people were sitting there having tea and coffee and toast, I went into the garden, in the sunshine, sat on a bench, and opened my Bible... As I read my Bible, I closed my eyes and felt Jesus sat next to me on the bench – next to me as though I’m sitting out in the park with my dad. Now when I pray to the Lord, I am able to say, ‘Lord, do with me what you will.’ As well as attending HTB, I also go to my local church, St. Stephens in Twickenham which is run by ex-HTB pastors and this is another place which is so welcoming. Over Christmas 2009, the Lord provided us with our first flat. We had been in the caravan for the best part of a year and half. I’ve only rented my flat, I won’t buy because I need to have at least five years’ clear of cancer, so to know that it’s not going to come back, I’m due another scan this month. That’ll be my first 12 months of clear. I feel, since I found God, my life’s just begun. Forget the last 40 years, it’s just begun now. It’s a fresh start. I’ve got God in my life and I know he’ll be there with me every day until he brings me home. There’s lots of people that have hurt me really badly and I’ve tried to make my peace with them, I forgive them for what they have done, as God has forgiven me. I’ve called them or I’ve bumped into them and said, ‘Listen, I’ve had an amazing experience. I’ve found God in my life and I don’t want to fall out with you or be your enemy.’ And that’s it. I have now had 14 or 16 months with Jesus in my life. If I praise the Lord, I cry. It is like a block of ice being hit with a blowtorch and I just melt. I melt in his presence, it’s just absolutely amazing. I’m a changed man in many ways and I don’t ever want to go back to the old Gary. Jesus has changed my life and made me smile again. God Almighty should be honoured for all this change, not me. God has given me the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. God came at the perfect, perfect time.


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Alpha A News

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JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Invite...

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Page 12

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Alpha News

THANK YOU

15 million 46,940 164 111 courses

people worldwide

languages

countries

we simply couldn’t have done it without you

OUr gOAl

There’s so much more to do as we play our part in the re-evangelisation of the nations and the transformation of society. Our goal is to see 100 million people attend an Alpha course by 2020. We need your help ...

• Youth Alpha - there is a growing search for meaning among the young generation. Youth Alpha provides a fun and interactive way to discover a relationship with God through Jesus at school and in youth groups

• Global Alpha Training - is empowering and equipping people to run Alpha in their communities. 7,500 delegates worldwide have now been trained to run Alpha through GAT

To you all, Thank you so much for everything you are doing in support of Alpha, through giving your time so generously, for praying and for your financial support. As you know the Alpha course is offered free of charge – so it is thanks to your generosity that over 14 million people worldwide of every denomination have had the opportunity to do an Alpha course and discover a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our vision is to accelerate! The aim is to make Alpha available to 100 million people around the world in the next 10 years. We cannot do this without you. We look forward to the next 10 years with excitement, and we hope and pray that we will see millions more lives, families and communities transformed by Jesus. We would be so grateful if you felt able to commit to a monthly standing order to support the work of Alpha globally. Please consider filling in the form at the bottom of this page. These monthly commitments enable us to plan with confidence for the future and to press on with strategic projects. Your support is invaluable. With our sincere thanks and best wishes,

Our aim is to give everyone, whatever their age or stage in life, an opportunity to do an Alpha course near where they live, work or study.

Revd Nicky Gumbel

• Student Alpha - a new multimedia online resource is now available which aims to make it easy for students to run courses for their friends on campus and in their homes • Prison Alpha - is registered as running in over 70% of UK prisons and in over 80 countries worldwide. Our Caring For Ex-Offenders programme helps prisoners get integrated into life in church when they are released • Alpha in the Workplace - is providing people with an opportunity to search for meaning and purpose in these uncertain times

HOw TO pArTNer wiTH Us My standing order gift: My bank details: Bank Name Branch Address

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My instruction:

Please pay Alpha International (NatWest Bank, Knightsbridge Branch, sort code 60-04-04, account number 84503092) the sum of £_________ beginning on _____ / _____ / _____ and the same sum every

□ month □ year until further notice.

Please use reference (office use only) Alpha International is a registered charity [no.1086179] and a private company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales [no. 4157379]. The registered office is at Holy Trinity Brompton, Brompton Road, London SW7 1JA. alphainternational.org AP0109

My one off gift:

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□ I enclose a cheque payable to Alpha International □ Please debit my credit / debit / charity card Card no: □□□□ □□□□ □□□□ □□□□ □□□ Start Date □□ □□ Expiry Date □□ □□ Issue No □□ Security No □□□

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Postcode Telephone Email Please complete this form and return it to: Alpha Partners, Alpha International, Freepost LON17818, London, SW7 1YN

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As a UK taxpayer I would like Alpha International to treat this gift, all donations made in the previous six years (delete if not applicable), and any further donations I may make as Gift Aid donations, until I notify you otherwise. The amount of income tax and capital gains tax I pay in the tax year is at least equal to the tax Alpha International will reclaim on my donation(s).

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Alpha News

Page 13

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Alpha in Baghdad St George’s, Baghdad

Canon Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of St George’s Baghdad, was interviewed by Nicky Gumbel during Holy Trinity Brompton’s Sunday services in March. Canon White, who has suffered from multiple sclerosis for the last 13 years, was curate at one of Holy Trinity Brompton’s church plants – St Mark’s Battersea Rise – in the early 1990s. He is the holder of numerous awards, including the US Cross of Valor and when in Iraq he has 35 armed guards assigned to protect him. Here he begins by speaking about Alpha in Baghdad: ALPHA ‘I organised the tables for the Alpha course supper, and gave out some of the invitations for people to sign up... and we had 1,000 people sign up on the first week. ‘Second week: 2,000 people. Third week: 700 more. ‘So we had 2700 sign up for the Alpha course and we had to arrange to have the course on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the church. ‘All of the main services were taken over by Alpha and it was quite interesting. Thirteen Muslim converts came for baptism and eleven of them got killed the following week.’ ‘Ninety members of Andrew White’s congregation were killed last year. He spoke about how eleven of his staff were also killed: They were coming back from an Alpha conference. ‘For all of us, we have to know that following Jesus is dangerous. It’s not always easy. It’s sometimes the most dangerous thing in the world. But it is the most important thing in the world and it is the most wonderful thing in the world. ‘And the Alpha Course, more than anything else in the world, has enabled people to follow Jesus. And we’re not going to stop.’ Canon White’s church, St George’s, has nearly 4000 people and he also looks after the US Military Chapel. MIDDLE EAST Canon White’s love of the Middle East started when he studied Hebrew at Cambridge and went to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Later he moved to Coventry Cathedral during which time I he was diagnosed with MS. He said: ‘As I was coming to the end of my time at Coventry Cathedral, the Church of England sent me to a doctor. He said, ‘You’re too ill to have another parish or any work in England.’ ‘So I said, ‘Ok,’ and I went to Baghdad.’ Canon White spoke about his involvment in the Middle East peace process: ‘I was heading up the religious

Canon ANDREW WHITE, Vicar of Baghdad, is interviewed by Nicky Gumbel

track in the Middle East Peace Process (when we had a peace process – not like now). I used to work very closely with the Israeli side and also with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian side. At least when Yasser Arafat was around, you knew who was in charge.’ Nicky Gumbel asked if that was a good thing. Canon White replied that at least somebody was in charge. He said, ‘He didn’t know what he was doing, but you could tell him, and he usually did what you told him to do... ‘I can remember sitting down with him once, and saying, ‘Ryis’ (we used to call him Ryis in Arabic), ‘you need to sleep, breathe and eat peace.’ ‘And he said, ‘Yes, I will.’ Andrew White’s time in Iraq started when he got a call from Tariq Aziz, the deputy minister to Saddam Hussein. He said: ‘I’d been trying to get into Iraq (this was near the beginning of my time at Coventry) and I’d failed. Then we prayed about it. You know how that is sometimes the last thing you do? If in doubt, pray. ‘And the next day, Tariq Aziz sent a fax – and that was the beginning of a long history of relating to him over several years.’ Canon White agreed that it hasn’t always been easy. He said, ‘We have to realise that nothing can be attained quickly. I’m not very good at waiting, and sometimes you need to talk for a year before anything happens. ‘I was trying to get a Fatwa, an Islamic agreement, between Sunni and Shia (they didn’t teach me how to write that at theological college, so I had to make it up!) ‘I wrote this Fatwa, which took a year, and then they finally agreed to sign it. ‘It was a Fatwa condemning all suicide bombings, saying violence wasn’t permitted in the name of Islam. ‘On one side I’ve been doing the religious sectarianism work, and on the other side I’ve been running the best church in the world. ‘You know I was thinking just now that if I had not come out of this network [HTB churches], I do not think I could do what I do

today in Iraq. ‘Because it was here that I learned about the miraculous and God’s power and therefore I have gone out from here to serve God in another place but in the same way as here. ‘We not only have an incredible Alpha course, both on the American side and the Iraqi side, but we also have now started a house of prayer. ‘You seemed to be getting into that here so we did it there and we now have people all over the world praying for us and we have people who pray all day and all night 24/7 in different parts of the world. ‘People here are praying for St. George’s in Baghdad and for our foundation and our work and this is once again a wonderful gift of God’s grace.’ HOPE FOR IRAQ ‘Our hope in Iraq is Jesus. We have no other hope. Years ago we used to hope in a political system. ‘I remember at my very first service in Baghdad, when we re-opened the church, I preached on a verse from Haggai which can be seen in Coventry Cathedral. ‘It says, ‘The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, and in this place I shall give peace.’ ‘I thought the solution was going to be political. It’s not. ‘And now I see all these people coming, and their hope is in God. And their future is in God. And there is nothing else. ‘I took my chairman [of the Centre for Conflict Relief], Lord Hylton, along with me one day and he is a Catholic. ‘He wrote in The Tablet, ‘I have been to the church of the future – St George’s, Baghdad.’ ‘Because there are people of every denomination there – Caldeans, Catholic, Ancient Church of the East... ‘There is only one Anglican – me – and yet, there is a presence of the glory of God there. And we see miraculous things happening all the time. ‘Even though people may have been rather restrained at one time, they’re not now. ‘ CALLING Canon White reflected on his life

With his congregation at St George’s, Baghdad

and sense of calling. He said, ‘I can look back over my whole life and see that everything that I have done or has happened has been the work of God. ‘Even the fact that I studied medicine first. I never dreamed I would have a church with a clinic in it, with four doctors and three dentists and a pharmacy and a laboratory. ‘When the doctors all go home, it’s me they come and see. ‘So it helps to be able to diagnose what’s wrong with people and give them medicine, and I do that now in church. ‘And it helps that I studied Middle Eastern issues beforehand. That helps with this church. ‘And it helps, even, that I got diagnosed with MS, because if I hadn’t have done, I would still be in England. God didn’t want that! ‘The greatest thing about this church is love. At the end of every service, I say in Arabic ‘We go to love, love and love.’ We love everybody and love casts out all fear. The people I personally love most are the children. The children are incredible. My next book is about children in war zones.

‘The problem when you’re in Baghdad is there’s not much to do at night, so you write books.’ PRAYER He ended with a call to prayer: ‘Pray for our church – that we will maintain the love that is very real, and we may be able to provide for our people. ‘I used to have the cheapest church in the world to run – at 600 dollars a year. Now it costs 175,000 dollars a month. ‘We don’t know where the money’s coming from. ‘It’s often very difficult. ‘I can give you a bit of advice though – that when you’re blown up, you get lots of money! ‘So if you ever need to do any major building work, let me know and I can send some of my friends round! ‘But seriously now, the biggest supporter of us in Baghdad is this church [Holy Trinity Brompton]. This place is our biggest supporter. ‘Every Thursday at 4 o’clock, we have a prayer meeting, just to pray for this place. ‘It’s so important that we are still able to provide for our people and by God’s grace, we will.’


JULY - OCTOBER 2010

PAGE 14

Alpha News

CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OPENS MALAYSIA ALPHA CONFERENCE:

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I have prayed for this dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 1200 attend big Far East Alpha week in Kuching THE ROMAN Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, East Malaysia spoke of his six-year dream of holding an Alpha conference in his home city when he welcomed 1200 delegates from fifteen denominations there in April. John Ha, who had first heard of Alpha at a conference in Kuala Lumpur in 2004, spoke of how he had been trying to persuade Nicky Gumbel to visit East Malaysia ever since. He said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;There has never been a greater and more urgent need to draw our people to Christ and deepen their relationship with him than today. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Thank God that we do not need to go back and scratch our heads and think what program should be devised or drawn up. We have Alpha given to us by God in our hands.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; The event was the centrepiece of Alphaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Asia Pacific weekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; which

was later followed by an EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) week in London and an Americas week in Chicago in June. Speakers at the Kuchong event included Nicky Gumbel, Jamie Haith, Tim Hughes and Al Gordon. The two day conference was held at Trinity Methodist Church, Kuching and included seminars on running Alpha in Mandarin as well as running Prison and Workplace Alpha. As well as the opening speech by the Roman Catholic archbishop, there was another by his Anglican counterpart Bishop Bolly Lapok, who spoke of how the Alpha course is needed to unite the churches in Malaysia. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;We need a credible common denominator such as the Alpha course. In the present situation, I would say a conference like this, the Alpha Course, is God sent.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

2\JOPUNKLSLNH[LZ IYV^ZL(SWOH TH[LYPHSZ

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VERY WARM welcome to the city of Kuching for this Alpha Conference. Am I dreaming or am I seeing all of you present here for real? I thank God it is for real and so Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to share a little bit with you on what went on some years ago and it has led to what we have today. Six years ago, in 2004, I attended a similar conference held in Kuala Lumpur. It was my YHU\Ă&#x20AC;UVWH[SRVXUHWR$OSKDDQG P\Ă&#x20AC;UVWWLPHOLVWHQLQJWR)DWKHU Nicky Gumbel â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and, needless to say, his very cool and calm, yet captivating presentations carved a very deep impression in me. The non-threatening and very respectful way each input was given made a very strong impact RQPH$QGLWUHĂ HFWHGWKH attitude shown by Jesus to the woman caught in adultery. Neither do I condemn you. Of course the contents of every input in the Alpha conference was very biblical. They serve to draw the participants not to the speakers but to the person of the

Lord Jesus. So I was really impacted at that conference and some time during that conference God blessed me with an opportunity WRVSHDNWR)DWKHU1LFN\*XPEHO I talked to him about coming over to East Malaysia and Nicky had a very nice way of assuring me that he would have loved to come except that he had a lot of other requests to meet. I realised fully that a man of that calibre and faith would be in great demand. But I thought to myself, if I did not throw my hat into the ring, what chance would I have? I was invited to another [Alpha] function and I said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I must goâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. I dropped everything to go to that IXQFWLRQMXVWWRPHHW)DWKHU Nicky Gumbel and again to plead with him, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Come over to Macedonia and help us.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Of course he was unable to JLYHPHDĂ&#x20AC;UPFRPPLWPHQWDQG, understood and I expected that. So I could only leave that meeting with this very comforting thought: Âş0U.VKÂťZ

[PTLÂť. And Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time has come sooner than expected, six years DIWHUP\Ă&#x20AC;UVWUHTXHVWDQGPD\EH IRXUĂ&#x20AC;YH\HDUVDIWHUWKHVHFRQG one. And I thank God, I thank God for this great opportunity which I see as the 2HPYVZ, a time of Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grace, for all of us here in .XFKLQJ$QG,WKDQN)DWKHU Nicky Gumbel and his team for consenting to come to Kuching for this conference. After my positive experience of the Alpha Conference in Kuala Lumpur, my mind was made up to support and to promote Alpha back home. I thank the Lord that with me at that conference in Kuala Lumpur were a few priests and some 25 lay Catholics from the archdiocese of Kuching. So launching Alpha in the archdiocese of Kuching wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t EHWRRPXFKRUWRRGLIĂ&#x20AC;FXOWD project at least for me. And even without my initiating anything at all, one parish Holy Trinity JVU[PU\LKVUWHNL 


Alpha News

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

PAGE 15

How God touched our lives on the Alpha course THE INTERVIEWS

ALEX

I was a free thinker before Alpha, and a nonChristian. After Alpha, my perception of the Christian faith changed, a lot of doubts cleared and I was baptised two Easters ago. Jesus has made a lot of difference to my life. One of them is simply how I treat other people. When I was out driving on the road and somebody cut me up or zoomed past me, I would tend to bad mouth them, but after Alpha, after becoming a Christian, I now actually pray that nothing happens to them.

GILBERT

I was a lapsed Catholic, so for 25 years I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go to church. My sister, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the word, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;forcedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; me to attend Alpha. I made a lot of excuses and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t complete the whole course, but during the weekend away I was touched by the Holy Spirit and asked if I could go to the next Alpha course. My life changed and I became an example for my family, my wife, my children. They were not Catholics before this and they were baptised later â&#x20AC;&#x201C; my mother-in-law also. I would like to thank the Alpha course because I experienced the Lord Jesus Christ, which changed me.

THOMAS

I found Alpha very thought provoking. Before GRLQJWKHFRXUVH-HVXVZDVQRWDQLQĂ XHQFHLQ my life. I knew of him, but that was about it. Nicky Gumbelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s talks gave me a lot of things to think about but my life didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t change immediately. I started looking for more and more and and after a lot of researching have found out so much. I used to get so angry with people but now I realise the world is imperfect.

KIKU

I joined the Alpha Course in 2005. At that time I was a full time IT worker and a workaholic. But through Alpha God gave me a special environment to get healing. I have been involved in Alpha in prisons for more than two years now and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m now a full time staff in Alpha course Hong Kong.

NAOMI

I did Alpha Course in London in 2006. Before that I guess life was just a bit confusing with a lot of stuff going on. It all seemed just a bit pointless really. I had some depression and stuff, so just doing Alpha was wonderful because the people in the group really loved me I guess. )URPWKHUH,ZDVDEOHWROHDUQPRUHDERXW*RG DQGWRĂ&#x20AC;QGRXWWKDW\HDKWKDWKHORYHGPHZLWKDOO my faults and problems and that he wanted to change me and to care for me.

CHEE

I knew nothing, zero, about Jesus. I was born into a family of freethinkers My family would go to temple to worship and sometimes I would follow them. Then in 2006 my colleague asked me to attend this thing called the Alpha course. I was thinking â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What the heck is that? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not so sure. What is that Christianity?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Immediately I said â&#x20AC;&#x153;Noâ&#x20AC;? but she just told me, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Never mind, just come, eat and talkâ&#x20AC;?. So I thought, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Okay, never mind, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll goâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Then week after week I go and Ă&#x20AC;QLVKHGWKHFRXUVH$OSKDJDYHPHDOLWWOHELWRIZKDW Christianity is all about and then I get to know more by attending church service, which I do now.

MONICA (YJOIPZOVW1VOU/H!Âş0[OHUR .VKMVY[OPZNYLH[VWWVY[\UP[`Âť

Before Alpha I have always wanted to leave my job in banking, like my other colleagues who took the package and left. I really envied them. But then I asked the Lord, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Why am I staying in the

Cindy talks about Alpha in her school

Chee shares his story

Monica tells how Alpha changed her life.

bank?â&#x20AC;? But I think the Lord revealed the answers when I went through the Alpha programme. Slowly one by one, the answers came through. I think he still needed me to be there in the bank to lead my team of people who really need me around and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve learnt to be more calm in the workplace and calmer in discharging my duties because in the past I used to do things in my own ways, my own human ways. God is more in my life. Every morning I just sit down and talk to him and ask him to guide me in my daily duties. In banking youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got targets and you may tend to forget that you use a lot of your head, not letting God coming in. God is very much alive in my life now. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m also now helping a mission in Cambodia.

CINDY

Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a teacher in a private secondary school in Kota .LQDEDOX0\VFKRROLVUXQQLQJDIXOOĂ HGJHG$OSKDIRU DOOQRQ0XVOLPVWXGHQWVIURPIRUPRQHWRIRUPĂ&#x20AC;YH and I have two teams from the Catholic Church and a team from other denominations to assist us in running Alpha in school. ,VHHFKDQJHVLQP\VWXGHQWV2QWKHĂ&#x20AC;UVWZHHNWKH\ were like, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Teacher, why do I have to go for this Alpha course?â&#x20AC;?. Now they say, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Teacher, next week what food are we having?â&#x20AC;? It is very encouraging. I see these students as the future leaders for our churches.

RICHARD

At school I would party every night until 2 oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock â&#x20AC;&#x201C; smoking, drinking, everything. When I entered in the workplace, it was even worse. Everything you can name... but God is good. God is good. One day I was invited to go to the Alpha gala and I said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;That is good because I like partying.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I said yes very quickly without thinking. So then I asked my wife and we went to the Alpha gala. I was quite impressed and so started the next Alpha in the church. When I had gone through the course I accepted Christ. That was about 10 years ago and since then I have really experienced the love of God and one by one my pet habits have been taken away and I just really thank God.


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Page 16

I had a job in the fashion industry which people would die for – but I was so unhappy Sophie Butler, 24, a jewellery designer from London, has worked at the top of the fashion industry. As assistant to leading stylist Charlotte Stockdale she travelled the world – but she became deeply unhappy. Here she tells her story of how God intervened in her life...

I

am one of three sisters. Dad was a greengrocer and mum a hairdresser.They came into quite a lot of money so we went to good private schools when we were younger then the money ran out so we went to a state school. It was an all girl’s school and I used to get picked on quite a lot by the older girls. They would write nasty things about me on the toilet walls. I would walk into the canteen and know someone was going to shout ‘Bitch’ or some other hostility. My mum always used to say, ‘It’s just jealousy’ but it really took its toll on me. I just wanted people not to notice me. It went on for three years and my work really suffered. I bunked off school... I hated it so much. My mum was pulling her hair out. She didn’t know what to do. At that time I hated being at home and I hated being at school. All I wanted was to be out somewhere even if it was just hanging around in the park. I didn’t want to be at home because there was quite a lot of stuff going on at that time with my dad and my mum. It was stressful. My elder sister would be the one who’d talk to my mum about it so I felt isolated from it all. When I was around 14 my mum went on an Alpha course at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. After that, she changed dramatically and went from this really stressed out mum to this amazingly calm and collected woman. It was just incredible. I went to church with her a couple of times. It was at the time when Geri Halliwell did the course and I remember thinking, ‘Well it can’t be that weird if Geri Halliwell’s sitting here’. I was still so young and I didn’t really understand it. At 16, I went to college to do a national diploma in multimedia (working in various things like computers, sculpture and textiles) and I felt really free. It was a completely different atmosphere where you could really be yourself. I knew I wanted to do something in fashion and followed it up with a fashion illustration course which is styling, photography, fashion promotion and imaging.

When I was 19 I started going out with this guy and we had this really intense relationship. He was really creative but he had deep insecurities and became really jealous which meant we found ourselves in this weird self-destructive bubble. In the end I got really bad bulimia. It got to the point where I didn’t want to see anyone because I’d know people would say ‘Sophie you’re really thin.’ By the time I was 21 I wouldn’t keep anything down even if it was just a piece of toast. I was still living at home and it’s not something you can hide – the evidence is always in the toilet. I’d binge... sometimes a whole chocolate cake had gone and it was embarrassing, it was so shameful, so horrible. But my boyfriend, Grey, didn’t know, he didn’t really see it. I hated going out, I hated seeing people, I dreaded everything. I just didn’t care about myself any more – my self-worth was completely gone. My boyfriend Grey didn’t see it and didn’t understand. He became very like ‘You don’t love me any more’. In the end we decided to get away. So Grey and I booked a flight to Thailand and just before we went, I was so exhausted. I was working double shifts waitressing to get money for the flight. When you’re not eating anything you don’t really have the energy, but you do... It’s really, really messed up. We went to Thailand and it was awful. We were so insecure, we couldn’t make decisions, so we were staying in places that we didn’t really want to stay in. It was just hell. I came back to complete my final year at uni. I chopped all my hair off, wanted a new start. I had started a stall at Portobello Market a year before selling handmade jewellery with a friend. It was really encouraging for people to say, ‘I like your jewellery. Your stuff ’s really lovely.’ I was really inspired and I decided to come up with this documentary

Sophie Butler: ‘By the time I was 21 I wouldn’t keep anything down even if it was a piece of toast.’

Alpha News

Alpha News

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Page 17

Top: Sophie standing in front of the jewellery/body piece she made for a fashion exhibition. Bottom: Sophie selling jewellery at the Clothes Show 2009.

film getting people to really challenge themselves and their own identity and stuff. I really, really loved it. I became very close with two friends on my course - Michelle and Amanda. We did a two month project together in the editing studio. I didn’t know Amanda very well but I’d seen her and always thought, ‘Wow, she’s just beautiful and really lovely and kind.’ Then I’d gone on her MySpace and realised that she was a Christian. Once we were living together, we were in this real close proximity and one time I said, ‘So you’re a Christian then?’ Amanda just said, ‘Yeah.’ At that, I said, ‘I’m thinking about doing an Alpha Course at HTB.’ And she was like, ‘You should come and do it at my church, Christchurch.’ And I was like, ‘Ok.’ I remember my friend Michele Mei, who was a Buddhist, looking at me. Her face was like, ‘What?’ Then she suddenly said, ‘Well, I’ll do it then.’ So Michelle and I went along. We were terrified, squeezing each other’s hands, just sweating, so nervous... It was challenging for me from the start. I found making small talk with people difficult enough. Talking about myself I just found physically impossible. But as the talks went on, I realised that I was learning about something that was amazing. I really loved it. I’ve never felt so fulfilled in an evening. I used to get on the train home and think, Wow’. On the weekend away I’d had an amazing encounter. At the meeting on the Saturday night, there was a guy who stood up at the front who said, ‘I have a word for Sophie. Where’s Sophie?’ He didn’t know me and I raised my hand. I was in floods of tears anyway, and he was like, ‘God’s telling me that he’s got a key for you which represents something that you either want to lock away and that he’s going to help you lock away. ‘It’s a physical pain that you have, something you have about your image and who you are and this key is saying that you can put that all to rest now, you can just lock that key in and you will never have to worry about that again.’ Then he said, ‘But then it’s also got another meaning which is that the key is you’re going to open doors for other people and really speak into their lives…’ It was amazing. I still felt like I wasn’t good enough to be a Christian,

I still felt I had so much, so many issues... I also remember thinking, ‘I’m with Grey. I can’t become a Christian.’ I remember saying one night at Alpha that my boyfriend had done more for me than God did so why should I finish with him for God? That’s how I thought. Meanwhile I watched Michelle blossom into this amazing person. Her life completely changed during the course. But after Alpha finished, I stayed doing much the same things. My group kept meeting (it was called a ‘Life’ group) but I used to feel so dirty when I’d be around them. They’d be beaming but I was really unhappy. This was after I graduated in 2007. I was in a job then, working for a stylist, so I was living my life for somebody else. I started as an intern, got a couple of weeks’ placement and was made the third assistant, then became second assistant. It was an amazing job, working for one of the best stylists in the industry. We did a lot for Vogue and worked with everyone you can possibly imagine in the industry. People would have died for my job, but I was really miserable, I hated it. I was [the fashion stylist]Charlotte Stockdale’s assistant – answering the phone and doing anything that needed doing. I had to stop my stall at Portobello Market because I was on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week – even when I was on holiday (well I didn’t really have a holiday). After six months in the job, I moved to London to be closer to work and moved in with Grey. Living together worked fine for the first six months. I was in a different country practically every three weeks so it didn’t really affect our relationship that much. But I hated my job – really hated it, I would regularly cry to the first assistant, who’d worked for Charlotte Stockdale for seven years, and she would just say, ‘Do you know how many people would die to have this job?’. Everywhere we went I would take four suitcases of shoes, seven suitcases of clothes... I had to physically carry them from a car into a building; then I had to unpack everything; and have everything in alphabetical order. You wouldn’t believe what goes into these shoots. You’re on-call all the

time and you’re a nervous wreck. Then not only that, you then have to get people coffees and teas and steam clothes and make everything perfect. You’re working till four o’clock in the morning, up at 8am, trying to get a bag from somebody in New York... They won’t answer their phone then you’ve got your boss saying ‘Where’s that bag?’ I used to really struggle with what my job was doing for the world and I’d always be beating myself up about it. Finally I practically had a nervous breakdown and had to leave. I wasn’t prepared to do it any more. I thought I’d got some really good experience and worked with some amazing people but I just wanted to do my own jewellery and enjoy my life. Unfortunately, the girl that I started the Portobello market stall with had carried it on the whole time while I’d gone. So when I came back to the market it created a lot of friction. She was like my best friend but we fell out and haven’t spoken since. It’s been really hard. I got a business partner from church. Michelle said, ‘He would like to invest in something and you need a partner. I think you guys should meet.’ And so I met him, we got on really well, and he became my business partner. He put in like a couple of thousand pounds and helped me start up. The business began to go amazingly. We did the Clothes Show, which cost us quite a lot of money, but we quadrupled what we thought we were going to take and it was amazing. But it was very hard work. I’d had three months to make about 3,000 pieces of jewellery, so I had hardly seen daylight. There was jewellery in the cooker, on the walls, everywhere. Grey just flipped and our relationship became hell, but I was like, ‘Well I have to do this. I’ve got the Clothes Show. I need to make money.’ Around November 2008, I said to Grey, ‘I don’t want to live here any more. I think I might move in with my sister or move back home.’ I didn’t want to be around him any more so we broke up. I moved in with my sister – and I loved it so much. I started reading my Bible again and I would go to church every Sunday. And I felt so happy, it was just amazing. And I became more

and more involved with the church. Some time later, my friend Amanda, the girl I’d met at university, had a room come up in her house and I moved in. It was this beautiful flat in this lovely part of London in Newington Green – it was just like heaven. We could sit and talk about God all the time, and I felt so peaceful. For once in my life I was forming relationships with people and it was incredible. I loved it. Then she said, ‘Right, I think we need to start a ‘Life’ group [a midweek church group] for you.’ So with a few people from church who lived round our area, we started hanging out and that helped me massively with my confidence – talking about God and what a relationship with him meant and all that kind of stuff. It was amazing. Then I had a bit of a weird summer when I got whisked off my feet by a boy who was my sister’s boss. We had a bit of a wild summer, which actually did me so much good because it allowed me to really understand what I wanted from life. I really wanted to have a deep, walk with God. I didn’t want to be somebody that always makes mistakes, which is what I felt life had been up to then. And since then my life has been incredible. The idea of getting baptised had always scared the life out of me. I was going to get baptised once, but I had nightmares about it, so I couldn’t do it. But last October I finally got baptised. It was amazing to have my family there and I’m a completely different person now. Now I know that everything is in God’s hands. My attitude is, ‘This isn’t my business, it’s his business and I know that he’s not going to want me to fail. There will always be some good in it.’ I meet old school friends and they’re just like, ‘I can’t believe how much you’ve changed.’ I can’t imagine having those panics about my weight again. All that has completely gone. Alpha played a massive role in my journey. It was massive. I definitely wouldn’t have got to where I am now if it wasn’t for Alpha, that’s for sure. Before then, I didn’t really understand who Jesus was. It confused me and I would get very frustrated. But now I know he died for me and he is at the centre of my life.


JULY - OCTOBER 2010

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Alpha News

10 - 11 February 2011

Hosted at Holy Trinity Brompton, London

• What lies at the heart of effective leadership? • Are there universal values of good leadership? • How do we build and nurture a leadership team? • How do we connect with young people? • How can we impact our local community?

The all new Holy Trinity Brompton Leadership Conference will be a multi-site event featuring a mixture of Christian and business speakers. In addition to worship and ministry, teaching seminars will focus on the three key themes of Leadership, Vision to Action and Church Planting. The leadership conference is aimed at church leaders from all denominations and their teams, including staff, lay leaders, councils, elders and congregation members.

Alpha Copyright statement The Directors of Alpha International write: “We have always been keen to allow individuals who are running an Alpha International Course the flexibility to adapt where it was felt necessary to allow for locally felt needs and where there was the desire to retain the essential elements, nature and identity of the course. Experience has shown though that this has been misunderstood and the resulting loss of integrity in some courses has given rise to considerable confusion. Now that Alpha International resources and publications are being used all around the world we have reluctantly had to draw up a copyright statement more tightly in order to preserve confidence and quality control. We are sure you will understand.” 1). With the exception of books (in which the author is stated to hold the copyright), all Alpha International resources including written material, audio visual resources graphics and software are copyright to Alpha International. Alpha International resources cover a wide range of ministries including The Alpha Course, Challenging Lifestyle, The Marriage Course and The Marriage Preparation Course. 2). In no circumstances may any part of any Alpha International resource be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system without permission in writing from the copyright holder or that holder’s agent.

3). Use of Alpha International resources are permitted only when in conjunction with the running or promotion of Alpha International courses. Resale or the obtaining of payment in any other connection with any Alpha International resource is not permitted. 4). Alpha International asks that the name ‘Alpha’, or names similar to it should not be used in connection with any other Christian course. This request is made in order to: • avoid confusion caused by different courses having similar titles • ensure the uniformity and integrity of the Alpha Course • maintain confidence in courses listed in the Alpha Course Directory. 5). Alpha International accepts that minor adaptations to Alpha International courses may occasionally be desirable. These should only concern the length of the talks or the number of sessions. In each case the essential character of the course must be retained. If an Alpha International course is adapted the person responsible must: • only use such a course in their own church or parish • not allow such a course to be used elsewhere • not publish or promote such a course. This statement supersedes all previous statements relating to copyright in any Alpha International resources. Revised April 2010


Alpha News

JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Page 19

Nicky Gumbel interviews: Iain Duncan Smith

‘We need social justice at the heart of British politics’ Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith was interviewed by Alpha speaker Nicky Gumbel at Holy Trinity Brompton in March as part of a series which began last year when he interviewed Tony Blair. Iain Duncan Smith, who is now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the Coalition government, became an MP in 1992 and served for two years as leader of the Conservative Party. He spoke about his passion for social justice: ‘One of the things I tried to do when I was leader was to figure out why there were pockets of deprivation in the fourth largest economy in the world, why they were very resistant even to the new Labour government coming in. ‘In some areas numbers of dysfunctional families are still growing and creating lots of problems around them. While leader of the Conservative Party, he visited Easterhouse estate in Glasgow. Meeting people from the community there had a huge impact on his thinking. ‘If you take a place like Carlton in East Glasgow the life expectancy is, I recall, about 55 whereas if you go across to Bearsden, just a few miles away, the life expectancy is 82. ‘There are entrenched pockets

of peculiar deprivation, high levels of family breakdown, high levels of alcohol and drug abuse, very poor educational outcomes for the kids, very low levels of employment.’ What he experienced while visiting the Easterhouse estate in Glasgow led him to set up the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) - a non-party political independent think tank. The aim of CSJ is to put social justice at the heart of British politics. Mr Duncan Smith talked about social transformation being the thing that drives him more than anything else in politics. He said: ‘I don’t think we can go on accepting the fact that you can write off a whole section of society and just leave them parked on these broken estates. ‘Its not enough to say it’s an absence of money. Of course money is a critical definer of whether you’re in poverty or not. But the lives you lead are the pathways. ‘We know from all the evidence in our reports that if you come from a broken home, if your parenting is dysfunctional, if you get no empathy as a child, if you therefore collapse through the school system as a result of that, you’re not going to get the right skills, you’re not going to be in a fit state to do work. ‘There are now very high levels

of abused and many of these families, often young mums, are really unable to cope, often with many children, often by different fathers, and the fathers are often violent towards the children that aren’t anything to do with them. ‘So there’s a whole dysfunctional culture growing. And I don’t think we can simply walk by. ‘I say to people if you don’t want to do it because it’s the right thing to do, then recognize that most of the negative costs in society now are being driven by this growing dysfunctional base.’ Mr Duncan Smith said the CSJ was keen to work with faith

communities: ‘The CSJ is based hugely on small voluntary sector organizations. We have a thing called the ‘Poverty Fighters Alliance’ which is organized to get the small voluntary sector organizations in so we can get their opinion on things. ‘And a large proportion of those would be faith based groups and we have a lot of dealings with those. ‘We have dealings with non-faith based groups but the commonality between them is all the groups tend to have a very clear set of values.

Archbishop John Ha continued from page 14 Kenyalang started the Alpha Course and from there, Alpha spread to two other parishes in the archdioceses and to the Chinese speaking faithful in the archdiocese of Kuching. From what I have heard from the feedback, Alpha has proven to be a very good tool for what in the Catholic terminology is called ‘primary evangelisation’, drawing non-Christians to Christ as well as for what we call ‘re-evangelisation’ getting lapsed Catholics back into active practice of their faith. The Alpha Conference is timely or perhaps long overdue. Given today’s trends in the world, ranging from religious fundamentalism to total atheism, we need Christ and given today’s situation in Malaysia where there is a well worked out government-supported strategy to propagate Islam (nothing wrong with that), we need to

strengthen the faith of our people. There has never been a greater and a more urgent need to draw our people to Christ and deepen their relationship with him than today. Thank God we do not need to go back and scratch our heads and think what programme should be devise or draw up. We have the Alpha given to us by God in our hands. It is the joy and honour of the Association of Churches in Sarawak to host this important conference. We thank Alpha Malaysia for this honour and the trust shown to us. Alpha Malaysia sent three delegates – heads of member churches of the Association of Churches in Sarawak – to brief us on what the conference was about and to request us to host it. We are thankful to the conference committee which

has worked really hard. In addition to their business meetings, they have also had regular prayer meetings to seek God’s guidance and help, and indeed the way things have turned out speaks loudly of God’s presence and guidance. In the minds of the heads of member churches and also in the minds of the organising committee, has been that the one Lord Jesus must be the be-all and end-all of this conference. And so all denominational considerations were set aside, to focus on that one Lord, whom we serve and whom we worship. So here is ecumenism at work at the grass roots. In the Vatican we have a counsel for ecumenical unity. I feel like telling them, ‘Come and see ecumenism at work – no high theories, no high theologies, simply people filled

with faith and motivated by their love for Christ and for others.’ We are assured of God’s continued guidance and grace throughout this conference. He has been with us and he would not simply abandon us at this conference – that would be unimaginable. God is with us. And I’m sure that the Spirit is moving in this conference. I hope and I pray, that we will all open our hearts to the Lord, to the Spirit, so that this conference will bear fruit in each one of us. In what way will the Lord make use of me when I go home? Each one of us needs to be open to the Spirit in order to find the answer to this question, but right now one answer is clear: we must not go back after this conference and do nothing. Now, all personal agenda aside, let us pray the Lord to make us his committed agents to draw people to him.

‘They’re clear about what they do. They get people off drugs; they decide they want to help mend family breakdown and not just observe it. ‘All these things are about change for people’s lives and of course wherever you go a huge amount of that good work is being done by faith based groups. ‘I come across them the whole time really. I am always humbled to see them and the work that they do for little or no acknowledgment from outside. For more information on CSJ go to www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk


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Michele Mei, 24 from Epsom in Surrey, was raised in a devout Buddhist family. During her teens she overcame depression but VWUXJJOHGWRÀQGFRQWHQWPHQWGHVSLWHKHU success and stability at university. She hated Christians, until she was invited on an Alpha course and her life was transformed.

Alpha News

Former Buddhist MICHELE MEI describes how her life has changed...

I

was raised in a devout Buddhist family. My mum and dad came to the UK from Malaysia about 30 years ago and had quite a volatile relationship. There was always tension in the house and I remember a lot of arguments. In Buddhism there are crazy stories which are a bit like horror stories to a child. I grew up afraid of the Buddhist statues, idols and ornaments in the house. They looked frightening. My dad is a practising and devout Buddhist and when I was growing up there was no mention of Christianity – or God. I went to a couple of Buddhist retreats in Malaysia and I remember being in awe of these quite beautiful places, but there was definitely a sort of darkness to it. I found the temples dark, horrible, scary places. My Mum went to a Roman Catholic school in Malaysia (it offered the best education) and she knew the Bible, but would have said she was a Buddhist. Growing up there was no mention of Christianity or God. My only recognition of God was at school when we all had to pray – but the words didn’t mean anything to me. At about 13 my life suddenly all went wrong. All of a sudden I became very depressed. My elder sister was always the one who would shelter me when my parents were arguing, but she left to go to university, so I was left by myself with my mum and dad and that was quite scary. I started to withdraw from my family and turn to my friends - probably the wrong sort of friends. I was obsessed with music and instead of going to school I would chase after rock bands. I became quite attached to some people in the music industry and went to after-show parties and drank. I lied about my age. I was really caught up in that culture. I was very clever about not attending school. I would escape through the school gates and they never They put me on medication and knew. But my grades were I started seeing a counsellor. I slipping badly and when parents’ had cognitive behavioural evening came round things did therapy, which helped me realise not look good. All of a sudden my my patterns of thinking made no mum realised how badly I was sense. Putting in new ways of doing and she was really thinking helped so much and shocked. obviously the medication helped. I became so ill with my It felt like I was slowly starting depression that I would not get to enter my own skin again. I sat out of bed for whole days. I my exams and I didn’t do great in suffered badly from insomnia. them, but I passed. Things were There seemed nothing to wake up coming back together. for – nothing to look forward to. After school, I went to college to Everything seemed awful and in study Fine Art (diploma) at perpetual darkness. Surrey Institute of Art and Teenagers in the same boat tend Design, in Epsom. I felt like I was to stick together and my small starting afresh, leaving those group of friends had similar memories behind. issues like eating disorders. It I started going out with this guy wasn’t helpful. and had a long-term relationship, On the rare occasions I did which helped me. We did attend school, I began to have everything together and he was bust-ups with teachers in the like an angel in my life. I still had classroom and would fly into rages and he often took the brunt absolute rages. I would walk out of it, but despire that he was so of my classrooms screaming. I supportive. was frustrated with everyone and (this is when I did my degree – very, very angry. at the same place)It was almost My teachers were shocked – I’d all girls on my course. Fashion is be really shocked at myself. It very competitive. It is all about was so involuntary. what you have worked on, what I began self-harming– something you are wearing, and how you that was hidden for a long time look. I made a couple of good until I went into counselling. I friends. had a bit of a problem with eating We started doing work too. It was a vicious circle. I even experience and I started working began fantasising about suicide. I for this agency in London that thought, ‘I really do need help represents hairstylists, make-up now.’ stylists and photographers. I was diagnosed with depression I did an internship there and I when I was about 15, in 2001. I worked as a junior booker, was put on medication. That was organising assistance for London a good decision at the time. I had Fashion Week. I thought, ‘I’ve been increasingly scared that I made it. This is great. I’m working would eventually take my life. with some of the top people.’

I thought Christians were stupid, ignorant, naive and absolutely delusional It was a really hard slog, though. Every season I’d be ill to the point of being sick from working so much. The hours are relentless and the politics are painful. I was really anxious during that time. You get paid no money and you get treated so badly. The hours are ridiculous, getting up at 5am and working all day as a skivvy, running around after people while constantly telling them they are wonderful and lovely. I then decided I wanted to be a runner for a film production company and eventually do set design – so I joined a film

In the last few weeks at the college, I saw that one of my really good friends, Amanda, had a Bible on her desk. I laughed. I thought, ‘Why do you have that on your desk. That’s so bizarre.’ I’d never seen a Bible in everyday life. I thought she must be using it for some sort of project or to make a statement. We were art students after all… I asked her about it and she said, ‘Oh sometimes I read it.’ I said, ‘I don’t understand. Why do you read it?’ She said, ‘Because I’m a Christian.’

I was obsessed with music and instead of going to school I would chase after rock bands production company. I thought, ‘Brilliant, I’ll get to the top of here and everything will be fine.’ But later I thought, ‘Oh this is rubbish as well.’ Nothing was fulfilling. Everything I wanted in life I got and I didn’t like. I was ultimately so discontented with everything. I guess part of me was thinking, ‘Why am I so disappointed by all of this? It should be good because it’s what I want’. I came off my medication in the last year of uni. That was a big step for me.

My sister and I were atheists. I thought Christians were stupid, ignorant and naïve – absolutely delusional. I thought Jesus was a fictitious character made up to control people and that all religion was manipulation. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve known you for three years and I had not realised you were a Christian. I hate Christians so much that I want to rethink our whole friendship’. I looked at her MySpace page. She had daily Bible verses on her page. I thought, ‘You’re so outrageous. You’re sharing what

you believe with everyone and that’s such a ridiculous thing to do – especially when it’s something as stupid as Christianity.’ I told my boyfriend at the time. He said, ‘What is your problem? You don’t know anything about Christianity. Why are you being so malicious?’ His response got me thinking about why I was so opposed to Christianity. I was really good friends with this girl, but the fact that she was a Christian horrified me. Over the next few weeks Amanda and I would talk about God in one of the studios. I outlined what I believed. I said, ‘I believe I’m a good person essentially. My parents are Buddhist, so I guess I’m a Buddhist.’ I remember her telling me about how she believed in this guy Jesus and how he walked on the earth and died for our sins. I said, ‘Ok, so what you’re saying is you are a sinner and Jesus died for your sins. That’s fine. He didn’t die for mine – I’m not a sinner.” She said, ‘No, you are a sinner.’ I was shocked. I came away thinking, ‘I’m so outraged that she dared to say that to me. How does she know?’ I felt it was like a judgement on my life. Amanda invited another friend of mine, Sophie, to a dinner at her church. Sophie said to me, ‘Oh please come because I’m going and I don’t want to go on my own!’ I said, ‘I should go with you


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because you might get kidnapped or poisoned.’ I had heard that the dinner was to do with a course called Alpha. I definitely thought Alpha was a cult. Amazingly, I went along. It was at the City Golf Bar in Blackfriars and a comedian who was doing the entertainment and there was dinner. As we walked from the tube there were people in Alpha T-shirts stewarding the way along to the venue with flyers and stuff. I saw these people and I thought, ‘Oh they’re all my age and they all look normal. They’re not 40 years old with overcoats.’ That put me at ease. Amanda was talking to all these people and I said, ‘How do you know all these people?’ They were her friends from church. My eyes were really opened to seeing friendships outside the context of ‘What can you do for me?’ I thought, ‘Wow, these people genuinely love her and she genuinely loves them.’ That really struck me. The talk was so good. This guy was basically saying, ‘Alpha is nine hours of finding out about the most influential person in the world. Are you going to do it or not?’ I thought, ‘Yeah, actually I’m going to do it. I want to know because then this will fuel my arguments against Christianity.’ I remember telling my boyfriend I was going to do it and both laughing about it. I told my mum

and she said, ‘It’s good to know about these things.’ She was quite open-minded. I said, ‘But I definitely won’t become a Christian.’ (I didn’t tell my dad because our communication wasn’t that great.) The following week I went back and was put on a table in the City Golf Bar. My table leaders, Marianne Hunwick and John Payne, were amazing. They made me feel at ease and they were so lovely. They wanted to love me and it was so foreign to me. I found it a bit scary and

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this is true. At the end of one of the books, called Questions of Life, there’s this prayer that you pray. It was a prayer of repentance: saying sorry for all I’d done, thanking Jesus for dying for me and inviting him into my life. I prayed it that night but I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared to admit that they had won. I think everybody on the course and my friend, Amanda, must have seen the change in me. The night after reading the books, I met up with Amanda for a coffee. I said, ‘I cannot believe this.

I felt God speaking to me. I heard him saying, ‘I was there, I was there through the dark times.’ unnerving. But I remember the talk opening my mind so much. I started to think I had been the ignorant one, throwing my opinion about when I don’t know anything at all. Over the first four weeks God really changed my heart. Adrian Holloway, a leader in the church, suggested two books about what is covered on the Alpha course. I read both of them in one night. I couldn’t put them down. That was a life changing night. The scales fell from my eyes and everything I was reading was sinking in as truth. I was like:

This is true isn’t it?’ She said, ‘Yeah, it’s true.’ I said, ‘I can’t believe nobody’s told me this before.’ She was so patient. I had so many questions: what did this mean about my parents? What did this mean about my boyfriend? My attitudes?’ I was learning more about Jesus and I saw that there was something so different in these Christians. They had time for their friends, they had time to sit down and ask how you were, they had time to love one another. They glowed. There was something so different

about them. All I knew was anxiety and worry and stress and striving – and I wanted that peace. I thought, ‘I need to get to know Jesus personally.’ I began praying to God, ‘I want to understand more of your character. I want to let you love me”. The Holy Spirit weekend was amazing. We had it in this place called Dunford House in Haslemere, in Surrey. It was two hours away from London along really winding country roads and we didn’t get there till midnight. But when we got there it was like entering a dream world. I got to meet everybody else from all the other tables and spend time chilling out together – and they were so nice. The talks were really good and on the Saturday evening they invited the Holy Spirit. I thought, ‘I trust this, I really trust this.’ I had an experience of love from God. The next day everybody from the Alpha weekend went to church. I remember crying in the service. It was a release of everything that had ever been bottled up. I felt God speaking to me. I thought about all the times that I had been low or really ill and I heard him saying, ‘I was there. I was there all those times.’ I thought, ‘I’m still alive so you must have been there.’ It was a life changing moment. It was incredible knowing that he has always been there for me. I finished off Alpha and started going to church and found I loved it. Our church is full of students and young people. I’d never seen people my age this passionate about something, this joyful about something – but not on drugs. They worship with such enthusiasm because they love him and because he loves them. It was a completely new perspective of seeing the world. When I started attending a small group it was terrifying – people in groups talking about God and then praying together – but then I went for it and it has been amazing. When I first became a Christian I was scared to tell my family. But they had already noticed such a change in me over the weeks. My characteristics were changing. I was calmer, communicating differently. I would tell Mum what I was learning. She would say, ‘Ok’ and then she would add, ‘But don’t become a Christian...’ I would say, ‘No, no, of course not’ but in my heart I already had and I was working out how to break it to them. Telling my mum I’d become a Christian was easier than telling my dad. She was really afraid that I’d turn into some sort of extremist or religious fanatic. She said, ‘I don’t want you to become one of those hysterics that go around the street preaching and shouting at people.’ She knew the depression I had come out of but my behaviour had become really consistent and normal, and she’d seen that change. I can’t remember how it came out to my dad now. It was all really frightening. I thought I would be kicked out of the family. I had been absolutely terrified about telling him, but he’d kind of assumed it. He said I would

bring curses on myself being a Christian. I was terrified of my dad disowning me or murdering me. There are stories of Malaysian kids moving away from their religions and their parents coming after them with machetes. But I had an overriding sense of God ‘for’ me, with me, as my protector. My friends praying made all the difference. When I told my dad I was going to be baptised he was so angry. He said, ‘Do not get baptised. You are making a mistake. See what happens in three days. He insinuated that I would die or something horrendous would happen. I was terrified. I’d spent my childhood fearful of offending the ‘gods’. I thought maybe I would be cursed. My parents have had odd experiences of spirituality and as a result I’ve been fearful of the demonic or dark things, particularly in my own house. But this time I truly believed that my God was bigger. I went for it and obviously nothing happened and it was amazing. Mum came to my baptism, dad didn’t. There have been changes in how my mum views religion – and my dad as well. His heart’s definitely softening. Now I read the Bible. I found it really difficult at first, but as I took that step of faith and entered into a relationship with God, I came to know him as a Father and everything clicked into place. It is like getting to know someone. Now I find it so easy, it’s my favourite thing to do. Now my relationship with God is truly everything that I am, and central to everything else in my life. That’s what I love about God, – he is unchanging. He can always be trusted and he’s always faithful. That’s my bottom line and everything rests on that. I see prayer as an open dialogue with God throughout the day. I do not know how I lived without God. I know he’s with me. The assurance of that is incredible. He knows where I’m going and I can trust him. I’m so much more relaxed than I used to be, I’m not neurotic at all. I’m not worried about the small things any more. Before Alpha, Jesus was just a fictional character to me. Now I know him as my Lord and my Saviour. I know him as the one that prays for me unceasingly at the Father’s right hand. It is amazing having Jesus on your side, knowing Jesus, knowing that he loves me, knowing that he’s covered over all my sin. I serve him now because I desperately want to because I love him so much. Even if I didn’t pick up my Bible ever again, his love for me would be unchanging. Nobody on this earth could have that capacity to love me that much – nobody. I’m now a postgraduate student in History of Arts and I work as an administrator for church planting with New Frontiers [a group of independent churches that started in Hove, Sussex and are now based around the country. Depression is a thing of the past. I thought it was good coming out of depression and not wanting to kill myself, but God offers so much more than that. He gives so much more than any job, any amount of money or any relationship could give me. He gives abundantly and I am so grateful.


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750 at Leadership Conference

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IN BRIEF

Pastor Agu was interviewed by Nicky Gumbel

Alpha billboard in Malta site Alpha Malta used a billboard in a busy main road in a central area to advertise the island courses (pictured). The billboard was up for a month. Andrew Mizzi, who coordinates Alpha in Malta, said: ‘Besides Facebook and the circulating of over 15,000

Bishop of Kensington Paul Williams

Bishop Sandy Millar

15 family members come to faith on Alpha in Malaysia

Bishops speak at HTB’s big new event More than 750 people attended the Leadership conference at Holy Trinity Brompton in March. Guest speakers included the Bishop of Kensington, Bishop Sandy Millar, Hillsong pastor Gary Clarke and Pastor Agu Irukwu, of Jesus House. The two-day event was hosted by HTB Vicar Nicky Gumbel and his wife Pippa. On the first morning, Nicky spoke on the ‘Heart of Leadership.’ Afternoon ‘Leadership Labs’ included ‘Investing in young leaders’ and ‘Running building projects combined with planning for church planting.’ In the evening Bishop Sandy Millar was interviewed. On the second day, the

Bishop of Kensington, Paul Williams, opened the event with a talk titled ‘Building and nurturing a leadership team.’ Guest speakers for the day included Gary Clarke, who spoke in a pre-recorded interview about how Hillsong London, manages to keep community the focus point of their church whilst constantly growing in numbers. Pastor Agu Irukwu was interviewed live by Nicky Gumbel. Speaking of his vision for the church in the UK Pastor Agu said, ‘I believe so strongly in Gods plan. The UK, with the exception of Israel, is easily the most important kingdom to God. ‘This nation took the gospel to Africa and other

e-mails we had an article in a newspaper and also carried out a ‘Does God exist ‘ survey at the University of Malta and also the most popular night entertainment spot on the Island.’ More than 500 personal invitations were given out in the street at a popular entertainment centre.

Nicky and Pippa Gumbel were interviewed

nations. God has brought the commonwealth back to this nation to join hands and birth the next stage.’

For all the talks and more pictures, see htb.org.uk

A couple from Malaysia came to faith on the Alpha course, and since then have invited fifteen members of their family. Four years ago Lizzie and Thomas, from Kota Kunabalu, Malaysia, started attending an Alpha course alongside the Buddhist classes they were also going to. A few weeks later they found themselves learning so much at the Alpha course and enjoying it so much that they decided to stop

attending the other classes. Near the end of the course they made a decision to begin to live according to the Christian faith and to trust Jesus. Lizzie and Thomas were excited to share their experience with their family and on subsequent courses between 2005 and 2009 a total of 15 family members went. The fifth course finished in October 2009, and in December three of the family members were baptised at the church.

5,000 at the Apollo for Pentecost ...and all is ready for Pentecost 2011 event at the O2 five thousand worshippers attended a big celebration of Pentecost hosted by Alpha’s founding church Holy Trinity Brompton and two other churches at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in May. Holy Trinity Brompton joined together with Jesus House and Hillsong for the event, which included worship led by teams from

all three churches. Worship leaders Tim Hughes (HTB), Reuben Morgan (Hillsong), Pete Wilson (Hillsong) and the Jesus House Choir all took turns to lead. The theme of the evening was unity, and Nicky Gumbel was clearly emotional as he told the crowd that the event was the ‘fulfilment of a dream’.

At one point, the crowd of worshippers was asked to find someone from another church and pray for them. Nicky Gumbel led a time of inviting the Holy Spirit to come. The vision for 2011 is to celebrate Pentecost with an even larger event – in the O2 Arena at Docklands, which holds 20,000 people.

Nicky Gumbel, Gary Clarke and Pastor Agu


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oth my parents are Greek. My mum was born in Cyprus but came over here when she was young. I wasn’t that close with my Dad. My mum and Dad divorced when I was two. When I was about nine, I started having pain in my foot and I was diagnosed with arthritis. It hugely impacted my life. I couldn’t get involved in sport. I was too scared to get involved because of all the pain. Because I was off school a lot, I didn’t get involved in the concerts and the productions, because teachers couldn’t be sure if I would be in the final thing. So I missed out a lot. Mum was in and out of work because of me at that time. It really impacted her. When I was 10, she decided to go to Cyprus because she’s had her parents and family out there. It was the best the decision she could have made. Almost as soon as we arrived, I met all these friends there and suddenly I was more active. There was sun and sea and my grandparents pushed me to go swimming every day. My grandparents became like my second set of parents. I’m really close to them. I came back to the UK when I was 15 because of my education – and all went well with my arthritis until I was about seventeen. Then my hip deteriorated so badly I was bedridden for six months. I had to be on a waiting list for a hip replacement. I just sat watching films and stuff. I had to redo a year of sixth form. That was hard. I was bedridden on my 18th birthday so I couldn’t even go out. All my friends were great. They would visit me on weekends and things – I really appreciated them for that. flare ups. It tended to be active at I went through a phase of saying one joint at a time really. ‘why me?’ and then I did the angry My joint would be hot and I phase where I was angry at knew I’d have to exercise it or it everything. I’d see a programme would get stuck. about God and I thought, ‘Oh well For medication, I’d have a antihe doesn’t care.’ inflammatory injection once a I had a hip replacement when I week and would take Nurofen a was 18. Three days after the lot for the immediate pain. operation I was able to get up and In 2007, my granddad on my about a bit and I thought, ‘There’s dad’s side was ill in hospital and I no pain!’ visited him. He was a very A month later the crutches went. religious man and he said – That summer, I was out every talking about my arthritis, night partying and I went a bit ‘Natalie, I’m going to go and talk off the rails. to Jesus and he will My relationship with my mum sort out your deteriorated slightly at that point problem.’ The next because she wasn’t used to this day he passed away. and began to think, ‘Where is my About a year later, I daughter?’ started trying to At 19, I went off to Westminster reduce the number of University to study Contemporary times I was taking the Media Production and learn injection. about producing, film-making, I tried it every two TV-making. weeks, then every My first year was fantastic. In three weeks and I still felt fine. my second year I met a guy at a The fourth week I felt a bit of party and we got on really well. pain, so I took the injection. Then Over the coming months I sort it was fine again for three weeks of lost myself in him and began so I knew like every three weeks I to forget my friends. We had a lot could take it. of problems, but we dated for four I saw my consultant for blood years. tests and he asked about my I did lose my uni life because of injections. I told him I was taking that. I toned down and stopped it every three weeks and he said following my dreams of going ‘Oh, you may be in remission, but into media. I stopped going out as we won’t know for another six much. months.’ I wasn’t following my dreams, I Then I saw my surgeon who did wasn’t going after media. the operation on my hip, who I As for the arthritis, I had aches see once a year. He’d always and stiffness and there would be thought my left hip was going to

go as well as my right because the x-rays showed it was in a bad state. The arthritis attacks the cartilage leaving the bones rubbing together. Then he saw the new x-ray and it showed a completely new line of cartilage. He was really shocked as it would usually have taken years to grow more cartilage like that. I kept thinking of my grandad. Had he talked to somebody up there? Is there somebody up there to talk to? I was very thoughtful.

which might help them with their forecasts. If they asked me questions, I was like ‘Maybe.’ ‘Do you write a lot? I see you as a writer.’ ‘I could be.’ But I was fascinated by all that. After my boyfriend and I broke up in April 2009 (it was a very difficult time – and too much to go into), my friends had a party for me. I went a bit crazy again in terms of guys. I moved in again with my mum because I had no money – and she mentioned this course called Alpha to me. She kept mentioning it. She didn’t say what it was about but that you go there and chat – just ask questions and debate. I thought, this sounded really boring. At this point my friends were having babies. They were all couples and I was the single one. I love them to pieces, but I felt we were going down different pathways. I needed to meet people. Mum said, ‘Oh you will meet people on Alpha. There are lots of hot guys.’ I was like ‘Really? Fine, I will come for one week.’ I wanted to shut her up because she kept going on about it. I had also just seen my doctor about my hip, so I was getting all thoughtful. She took me to the Alpha dinner where I heard the stories of

I was on the waiting list for a hip replacement...I was bedridden on my 18th birthday It was soon after that I discovered that my mum had started going to church. At the time I didn’t really believe in God. I was completely into conspiracies and loved anything that slagged the church. I was very interested in all the new agey stuff – meditation and wicca, crystals and magic spells. I went to a lot of mediums and fortune-tellers but I would question them because I wasn’t a complete sap in that area. When they questioned me at the beginning of a session, I was determined to give nothing away

people who had been on the previous course. There was one in particular that stuck in my head about this girl who was a prostitute. Her story was really powerful – how she got accepted into this church. It struck a chord like ‘Wow, it’s really helped her.’ You could see she was glowing and she was very different. Then there was another man who did the course. He said something like, ‘I’m still not a religious man but I will recommend Alpha.’ I thought, ‘Oh they don’t try and convert you. They’re not brainwashing you.’


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I kept thinking why is everyone smiling? Everyone seemed so happy and I thought this is just weird. I even finished up smiling. So I went to this group. I met the people, sat down and started talking to two of the girls. They were between 27 and 33, a bit older than me. But they were fun and suddenly I was chatting away and that was it, I was happy and so sure. I remember thinking, ‘I like this bunch. They’re really fun.’ We started our first discussion. I remember saying, ‘I don’t really want to be here you know. I’ve met you guys and it’s great but I’m here because my mum forced me and I had to shut her up. ‘I’m sitting here and I like you people. I might come back next week, but I won’t promise.’ There was a guy in the group who was a complete sceptic like me and we kind of got together going, ‘What do you think?’ Then there were the ones with questions. I found it easy to talk to them. Nobody said, ‘This is what God does for you.’ There was no preaching. And there was no pressure. Everyone’s opinions mattered. I could say as little or as much as I wanted. I talk a lot, so I said a lot. Afterwards we went to the pub which was good because you really get talking. They said, ‘Are you coming back next week?’ I was like ‘I like the group so I might make a second week and return.’ I liked it in terms of the social side, if not the religious side. The socialness would be the reason I’d come back. I went back the second week. I still wouldn’t sing in the beginning. But I enjoyed the talks. Jamie Haith spoke for two weeks in a row and I found him really funny. I could understand what he was saying and found it quite inspiring actually – very different to the Greek churches I was used to. I began to look forward to the group and hearing what people said. I started to get really interested in the whole thing and I’d look forward to Wednesdays. By the third or the fourth week, I quite liked the singing so I thought I’d give it a bash. They did Amazing Grace and I used to sing that at school, so I thought, ‘OK, I know this one.’ So I thought I’d give it a go. The other girls in the group looked over at me and I was like ‘Shut it.’ So I started to sing. After that, I started to be really excited about Wednesdays. It was very weird because I began getting a buzz about it. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was in a really different mood, very

different. A few days before the Alpha weekend, I went back to the consultant (it was six months since I’d last seen him) and he confirmed that my arthritis was in remission. My cartilage had grown a bit more from the last x-ray. I was gob smacked. I started to see God in a whole different light. I opened up about my arthritis to my group and I was almost tearful. Something was changing inside me, and I could feel it. Then came the Alpha weekend with its emphasis on the Holy Spirit. I got prayed for and began feeling all hot, sweaty, like I hadto take a coat off or something, A girl came up to me, and said, ‘Can I just pray for you? I feel you need to be prayed for’ and I was like ‘Yeah, yeah, sure.’ It was the first time anyone had prayed for me like that. She started talking and saying thank you to God for me and I just cried. I very rarely cried and I was just bawling. Then she said, ‘Can I pray some more? I know you’ve got health problems but there’s something else I’d like to pray for you about.’

and he said, ‘There’s something different about you. What are you doing? Have you got a new love life or something?’ And I thought, ‘Well yes, I’ve found a new love – but not in the boy sense. I realised something amazing was happening. The people in my Alpha group are now great friends – we are like a tight bunch.We have an Alpha reunion every month Everybody takes turns at hosting it. I love the services at church now. There’s none of the ‘If you don’t believe in God, you’re going to go to hell’ – all that damnation. The talks are all inspiring and are about how you can change your life around. That’s what I love more than anything. It’s about deepening your faith and growing in your love of God and Jesus. That’s what I love. I went on another church weekend in January – one for young leaders called Emerge – and the Sunday we came back they were showing a DVD of all that the church had been involved in over the past year. It was an amazing film and it hit me again that I was involved in something amazing. I just bawled – and I was bawling for an hour. One of my friends from my group – a guy called Quincy – came and sat there and prayed for me. Then he started to cry because I was crying so much. Before Alpha I believed Jesus existed but that he was more of a prophet as opposed to the son of God (I felt that was just stupid). I believed he was a very inspiring man and a good person – kind of like a Mother Theresa of his day, who helped people. I believed he could have been a good magician but that there were parts that were kind of exaggerated in the Bible by other people. Now I know definitely there is a God. So Jesus was more than just there to ‘help people’. He died for us and he did come back. I can’t describe him in any words, because there’s just no words to describe what he has done for me. He is awesome. I can really pray to him now. I’m still trying to build up my own kind of praying. I find it quite difficult but I’ve bought a Bible and am trying to read it every day. As for my arthritis, I still sometimes feel stiff in the mornings (winter was horrible) but it’s not active. I think God has helped me and is healing me. I’m so happy. Since doing Alpha, my life has changed. It’s changed everything. If I have a problem, I now say to God, ‘Please help me up there.’ And he does. It works!

The new x-ray showed a completely new line of cartilage

So I signed up – me and a friend who I had spoken to about it – and we came in September. As we went, I was like, ‘This is going to be c..p isn’t it? They are going to be all Bible bashers.’ My friend and I thought ‘We’ll just have the food and leave.’ Then we went in and saw how many people there were – 800 people or something. We were like, ‘Whoa, we were expecting 40 or 50. We were completely blown away by how many people were there. We had the supper and then everyone started getting up to sing. Me and my friend looked at each other going, what? I saw mum’s face behind me and

I just looked at her going, ‘You are dead, how could you do this to me?’ Soon after this my friend bolted. She just legged it, saying, ‘No, no, no.’ She was very tearful. I don’t know what it was. I had been mistakenly put in a group of older people and after the talk I considered leaving but my mum was desperate for me to stay. She introduced me to this organiser girl who put me in a group where she knew the leaders, Charlie Gannon and Anna Farrell So I said to mum, ‘Ok, I’ll do it just because I’m here.’ But I was not happy about it.

I was like ‘Ok’ and she goes, ‘You need to forgive.’ And I was like ‘What?’ And she goes ‘A boyfriend or something, you need to forgive.’ Until that point I hadn’t realised that I’d still hung on to the bitterness of what happened with my relationship. So she started to pray for me to forgive... and I was crying more. After it was all over a weight was gone. I felt all funny, my stomach was bubbling. I felt kind of quiet. Usually I’m really chatty, so I was sitting there going, ‘What’s just happened?’ I remember thinking, ‘I feel good.’ The next day when we came back and I realised I wanted to go to church. I’d been a couple of times before but this was different. I got involved in the singing and enjoyed it. I thought, ‘I think I’ve found something that is true and genuine. That Wednesday I went back to Alpha and everyone goes, ‘Natalie, you’re glowing.’ And I was like ‘What do you mean?’ My other friends (who I hadn’t told about Alpha because of the stigma) began to say, ‘Natalie, have you done something with your hair? You look good, like really happy,’ Then I went and visited my dad


JULY - OCTOBER 2010

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Alpha News

ASSOCIATED MINISTRIES

;VW[OLVSVNPHUZZWLHR 9L]K+Y4PJOHLS3SV`K

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9V^HU>PSSPHTZ1Â&#x2026;YNLU4VS[THUU 4PYVZSH]=VSMHUK+H]PK-VYK]PZP[/;) :[7H\SÂťZ;OLVSVNPJHS*LU[YL ZW[JO[IVYN\R ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury Rowan Williams led a distinguished line-up of top theologians who were guest speakers at a theology conference on the Holy Spirit at Holy Trinity Brompton in May. Other speakers included Professor JĂźrgen Moltmann from TĂźbingen, Germany; Professor Miroslav Volf of Yale University; and Professor David Ford of Cambridge. The two-day Holy Spirit in the World conference was jointly sponsored by Alpha Associated Ministry St Paulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Theological College and St Mellitus College with Holy Trinity Brompton and was attended by around 500 people. The conference was opened by Dr Graham Tomlin, Director of St Paulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Theological Centre, and began with a homily by Archbishop Rowan Williams This was followed by an interview

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with JĂźrgen Moltmann by Chairman of Lazard International and Alpha International, Ken Costa. Professor Moltmann then spoke on â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Church in the Power of the Spiritâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, speaking in English from notes written in German. He spoke about his home church

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in TĂźbingen which changed from a parochial church to a missionary attractive community. Moltmann has written many books, in particular The Theology of Hope. After lunch Professor Miroslav Volf, Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School, spoke on â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;One Spirit, Many Tongues: Globalization, Faith Traditions, and Human Flourishing.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Volf studied under JĂźrgen Moltmann at the University of TĂźbingen and was formerly a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. His book Exclusion and Embrace, was selected as among the 100 best religious books of the 20th Century by Christianity Today. The afternoon ended with a reflection from Professor Tom Greggs. In the evening, Bishop Sandy Millar, former Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, spoke on â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Filled with the Spiritâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. On the second day, there were talks by Professor David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge; Dr Graham Tomlin and Revd Tom Smail and a time of prayer and worship.

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Alpha News

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ASSOCIATED MINISTRIES

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JULY - OCTOBER 2010

Alpha News

Associated ministries

Marriage Conference at EMEA week

Nicky and Sila Lee host London Marriage Conference Marriage Course leaders Nicky and Sila Lee spoke to an audience of 250 people from the Middle East, Africa and Europe at a one day marriage course conference at HTB in June. They spoke about the Valentine’s Day Invitation and a new session was added on how to promote a course. Phil Harding was interviewed about his experience of running a dinner and there was a report on the first student Marriage Prep Course which was run in the Netherlands. Alex and Liz Alex and Liz have been married nearly three months and did The Marriage Preparation Course in September last year. Liz: We did The Marriage Preparation Course because we’d heard such great things about it but also we felt that we really wanted to start our marriage on the right foot. We’d heard from other married couples who hadn’t done The Marriage Preparation Course about little traps you could get into once married. We just thought it would be really worthwhile to copy those topics which we might have not discovered whilst we were dating. Alex: The evenings were really, really good fun. Liz cried most nights we did it! It brought up stuff that you wouldn’t normally talk about. It gives you that legitimacy to talk about things that you wouldn’t normally talk about over dinner because someone sets the tone and says now we’re going to talk about this and you’re like well we’ve got ten minutes we’re going to have to talk about it which was really useful. Liz: It’s made an enormous difference for the marriage so far because we went into the marriage with more understanding. For example, understanding that if you do things differently from one another, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, for example I’ve learnt from Alex that just because he does something a certain way because that’s just how his family did it and similarly my family do things a different way. Being aware of that going into marriage we could say ‘well tell me why you do that like that?’. It also helped to be able to understand yourself and what triggers or needs you may have

Family Life

relationshipcentral.org as well. Alex: There are lots of things about love languages and how you can express love to one another and it helps you to understand that people receive love in a different way. After we did marriage prep we read the love languages book which you talk about and it was useful to go well actually there’s nothing wrong, I just need you to tell me I’m handsome more often or that Liz needs to be picked up from work by car! Little things like that. Slavco and Sonja Slavco and Sonja are from Bosnia, have been married for sixteen years and first did The Marriage Course 3 years ago. Sonja: I thought that I knew everything about Slavco before, I thought that I knew what he was thinking but then on the course I realised that I knew nothing! Now I can say that I know what he’s thinking about. Slavco: Actually when we started the course three years ago, we so needed it in our church and society. It has made a huge difference in our marriage, we know each other better now and it has improved our marriage very, very much. In Bosnia, three churches in three cities are running The Marriage Course regularly including our local church. We’ve had three courses now with five to ten couples on each course. We also did the Marriage Preparation course with three couples. It’s going very well so very – we’ve not only have people from within our church doing it, but also non believers. We had one muslim couple and they were really excited about the course and they said later on that they would advertise the course among their friends and they were really happy with the change the course made in their marriage. It would be really difficult to normally reach them and get them to come to our church but this was a really good way to get them to an evangelistic event. We run the course with DVDs. At the beginning of the night, we have dinner, we greet people and give some introductions and then we watch the DVD. We don’t have it in Bosnian yet but we have Serbian subtitles which is very similar to the Bosnian language. There are not many protestant churches in Bosnia but we hope that in the next few years all of them or at least most of them will do The Marriage Course.

Ken Costa at Concordia University Alpha International with Christian values. Chairman Ken Costa Ken Costa was able to spoke at Concordia raise awareness of God godatwork.org.uk University’s 7th annual at Work and Business Faith and Business Forum Alpha and pre-launch in March. the Faith and Business roadshow that is The Forum was for delegates from all happening across America in 2010. denominations. Ken, who is Chairman of Concordia University was founded in Lazard International, spoke to 300 1976 and is located in Irvine, California. leaders on the challenges of keeping Their Centre for Faith and Business business ethical. exists to educate, train, and equip There was an informal Q&A session on Christian students and business people ‘working your way up the ladder’ with an to become intentional and deliberate opportunity for younger people starting about integrating their faith and their out their careers to question Ken and work so that God will be glorified and pull from his experiences doing business His kingdom expanded.

GOD AT WORK


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Associated ministries

Worship Central on the road...

Al Gordon and Tim Hughes

2000 attend big London event more than 2,000 Guest speakers included worshippers attended the Mike Pilavachi, Nicky Worship Central training Gumbel and Mike worshipcentral.org conference in London last Lloyd.
Seminars at the event month. included ‘instrument master The two-day event was held at Central Hall classes,’ ‘leadership,’ ‘songwriting,’ ‘building Westminster and was hosted by Tim Hughes an effective team’ and ‘ all-age worship.’
 and Al Gordon. Guests had travelled from all More than 200 volunteers were involved in over the world, including Italy, USA, Holland, helping at the event.
 South Africa and Spain to attend the event.
 Worship Central are running a series of Worship leaders included Martin Smith, training conferences internationally during former lead singer of Delirious; Phil 2010. Countries they will be visiting include Wickham, US singer and songwriter; and the Germany, USA, Hong Kong, Japan and Worship Central team. India.

WorshipCentral

Nikki Fletcher

Phil Wall

The Far East tour... hundreds of young worshippers attended Worship Central events throughout the Far East last month. Worship Central led church services at City Harvest Church in Singapore before holding events in Japan and Hong Kong. Two hundred and fifty people attended the Worship Central event in Japan. It was hosted by Tim Hughes and Al Gordon and held at Hope Church in Chiba outside Tokyo. Seven hundred and fifty people attended the Hong Kong event hosted by Tim Hughes, Al Gordon and Tom Read from the Vine Band. Tim Hughes said: ‘It is incredible to see what God is doing with His church in Asia. These are exciting times. We were blown away by the faithfulness and hunger for the Lord of those that we met in Japan and were so encouraged by the conference in Hong Kong. ‘It was our second time back to Hong Kong and really feels like the ministry is coming on in leaps and bounds. The local team there are amazing!’

Nicky and Pippa Gumbel and Tricia Neill were stranded in Hong Kong because of the volcanic ash, so they were able to join the team in Hong Kong and spoke to the delegates on leadership and raising up worship leaders. In addition to keynote sessions in Hong Kong given by Tim Hughes and Al Gordon, Andrew Gardner, from The Vine Church, spoke about making worship a priority. The worship team also led worship at the Kuching Alpha conference.

Worship Central volunteers

... and USA and Canada Thousands of worshippers gathered together in May when Worship Central hit the US and Canada. The tour took place at four different locations and was hosted by worship leaders Tim Hughes, Al Gordon and Caleb Clements. The first event was a full day training conference held at Rockharbour Church in Orange Country, California where the line-up included Rockharbour’s lead pastor and cofounder Tod Proctor as well as guest worship band, ‘Gungor’. The second event was at Bethel Church in Redding, California where an evening celebration took place and was streamed live on iBethel TV. The tour was rounded up with Worship Central’s first ever visit to Canada with evening celebrations taking place at CLA Church in Langley and Costal Church in Vancouver.

Michael Gungor


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JULY - OCTOBER 2010

ALPHAfriends

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W o r l d w i d e C o n ta c t s There are currently 46,940 registered Alpha Courses in 164 countries around the world. If you would like to know more about international Alpha courses or interested in any other Alpha speciality ministries, Family Life, Worship Central, please contact either the National or Regional Alpha office (as listed below) or visit alpha.org/findacourse. Regional Offices AMERICAS

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Alpha USA t. + 224 588 8519 f. +1 847 317 9627 e. info@alphausa.org w. alphausa.org Alpha West Balkans – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia t. +381 21 897 576 e. mira.alpha.wb@gmail.com Alpha Zambia t. +260 11 250154 f. +260 1 250 228 e. alphazambia@iconnect.zm Alpha Zimbabwe t. +263 470 5010 e. alphazim@mango.zw

Head Offices – Alpha Ministries Alpha for ESOL e. esol@alpha.org Alpha for Forces e. forces@alpha.org w. alpha.org/forces Alpha for Prisons e. prisons@alpha.org Alpha in the Workplace e. shailavisser@alphacanada.org Senior Alpha e. senior@alpha.org w. alpha.org/senior Student Alpha e. studentalpha@alpha.org w. studentalpha.org Youth Alpha e. youth@alpha.org w. youthalpha.org

Head Offices – other Alpha International Ministries Caring for Ex-Offenders e. prisons@alpha.org w. caringforexoffenders.org Family Life e. family.life@alpha.org w. relationshipcentral.org God at Work e. hayley.bisofsky@alpha.org w. godatwork.org.uk Worship Central e. info@worshipcentral.org w. worshipcentral.org


Alpha News

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JULY - OCTOBER 2010

For more information on any of the conferences listed below, please contact: events@alpha.uk

Love in the lecture hall Student Alpha Conference 24 September 2010 Hosted at Holy Trinity Brompton, London

+44 (0) 207 052 0440

htb.org.uk/events

29 OCTOBER 2010 HOSTED AT HOly TRiniTy BROmpTOn, lOnDOn

pRiSOn miniSTRy ConferenCe 2010 Working TogeTher inside and ouTside The Prison Wall

ALPHA FOR PRISONS

Hosted at Holy trinity Brompton london

25 novemBer 2010

10 - 11 February 2011

Hosted at Holy Trinity Brompton, London

a conference on tHe tHeology and practice of urBan mission

conferences 2010/11 alphafriends.org/events UK CONFERENCES Student Alpha Conference, Holy Trinity Brompton, London 24 September 2010 Prison Ministry Conference, Holy Trinity Brompton, London 29 October 2010 Seek the Welfare of The City, Holy Trinity Brompton, London 25 November 2010 Worship Central Tour, Southampton – Central Hall 10 November 2010 Worship Central Tour, Bristol – Woodlands 11 November 2010 Worship Central Tour, Bradford – Abundant Life 12 November 2010 Worship Central Tour, St Pauls & St George, Edinburgh 13 November 2010 HTB Leadership Conference, Holy Trinity Brompton and 10 & 11 February 2011 St Paul’s Onslow Square, London

GLOBAL ALPHA TRAINING EVENTS 2010 Global Alpha Training Where global mission meets local evangelism The need around the world for Alpha training is greater than ever. Teams from churches who know and love Alpha are meeting this need by running Global Alpha Training events.

What is GAT? Global Alpha Training (GAT) is localised training delivered in a localised style. It has been designed to equip and empower people from churches that run and love Alpha courses to train others wherever there is a training need around the world, with mission partners in other countries, across their country, or in their town or city.

For countries requesting GAT Events and for more information go to http://gat.alpha.org

Argentina Armenia Benin Botswana Brazil Burundi Cameroon Chile Colombia Costa Rica Denmark Dominican Republic Dr Congo El Salvador Egypt Estonia Ethiopia Ghana India Jamaica Japan Kenya Liberia Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Mauritius

Mexico Moldova Mozambique Namibia New Zealand Nicaragua Nigeria Panama Papua New Guinea Peru Russia Rwanda Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Slovakia South Africa Sudan Tanzania Thailand Togo Trinidad and Tobago Uganda Ukraine Zambia Zimbabwe


ALPHA RESOURCES 3

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JULY - OCTOBER 2010

NEW fROm AlpHA INTERNATIONAl

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ALPHA NEWS

July 2010 – October 2010

alpha.org

Scottish Supplement

Grave fright leads to faith

Rebel with a new cause...

Glasgow pair transformed

Full Story Page S8

Issue 4

Amy finds God at Youth Alpha

Full Story Page S2

St Andrews Students stand in 24-7 Prayer

Students in Edinburgh wearing the new Alpha advertising

JUMP TO IT! Big Alpha question for nation as New Alpha Invitation launched by churches in Scotland

CHURCHES ACROSS SCOTLAND are set to take part in the UK’s thirteenth national Alpha advertising initiative this September. The new campaign focuses on the question‘The meaning of life is ______.’ Underneath there is a strap line ‘Fill in the blanks at alpha.org’. For the first time ever the Alpha Invitation will also include a major digital campaign to complement the new look posters and banners. ‘We saw a tremendous amount of public interest and engagement during last year’s

campaign – many people were interacting with the questions ‘Does God Exist?’ and ‘Is this it?’ and adding their own thoughts and answers on the posters,’ said Alpha Scotland Director Paul Davie. ‘This year’s look and feel carries on from that, and really gets people thinking and encourages them to engage.’

INSIDE YOUR SCOTLAND SUPPLEMENT: Dunblane Youth Alpha... Three generations come to faith... Stories of changed lives...


PAGE S2

July 2010 - October 2010

WELCOME TO THE ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND SUPPLEMENT

ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

Lesley Smith (right) and some of the DCF youth

Welcome to the 4th edition of the Alpha News Scottish Supplement! Alpha Scotland’s goal is to play our part in making Jesus the Talk of Scotland, by supporting the growth and development of Alpha and its many ministries. Our key aim is to envision and equip churches across the nation to host well run Alpha courses to give everyone regardless of age, background or status the opportunity to attend an Alpha course near where the live, work or study. It’s a growing family with over 500 churches and other partner organisations. We would love to hear from you whether your interest is Youth, Schools, Students, Prisons, the local church & community, Caring for Exoffenders, workplace, developing worship, or re-building relationships and improving marriages and family life. Our thanks to Steve Lindridge for supplying some of the photos for this edition (www. idealimages.co.uk) and Nicola Ogston for her assistance in design. Contact us at: Alpha Scotland Renfield Centre 260 Bath Street Glasgow G2 4JP Tel: 0141 332 0051 Email: alphascotland@alpha.org Web: alphascotland.org

ALPHA scotland

Order copies of the Scottish Supplement for your church or group FREE

If you are running the Alpha Course you can order up to 100 copies of the Scotland Supplement FREE. Please call the Alpha hotline on 0845 758 1278 quoting ‘Alpha News Scotland Supplement’ to order extra copies.

‘Hot Chocolate’ revives teens Dunblane Christian Fellowship (DCF) run a Friday night youth outreach called ‘Hot Chocolate’ with between 60 to 100 young people attending. Its pioneer, Church Youth Worker, Lesley Smith, has been running Youth Alpha with some of the Dunblane teenagers she has befriended.

‘We set up the church as a youth café, invite the young people in and give them free hot chocolate,’ said Lesley, ‘We have X-Boxes and games consoles, space to chill out, party nights and all sorts. Initially we didn’t think many would come. Dunblane is quite a ‘middle class’ area which can sometimes make outreach harder because the young people think they already have everything and don’t see what we can offer them. At the same time we have the same issues as everywhere else. It is so exciting, young people are coming into church as a result of doing this. Youth Alpha is how we make the link between Hot Chocolate and Church’. We interviewed two of the guests, Amy and Andy from DCF’s Youth Alpha and here are their stories. AMY WRIGHT (18) grew up in Dunblane, central Scotland. She was a discontented teenager but through her contact with Dunblane Christian Fellowship and youth worker, Lesley Smith, has come into a life changing relationship with God: I had a happy childhood. My mum went to church until I was about five years old. I remember going to Sunday School and things like that but then some things happened at home and my mum and dad split up. After that we didn’t go to church any more. I was bad at school. I think I started getting bad in about Primary Four, about the time when my parents split up, I think people had kind of given up on me by Primary Seven. I don’t know what it was that made me bad. I just hated people telling me what to do. I was the worst pupil to have in a classroom and no teacher ever wanted me in their class. I was never clever or anything and I was

disruptive. I used to swear at teachers and start arguments for no reason at all and I would just do what I wanted all the time which, obviously, is not what you’re meant to do at school. I just misbehaved all the time. At high school I had to have my behaviour monitored on a behaviour timetable every lesson, every day, for five years. Anything I did in lessons was recorded and it had to be signed by a teacher and a parent. If I had been bad I would get punishment exercises, detention or that sort of thing. The punishment exercises were easy for me though because I always had to write out the same paragraph and I learned it off by heart! The punishment exercises didn’t make me better though, they made me want to be worse because I hated doing them. I never got suspended or excluded because I managed to keep in with the senior management at the school. It was like I was being two faced

60 Second Interview: Youth Worker Lesley Smith on Page S7

with them. I was nice to them and horrible to my teachers. I spent most of my time on the management corridor, if I was sent out of my class then I would go there and I would always be really helpful so they all loved me, they enjoyed my banter! So when teachers would ask for me to be suspended, the management always fought my case because they all thought I was alright. It’s not like I was really bad at school and I was a bum. I was bad at school but I still went every single day; I was never late. I was dedicated to being there; I am not a person who likes to give up on something but I didn’t want to stay on into sixth year. I was chased at school to fill in my options forms but I just didn’t want to do it so I went and spoke to the local hairdresser and asked for a job, they said yes and I have been working since. Before that my mum was always up at the school for some reason or other, she hated that. It got to a point where I knew that what I was doing was upsetting my mum but sometimes I just couldn’t help it, I just couldn’t control myself from saying things. I don’t think she knew that I went to Scripture Union at school, I never really told her what I did at school. When I told her that I had become a Christian, a year ago, she didn’t believe me and she still doesn’t! I think it’s because I used to be so rebellious. I would go out after school and go drinking in the park, I did everything you weren’t meant to do really. It did upset me to know that I was upsetting my mum but I couldn’t help it. I did all these tests to see if there was anything wrong with me but there’s nothing wrong, I didn’t have an excuse. I wanted there to be something wrong so I could tell my mum and then she would understand that I didn’t mean it. From when I was about five I went to Kids Club or the childminders after school every day. I met Lesley Smith from the church at Kids Club, where she used to help out before she worked for the church. I was about ten when I met her. I guess I have known Lesley a long time. I went to


ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

July 2010 - October 2010

Amy Wright the Scripture Union group because of Lesley. When I was little I went to church and I had a lot of questions so I wanted to go to SU to ask questions and stuff. Lesley and me had a good few heated debates about things but I just didn’t buy any of it, I didn’t believe in it at all. I had been going to Hot Chocolate because when I was out on a Friday night I just ended up there. A couple of times I arrived wasted. At first I started going just because all my friends went and you would get free hot chocolate. Then sometimes if I had nothing else to do on a Friday night then I would just go down and have a go on the Sing Star. Eventually I went just for the banter, not just to get out of the cold. I still had a lot of questions and so Lesley invited me to Youth Alpha and I was like ‘alright’, I didn’t believe in God though, definitely not, far from it. It is quite a scary subject; such a mammoth, huge thing that I find it a bit daunting just thinking about how to understand it and stuff. It’s a bit difficult to understand most things even about the general world without having to think about more religious stuff. Believing in it seemed a bit complicated.

I hadn’t been to church on a Sunday before, not since I was little. I texted my friend and asked her to come and meet me because I was too scared to go in by myself, so she met me outside. When I went that first time it was weird because there were loads of folk with their hands in the air and I was like ‘what are they doing?’ it was weird, I felt stupid singing songs and I felt like I shouldn’t have been there. Everybody was really nice but I still felt like I shouldn’t have been there. I went for a couple of weeks but then because I worked on a Saturday, Saturday night was like Friday night to me and I was often out which made it hard to get up on a Sunday morning. Sometimes those Saturday nights would just take over. I kept going to Dunblane Christian Fellowship on and off, it all got easier and I started to remember the songs and stuff, they’re really catchy. I still didn’t really believe in God but I went to church, it is such a huge subject that going to church was like just sticking my toes in the bath water just a little tiny wee bit, it was just a wee taster, but I saw everybody else having an amazing time and everybody seemed really nice and they weren’t stressing about anything or worrying about anything and I wanted to be the same. Out of church things were sometimes stressful and I would get myself in a state and I would question what I was doing or why I was here. I had to change something, so I started going to church more, I wanted to be like everybody else there because I felt left out. I maybe prayed once or twice, I was like ‘alright Big Man’, I didn’t pray so I could see what God could do but I just did it because I knew it was all about a relationship with God. I thought about how you would start a relationship with anyone else you just kind of talk to them so I just started talking to God a bit, even though it seemed like it was nothing and pointless I was just like ‘Hi’ and sometimes I would ask Him ‘How are you?’, He didn’t really reply to that but I just felt like I go on about myself in prayer so I was like ‘How are you today?’ So by May 2009 I was coming to church quite a lot and I remember coming into church the day that I became a Christian

I used to swear at teachers... I would just do what I wanted When I came to Youth Alpha I just remember Lesley would say something and I would be like ‘but why?’ and she would be like ‘well, because’ and I would be like ‘but why though?’ and she would try to explain it more and then I would be like ‘nah’. I just fought with her all the time, I had questions about everything. I found some things confusing and some things are still hard to understand but it is, as they call it, a journey, so I’ve got to keep on at it. The best thing about Youth Alpha was definitely the Bannoffee Pie. The eating was great! Seriously, I loved the fact that everybody really liked me for no reason. Everybody was just dead nice and it was easy to talk about stuff, even deep scary stuff, it was still cool to talk about it. I was already friends with the people on the course with me so that helped too. Youth Alpha finished and Lesley was like ‘see you Sunday’ but I didn’t come to church on a Sunday for a while. Then one Saturday night I stayed up all night with one of my pals, who is really not religious and quite against it all, we sat up all night talking nonsense and stuff. I went to sleep at like four in the morning but for some reason I woke up early and decided I was going to church. I started getting ready and my friend was like ‘what are you doing?’, I told her I was going to church and she asked me why so I made up excuses like I said I was going because Lesley had asked me to go but really I just wanted to go, so I went.

and Lesley was cleaning out a cupboard, as you do. She was just talking to me about stuff and at this point I was very very interested and curious about everything. We spoke about God and how it could all fit in my life and she made me realise that it can fit in with my lifestyle and I just have to change a few wee things, I could still be me. I thought I was too wild but all I had to do was make a few adjustments. We had a big deep conversation and then she asked if I wanted to be a Christian and I was like ‘yeah, ok’ so we said this mad prayer and Lesley gave me a Bible and I was like ‘I had better go and read it’ and I wrote the date in it. I think it was the 20th of May. I didn’t really feel anything change, it was just a step I made. Jesus has made a big difference in my life. I think I would have gone a bit more wild and kept the party animal attitude up and I would have just gone the wrong way really. I don’t go out as much as I used to, I think Jesus has put me in a different direction. I know now that it’s just always on my mind. It is kind of like I didn’t want to let my Mum down at school, I don’t want to let God down so I don’t want to do anything silly so I just don’t really do anything silly any more. I still go out but I don’t go out to get absolutely minced, I just go out to enjoy it. I don’t drink too much. I feel that every man that has been in my life has hurt me in some way but I know I won’t get hurt by God so that’s quite cool.

PAGE S3

17 YEAR OLD Andrew McBroom was an atheist who ended up on Youth Alpha. This is his story: I have always lived in Dunblane. I went to a private school in the next town. I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the academic side of school but I enjoyed the social side and I had some good laughs. My parents both taught the Sunday School so me and my brothers all went but none of us really liked it. We stopped going to Sunday School when I was about 9 and so my parents stopped going as well. I didn’t go to church after that. At school I was a normal teenager in most ways in that most teenagers I know, 15 or 16 year olds, go out and drink and stuff but I would drink spirits quite heavily. We would also go out to folks’ houses every night and sometimes there would be drugs. I would never do drugs because my mum had worked at a medical practise and she would tell me stories about the guys who came in on drugs and it was awful so I never wanted to mess with drugs. Then there were some nights that I just found myself doing it because my friends were so I guess there were some things that normal teenagers wouldn’t have done that I

Andrew McBroom did. I am just realising now how stupid I must have been when I was that way. Through all of school I went to ‘Radio Rainbow’, a holiday club for the Primary school in Dunblane that the churches run every year. It’s always a brilliant week. I went at first because a lot of my friends went so I saw it as a week to muck about with them, I didn’t really pay attention to the stories from the Bible. I went every year because it was such good fun and then eventually became part of the technical team. I wasn’t a Christian then but I went along to ‘Frequency’ which was an event that they ran in the evenings of that same week, the music really appealed to me. I told Lesley I wasn’t a Christian. One of the leaders at Frequency gave me a wee red New Testament and asked

was impressed that people had so much energy to dance on a Sunday morning! I didn’t really listen to the teaching, I was just wondering how long we had left. I don’t know what made me go back again and again. When I didn’t go people would ask where I was, that was nice. I stopped going for a bit again but then Radio Rainbow was coming up again and I wanted to be part of the team. I had to get someone to sign a form saying I went to church regularly so I thought I had better go back. I had some great chats with my mate, Nathan, who is the Pastor’s son, that got me more interested and I started looking stuff up and I found my Bible and had a wee flick through it. I would ask Nathan loads of questions like ‘How could a man rise from the dead?’ and ‘How could we just be created like that?’ I was still an atheist but I was getting more interested and seeing that things that had happened in the past that I had always thought were a coincidence were maybe meant to happen for me to get closer to the church. I have always wanted to do relief work in Africa and one Sunday a lady had a picture of me driving a truck into a deprived African town; that got my attention! After Radio Rainbow last year Youth Alpha was starting up and I thought it sounded cool, there was a free meal every week so I thought I would go along. I sat in and it was quite quiet the first two weeks and throughout the whole course the most guests we had were about seven but that was good because I got more of my questions in. I learned who Jesus is and why He died and it gave me even more of an insight into it. I started coming more to church but there were still things that I just didn’t understand. Then a pastor visited the church from Uganda and Lesley organised for us to go and chat with him. He asked me about my life and he asked me how long I had been a Christian. I told him that I wasn’t a Christian but I found it interesting. I told him that I just didn’t understand everything so I couldn’t be a Christian. I told him about the TV course that I am doing at college and he told me that my life is a camera, if something goes wrong with the camera then you check the manual to find out what is wrong and then you fix it, he told me our manual is the Bible and that made total sense to me. We prayed together then and I became a Christian. Something inside just felt amazing, my legs were shaking, my body was shaking, I felt this thing just go straight through me. I just felt so happy, there was nothing that day that could have made me upset. The lady whose house we were in had gone to the shops and before she left I had said I wasn’t a Christian and when she came back we were all standing up crying and I had become a Christian! My parents weren’t really bothered but they were happy I wasn’t causing trouble! I pray now that I can be a better son to them.

I was still an atheist but I was getting more interested me to read it but I don’t like reading so I just read a few pages and then put it away. That year I had more fun than I had in other years and made lots of friends so at the end of Frequency when Lesley asked me if I wanted to come to church I decided I would give it a go. As I walked in to church I wondered if it was going to be really boring. Then there was a welcome team at the door who gave me a hug and I felt very welcome. I went in and sat down and they started singing I loved seeing all the technical equipment, the projector, sound system and that, it was pretty cool. It was interesting to see Lesley up the back giving it ‘laldy’ and some of the people from Frequency were there. I thought the worship was cool and I

When I was at school me and my mates did some bad things, we would drink and do some drugs. I went to a private school so there was more money about and it was easier to get stuff like that. Some of those friends have taken the micky a bit since I became a Christian but I have a great group of friends at the church who have been really supportive. Lesley is amazing, I think she is one of the main reasons I became a Christian, she really is a role model, just spending so much time with her and seeing how her life has changed. Every young person in Dunblane knows her. The church has made me look at my life in more depth and helped me to look at my future and what I want to do for God. Youth Alpha had a big role in all of that.


PAGE S4

JULY 2010 - OCTOBER 2010

It started with Angela...

ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

JULY 2010 - OCTOBER 2010

Angela Reilly (Left) with her son Jordan and mum Jean

ANGELA, a hairdresser from East Kilbride, grew up having everything she needed but still feeling a deep discontentment. Battling frustration and addictions to alcohol and cocaine she finally turned to God. MY FAMILY are originally from Glasgow but we moved to East Kilbride when I was 4 years old and have lived here since then. It was a good place to grow up and we always had a comfortable lifestyle. When I was younger my parents sent us to Sunday School. I really enjoyed going but in my teenage years rebelliousness kicked in and I stopped going. I didn’t ever go back to church. I didn’t enjoy school at all. I did my best but I was often distracted and struggled with studying. I remember my mum saying to me ‘You’re a really discontented lassie, Angela’. I always had people around me but I never felt like I had anyone close. I plodded along but there was always this sort of hole within, a real emptiness which I tried to fill with all sorts of things. I was very restless and would jump from one thing to another, never sticking at anything. Nothing gave me that fullness or contentment. I got married and had my son, Jordan, but unfortunately that marriage did not last and I was on my own with Jordan who was only 11 months old. Then I met my husband, Michael, he is amazing and has been the best thing for me. We got married and

‘wow! What is this?’ and I instantly felt comfort. I felt that I belonged there. The next week Jacquie and I watched ‘The Passion of the Christ’ film together. I cried the whole way through it because seeing it really brought to life for me what Jesus really went through to forgive us, to forgive me, for my sins. Here was I, so full of self pity, guilt and remorse and here was what Jesus went through to forgive me for my sin. I wanted to be able to give something back so, on the 24th September at 10:10pm, I became a Christian. The next Sunday I went to church again and they were talking about Alpha. I didn’t know anything about Alpha, apart from having seen adverts, but it suddenly clicked as an ideal opportunity for me to learn more, I felt that I had to know more to be able to shout it from the rooftops! The first week I went I didn’t know what to expect but I walked in to see the church had been turned into this top class restaurant, it was just amazing, and I felt so welcomed. I was often easily distracted but I was totally hooked on Alpha and I was hungry to get back every week. The friendliness was amazing. I had never

When I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about drinking had two daughters, Morgan and Abigail. When the kids were younger I started taking them to Sunday School and things seemed on track. But in my 30s this discontentment and restlessness came back. I started blaming everything and everybody about me and I started to drink alcohol. The drinking gave me a feeling of ease and comfort that temporarily filled this void and the restlessness, irritability and discontentment would go. I went from having a few drinks to drinking alcoholically. Unfortunately, my situation also led me to taking cocaine. All of this was very much a secret, so nobody except my husband, knew, because I always drank after the children went to bed. Eventually it got to the stage where when I wasn’t drinking I was thinking of drinking because it was the only thing that gave me this sense of ease and comfort. Eventually I woke up one morning and I realised I couldn’t go on like this, I knew I needed help. I made a phone call to a support group, I was thinking ‘please help me, I need help, I can’t carry on my life like this anymore’ I was given the number of a lady called Jacquie who I could call. I believe God put her in my path, as it turned out she was a Christian. When I told her about my problem with my drinking, she opened up and her story was just like mine. I went along with Jacquie to a retreat the support group was running and we spoke a lot about Jesus; I was hungry for God and she gently helped me to open up. The next day we went for a wee walk and she told me that I could be forgiven by Jesus and explained the gospel to me, it had never sunk in before. Sitting on a bench that day I decided I would become a Christian. We went home from the retreat and Jacquie asked if I wanted to go to church with her. I wasn’t keen because I had never felt comfortable in church but I will never forget walking in to East Mains Baptist Church as long as I live. There was a band on a stage! They were playing this lovely music and I was like

really felt ‘good enough’ at church, I always felt that others were better than me but God sees everyone the same, regardless of how long we have been in the church; Alpha made me see that. My mum came with me on that first Alpha and she became a Christian in the middle of the course. The change in her is amazing; she won’t go anywhere without a Bible and we share so much now. We had been driven apart but it brought us back together. I helped on the second course and my son, Jordan, who had seen the change in me, came along. It was amazing to see him become a Christian on the Alpha Away Day; that was really special, definitely the best thing about doing Alpha for me. After that, Jordan actually helped baptise my mum. We’re now onto the third Alpha; Jordan is a helper and I am a co-leader. Alpha has had a huge impact on my whole family, 30 of them came to my baptism! Since then my husband and sister-in-law have started coming along to church, along with my 2 younger daughters. One of my daughters did Youth Alpha and loved it. It is great to pray with my children and see them grow in their own faith at their own pace. When I first became a Christian, some of my friends and colleagues thought I was off my head but now people ask me questions about my faith. There is one girl at work who started going back to chapel through talking to me. I have even had some great chats with customers; that is always encouraging. I brought 18 friends from my cocaine addiction recovery group along to the Alpha celebration supper at the end of the course and they still talk about what a good time they had. Jesus has changed my life completely. The void in me, the restlessness, irritability and discontentment that at one point I used alcohol to fill, Jesus fills that now. Alpha gave me the opportunity to have the strength and courage to learn about God. I don’t think I would have been open enough before.

From alcoholic to ‘Alpha-holic’

Three generations come to faith in a year following Angela Reilly’s breakthrough experience of God Then her mum, Jean... I MOVED to East Kilbride from the East End of Glasgow 38 years ago because of my husband’s

work and we have lived here ever since. As soon as we moved here the children started Sunday School. A church had come around knocking on the doors. They asked us if we wanted the children to go to Sunday School. We were happy for them to go, so they came for them on a Sunday morning in a bus. Me and my husband, Albert, didn’t go, Sunday morning was Mummy and Daddy’s time for a wee bit of quiet. The kids would ask us if we would like to come and we always said no. We were still partying and having

a good time so going to church was not the sort of thing we were thinking about. When I was younger I went to church as a child every Sunday. I went to brownies and guides and everything because my mother was a ‘church person’, but I fell away in my teenage years. However it was always there and at times I knew God was at work. When my last child was born they gave her a 50/50 chance of living and we should give her a name. I was pretty delirious because I had needed blood after giving birth. My husband went for a walk and while he was walking a lady handed him a piece of paper and he put it in his pocket and brought it back. I had decided to call my daughter Sharon while he was away.

When he came back he pulled the piece of paper out of his pocket and on it was a hymn written by someone called Sharon. I knew there was something in that. My son Albert was baptised a Christian when he was 14 but he fell away from it as well. We always had a happy life so when Angela told me she was going to a support group because of her problems with alcohol I couldn’t believe it. I could see that she was unhappy but I didn’t know how unhappy, but then that changed. She started going to church and there was such a change in her, she was a lot more tolerant towards the children and other people where she had always been quite ‘quick’ before, she is so calm now. She makes other people feel calm too, just by talking to them, she seems to understand people and they go away feeling relieved after talking to Angela, she makes me feel a million times better. She asked me if I would like to go to church with her so I decided to go because

I had seen how much she had changed. I couldn’t believe how I felt when I went into that church, being there gave me such a feeling of peace and happiness. I had seen how God had changed Angela and He slowly began to do the same thing to me. I became a more tolerant person, more understanding towards people and more peaceful. I was an awful worrier and I stopped worrying as much. The kids often say to me, ‘Gran, I think you’re so cool!’ Angela asked me to do the Alpha course, I had never heard of Alpha before I went to the church, this was the first I had heard of it. I was really hungry and looking for more so I went and it was perfect. I loved it, whenever I walked in it felt so friendly and warm, walking in was always a happy feeling. People were always genuinely happy to see me. I loved listening to Nicky Gumbel, he is always clear and he’s just an ordinary man, he is just himself and so friendly. He always made his points very well. Everyone is friendly at Alpha, I always felt welcome there. I think listening to the talks was my favourite part but I enjoyed every bit of it, especially the day away. It was wonderful to see other people becoming Christians. I always felt a great peace coming out of Alpha. Before I did Alpha I was always a little bit nervous walking down my road at night but now I know that God is with me and I am not nervous or frightened at all. I would sit for hours after Alpha feeling so content as I thought over everything that had been said and I would go to my bed content. The only thing was, I would say to Angela that I wished I knew how to pray properly, I wanted to say the right words but Angela would just tell me to say what I felt, that it didn’t matter what I said. I made so many friends on Alpha, I have made more friends in this last year and a half than I’ve had in my whole life. These friendships are different, they feel genuine and the people are sincere. Whenever I walk into the church the people are always really welcoming, it was the same at Alpha, everybody cuddled you and meant it. I think since we have become Christians, we have all been able to show a lot more emotion. I see a difference in my grand-daughter Morgan since she did Youth Alpha, she is really affectionate, she will cuddle me all the time which is fantastic for a 14 year old, she is very loving, all of Angela’s children are very loving. I can see a change in them, they are so affectionate. In the last few years I have seen more happiness in people, and in my own family, than I have in the rest of my life. After Alpha I got baptised, that was fantastic, what an experience that was. It was absolutely beautiful. It was on a Sunday night and Jim, the pastor, and Angela baptised me and Jordan was in the water as well and he helped me back up. It was lovely having the family there, a whole corner of the church was filled with our family. It was beautiful, very very emotional. I did my testimony that night but I found it hard to read because I’ve got cataracts! It was a very emotional evening. I know that if Alpha gave me that feeling of friendship and happiness then it could make the world of difference for others. I would definitely recommend it to other people, I am inviting my friends and I help on the course. I can’t talk at the front but I come in with my pink slippers on and I help with the dinners, I need my slippers! I love helping with the food. I help with the setting out and washing the dishes, I am good at that. I am more involved with church now too, I am on the welcoming committee and the tea rota as well, I love being part of such a wonderful church, I come home so often thinking the pastor was talking directly to me. I come home from church and I know it was great and I loved it. I know I have noticed the change in me, I think others have too. My husband would say that I am more tolerant, I heard him say to my daughter, ‘see your mother, your mother’s a wonderful person’. Jesus has changed my life and made me a more loving, happy, tolerant person and I think more of others before I would think about myself. I think of others’ feelings, I think about what I say to people. I am still hungry for more - I want to know more. Though I am so grateful for everything I have got in life and I am grateful to Jesus for listening to me and answering my prayers.

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And her son, Jordan... JORDAN (19) is an apprentice at Rolls Royce Aero Engines. He saw the change in his mum after she did Alpha and wanted to explore things for himself. This is his story: WHEN I WAS younger we would go to Sunday School every week but we didn’t go for very long before we stopped. I don’t really remember anything from Sunday School, nothing jumps out at me. I never went to church after that. My mum was really unhappy, things weren’t going very well. She was going to a lot of groups and meetings and so, church, I thought, was just one of them, I just saw it as something that was keeping her happy. It didn’t bother me but I did used to wind her up because she was always out, going to church and her support groups and that. I used to joke with her saying she was always out and I never saw her but I knew it was making her better. Then when Mum actually became a Christian she was a different person, she was so happy almost overnight, it happened that quickly. Gran seemed happier too, I saw a change in Gran as well but she has always been nuts! After that Mum constantly asked me to come to church but I always said no, I only went for Mum’s baptism and a couple of Christmas services. I went whenever something special was happening. East Mains was definitely totally different from any church I had been to, they had a band and stuff but even then, to start with, I wasn’t really that interested. I don’t know why, I think maybe it was just the stage I was at. I would have preferred to be out with my mates or something. Then she asked me to come to Alpha. I don’t think I had heard of Alpha at all before Mum talked about it. Mum kept going on about it and she said that I would get

Angela added : At that point I was praying with someone else when I really felt strongly that Jordan wanted to pray. As his mum I didn’t want to go over to him so the guys went over. I went outside while the guys prayed for Jordan and he gave his life to Christ. It was totally amazing and definitely the best thing about Alpha for me. Jordan went through a lot with me when I was drinking, he said that the change in me and decided he wanted a bit of what I had! Jordan: After I prayed with Colin and Stuart I went outside and told my mum that I had become a Christian. We just cried and hugged each other, it was amazing. I felt brilliant, it’s such a good feeling. I felt there was a whole lot lifted off me, I remember Gran saying she felt the same thing when she became a Christian. There were other people on the course who became Christians too. After that we did the last couple of nights of Alpha but at the end of the course I wanted to go and do it again so I could really see the first few weeks when I had just been going for my dinner! So I decided to help on the course I am doing now. It is brilliant. The best thing about helping on Alpha for me is seeing the difference in people, seeing them start to realise what it is about. It’s brilliant seeing how people change and seeing them come back and tell you their stories how God has helped them during the week. It is great going through the course again as well. Everyone says that it doesn’t matter how many times you do Alpha you always get some-

I felt brilliant... I felt there was a whole lot lifted off me my dinner, Gran was helping on the course too, so I decided to go. Gran was a laugh, she would serve dinner in her slippers! The first couple of nights I listened a bit to what was happening but really I just went for the food. It wasn’t until about the third week that it started kicking in and I started thinking it was actually quite interesting, I wasn’t just going for the food anymore, I was going because I was interested. There were about five groups of twelve people and a lot of different ages on the course. It was great to have a few people my age in my group. We would watch the DVD and then we would talk in the groups. I liked watching the DVD, Nicky Gumbel was good to watch. I always enjoyed Alpha; me and Mum had a laugh because Gran would try to be quiet, clearing away the dishes while the DVD was on but she stood on every squeaky floorboard! I kept going to the course and then it came to the away day and that was brilliant. It was great to be away in the middle of nowhere and all I had to focus on that day was talking about Jesus and God, watching the DVDs, singing, praying and talking in the groups, it was a good day. I did believe in God before I did Alpha, I always have believed but I just never went to church. I never would have said that God didn’t exist, that was why when I was given a wee red New Testament Bible in high school, I had kept it. Even though I did believe in God, I wouldn’t have said I was a Christian, the away day was the day I became a Christian. On the away day I watched the DVDs and I just felt it was right, that this was something I wanted to be part of. At the end of the day they put songs on and said we could pray if we wanted to. Two of the guys came over and asked me if I’d like to pray and become a Christian, I really wanted to so they prayed with me.

thing else out of it and that is so true. After Alpha I struggled going to church on a Sunday morning because I wanted to sleep but there’s a service on a Sunday night now and I am getting myself into the habit of going and I don’t make up daft excuses to not go. Sunday nights are brilliant, Mum comes too but it is designed for people my age, I really enjoy it. The guys from work have been really cool about me being a Christian. They know I go to church on a Sunday and on a Wednesday and they don’t really say much about it they’ll just be like ‘It’s a Wednesday, you off to church tonight aye?’ and I’ll be like ‘yeah’ and that’s about it. I was quite surprised at how they weren’t really bothered. Jesus has made me different. I look at things differently now. I feel more open to things and to people. If I see something is wrong with somebody I feel now like I need to make sure that they’re alright. I don’t join in at work when things go too far. You know what it’s like with a bunch of guys, a bit of banter but then it gets to the stage where it goes too far and I find myself realising that it needs to stop because it’s not nice. I think the guys sometimes need somebody to say when it is enough, which I try and do in the right way. I don’t know what’s said behind my back right enough! I really like my work though and I finish my apprenticeship at Rolls Royce later this year. Our family is a lot happier after doing the Alpha course and it’s great seeing my mum the way she is now. It is definitely different from how it was before. We are much more open and we talk about things now, Jesus has made our family such a happy place to be. Since we interviewed Angela she has moved to Australia with the family and is planning to get stuck in with Alpha there.


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JULY 2010 - OCTOBER 2010

Alpha Course at the Old Course St Andrews students’ 24-7 Prayer leads to big launch party

A GROUP of St Andrews students recently set up a 24-7 prayer room at Holy Trinity Church. They followed this with an Alpha launch party at the Old Course Hotel. Many have come to faith as a result. David Simpson, Evangelism Secretary for the CU and Student Alpha Adviser, said, ‘I loved seeing Christians fall in love with Jesus in the prayer room and then come out really fired up in their love for Him and ready to serve on the missions week. Prayer gives power to our proclamation.’ However, it wasn’t even just Christians who were impacted. David’s friend, Students dance the night away at the launch party Alex, was a non-Christian until he decided to go feels different now and the was Hannah McVeigh. She along to some of the CU Christians are even more said, ‘I think the guests missions events and then united. They held a launch were definitely surprised he ended up in prayer room, party with 120 guests at the by how much fun they famous Old Course Hotel had, people don’t usually and called it ‘Alpha Course expect Christian events to at the Old Course’. The CU be fun, but it really was’. President spoke at that and Nick Guy was also gave an invitation, ‘If Christ David said, ‘going into the is real, why not explore prayer room was a defining the meaning of life on the moment for Alex, his whole Alpha course?’. David said, perspective on life changed. ‘God really came through He said that he realised that for us, even our security instrumental in 24-7 & Alpha. Christians weren’t crazies, guards were Christians He said that Alpha and the he said, ‘they’re not just from Nigeria who prayed prayer room worked so well wacky people, but they have for us all evening! We had together, ‘Everyone has their stumbled across the most a ceilidh as well and we got own way of exploring God, amazing news ever,’ he went great feedback from the some like to be completely from not being a Christian non-Christians who came, quiet, they can go to the to encountering God in a one of them said that he prayer room and experience very real way and hearing realised now that Christians God’s presence and see angels sing in church’. know how to party!’ Lots of other people loving God. As a result of the prayer international students went Then other people want the room, Student Alpha in as guests and enjoyed a opportunity to ask questions St Andrews has been real sense of occasion as and get answers, Alpha is dramatically changed. The well as listening to the talk. perfect for them. The two students said that Alpha Another student involved together are very powerful’.

Alpha feels different now

God really came through for us

They ran the course in a pub in the centre of town. Hannah McVeigh commented on the impact made, ‘my friend who is not a Chrstian, had gone out with some mates and at the end of the night they decided to go to the prayer room and check it out. I loved that she felt so free to just pop in. She had a ball, she had never really thought about faith and so enjoyed having a really quiet place to sit and think things through. I am excited to see what happens with her. A lot of people have perceptions about Christianity and I think what is happening in St Andrews is that God is bringing church and faith outside of the box it has been put in, through 24-7 prayer and Alpha, people can see it’s not just about church but that it is about our whole lives’.

ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

Prisoners baptised after Alpha ALPHA SCOTLAND staff, were recently invited to meet with Chaplain Rev Colin Shreenan, and inmates who have recently completed the Alpha course in prison. One young woman spoke of her fear and timidity when she started to serve her sentence, ‘I was so timid, and kept myself to myself. Then I saw the Alpha posters and went along. Meeting Jesus has given me hope for the future. I have made friends on Alpha, and I am not timid anymore. Others have really seen the change in me. I now want to make something of my life when I am released. I was also baptised in the prison chapel with some of my friends who also came to faith. It’s brilliant.’ Another woman who had been working on the streets prior to her sentence spoke of how her new found faith has helped her to give up addictions, ‘Jesus has made a big difference to me as I am a new person now - the old life has gone. I don’t want to go back to all my old ways. I’d love to be baptised too.’ Colin divides his time between HMP Dumfries, HMP Glenochil and HMP Cornton Vale. He commented, ‘The best thing about Alpha is seeing lives transformed. That is what motivates me. For myself and my wife these folks are our church now.’ Prior to his full time Chaplaincy role Colin was a local church pastor. He also runs a charity helping to practically support those on the margins called ‘A2Z World Without Walls’.

Graham Tomlin speaks at C of S Ministers Day

100 MINISTERS, elders and church officials came together for the first “Living Faith & Sharing Faith” day in April hosted by Alpha Scotland at Renfield St Stephens, Glasgow. The key speaker was writer and theologian Graham Tomlin of St Paul’s Theological Centre, London. The day encouraged exisiting Alpha parishes but also introduced a new constituency to Alpha, opening out the theological ethos surrounding the whole course, and how it relates to mission and discipleship. Hospitality, Encounter, Catechesis and Community were explored as key elements to the course. Experienced Alpha church ministers from Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow also shared practial experiences of how the course worked in different parish contexts. Boness Minister and former ‘Church Without Walls’ leader Albert Bogle, said, ‘Tomlin’s presentation was spot on helping us all to think through how we can best engage with a generation that is very suspicious of people who want to evangelise them’. A number of parishes are now planning to start Alpha Courses this autumn following on from the day.


ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

JULY 2010 - OCTOBER 2010

CONTINUED ON PAGE S7 CONTINUED FROM PAGE S8

Moray: My life totally changed. I went into work on a Wednesday morning, after Alpha on a Tuesday night, feeling really pumped up. I knew there was more to life that just working 9 to 5 and having a career. At Alpha I learned that God was always with me, especially when things were pressurised at work. I always had a sense of God being by my side everyday and that was enough to convince me that He was real. God has shown Himself to me in other ways since then. I had had a bad back since my serious rugby days and God totally healed me from that during a church service. Ever since then my back has felt great, it hadn’t felt this good for years. Tamsin: I think the most significant moment for me was at the Day Away. The Holy Spirit was still a very new concept for me so I wasn’t really expecting much. That day I experienced a physical, presence of God. I experienced waves of God’s love and His tangible gentleness, a strong but a really gentle God at the same time. The words people prayed were really prophetic and I knew then that I needed to make a commitment. My parents were delighted. Since I became a Christian I have spoken to my siblings a lot and told them they should do Alpha. My older sister, who is very clever, was not at all interested in doing Alpha. Then, all of a sudden, she told me she had started an Alpha course in London where she lives! She is now a Christian and I can see the change in her. My younger sister is at university and was living the

same party lifestyle that I did. Then she met some Christians, did Alpha and became a Christian, she is totally different now. It is amazing to see the change in our families. Moray: Jesus has totally changed my life. I have more close friends now, friends I can trust. I have always been into sport, after I became a Christian I became really passionate about sport having a really important role to play in society. There is a rugby club opened in the East End of Glasgow so now I spend time doing rugby coaching with a bunch of kids there, I never would have given up my time to do that before. God has instilled passions within me and I am following them. Life before we were Christians was so dull but now I feel just a lot more fulfilled. I am really excited about this journey and I just want more! Tamsin: Jesus has made a huge difference in me. Having that personal relationship is incredible, it is just amazing knowing that there is Someone there that won’t let you down, that takes on your burdens, blesses you, guides you, wants the best for you and will actually change you as well. Recently God has put a passion in me for the homeless and I am in the process of becoming a volunteer with the Glasgow City Mission. Before I was a Christian I didn’t think much about the homeless but now everywhere I look now I see homeless people and I know that I need to do something. Above all I know now that there is more to life and I am excited that I have got something to live for that is not just in the here and the now.

I experienced waves of God’s love

THE NEW ALPHA INVITATION ...Continued from

page 1

Students model the new advertising

The aim of the campaign is to make one big splash using prominent sites for Alpha posters. Churches all over the nation are being encouraged to get involved by putting up banners and posters. Statistics show that over one third of those who are aware of Alpha have seen posters or a banner outside churches. ‘Last year we heard of many stories of guests who came to courses in Scotland just by seeing the adverts. As we discovered banners are an excellent and highly visible means of getting the message across,’ Paul Davie commented. A brand new free downloadable iPhone application will also be available. This will include information about Alpha, GPS ‘Find a course,’ and a chance to interact with the Alpha campaign. Online, the campaign will be carried out by managing searches, including Google adwords and search engine optimisation, to ensure that anyone typing in ‘meaning of life,’ ‘who is God,’ Christianity,’ ‘is this it?’ etc will see an advert for the Alpha course and click through to find out more. Throughout September a continuous stream of key messages will be delivered through all social media channels,

including blogs, Twitter & Facebook. Three viral adverts are being made to share online as well as using blog sites to build content that supports the campaign and can find its way to the main target audience of 18-35 year olds. ‘The meaning of life is_____. question really invokes a response, and the online campaign makes the course much more accessible to a younger generation,’ said Alpha Scotland’s Youth & Student Alpha Manager Helen Lawson. ‘It’s a fun and fresh approach. Things like the iPhone app and all the social networking ideas will help to engage with younger people on their own level.’ The guest focussed alpha.org website is also being revamped. Visitors will be able to fill in the gaps to the question, add their postcode and see other responses in their area, as well as a list of nearby Alpha courses. To help prepare Alpha teams to run courses many churches in Scotland are opening up their team training sessions this autumn. The aim is to provide newer courses with training opportunities nearby. For more details of the Invitation and training go to alphascotland.org

PAGE S7

Second Interview

Youth Worker Lesley Smith takes the lid off what God is doing with young people in Dunblane

• Lesley, how did you get started in Youth Work and end up on staff at Dunblane Christian Fellowship (DCF)? I came to faith at 15 and then a year later I worked with Youth For Christ for a summer. That really got me interested in service and mission, I was only young but I loved it. Then when I was 18 did a year out with the Oasis Trust, I went to Brazil and worked with street kids for 6 months. After that I did some youth work with Stirling Council working with children with disabilities and also in after school clubs. I also studied Social Work in Glasgow at the University of Strathclyde. I was still coming home at weekends to help with the church youth group. At the end of Uni I got a job working part time on the Youth Justice team working with young people involved in offending in Pollock, in Glasgow, and then part time at DCF, before they asked me to go full time at the church. • Did you think you’d end up in Dunblane working for the church you came to faith in? No way, I had always thought that as soon as I graduated from university I would go to Africa as a missionary! But in my second year at university I really felt God say that He wanted me to be much more long term in Dunblane, working with the young people. • What’s your big passion in life? My real passion is for outreach, especially to the young people who were out on the streets, those on the edges of society. • When did you first come across Youth Alpha? I first did Youth Alpha when I was 16, not long after I became a Christian, at a chuch in Stirling. That must have been the early days of Youth Alpha, those resources seem quite old-fashioned now compared with the funky new stuff! We ran our first Youth Alpha at DCF in 2004. At that point we weren’t getting to do a lot of outreach and Youth Alpha was a great tool to help with that. We had already some relationship with young people through engaging with them through detached youth work so we started running it in a house. • Your ‘Hot Chocolate’ project sounds really exciting (see page S2-S3) - what are some of the challenges you face with it? The young people who come to Hot Chocolate are from very mixed backgrounds. A lot of those who are perceived as being quite rough actually come from very ‘middle class’ families, Dunblane is that sort of area which can sometimes make outreach harder - The young people think they have everything and don’t see what we can offer them. At the same time we have the same issues that go on in every other place - self esteem issues, self harming etc, all of those things are there but the façade of middle class Scotland

hides it. Definitely our biggest challenge is young people who are under the influence of alcohol. We can’t let them in the building, but we can’t provide a safe place for young people if we just turn them away at the door either. So, as a solution, we have sofas in the entrance where they can sit if they have been drinking. Often the most exciting place to be on a Friday night is sitting at the front doors of our building, that bit is always full!

• What’s been the best thing about running Youth Alpha? Definitely seeing young people meet Jesus. As a result of Hot Chocolate and Youth Alpha we are seeing young people coming in and God is changing their lives and that is the reward, there isn’t anything better. It is really great seeing the kids on Friday nights and enjoying all the banter and jumping around but it is really nice to sit and have dinner with them on a Tuesday at Youth Alpha because the chat that you get is quite different and they are not under the influence of anything. We get to build more relationship and see more of who they actually are. The sitting and eating is the absolute key. • In your opinion who can run Youth Alpha? I think anyone could run Youth Alpha, you don’t have to be young, cool or hip, some of the people our young people connect with the best are the older people in the church; they just love the contact with older people. If you can spend time with young people and just love and accept them then they will love it, they will find a place there. • So if someone is now thinking about running Youth Alpha, what would you say? Do it, just do it! It is not as complicated as people think. One of the great things about Youth Alpha is that it is really easy to run. You just need to get a team of people around you, get supported, the material is all there and it is so easy to work with. I think the new materials that have come out are actually amazing. The Talkbuilder material online is fantastic as well, it is so easy to use. (See youthalpha.org/talkbuilder)

Random Factfile... Favourite: Song – Chesney Hawkes ‘I am the One and Only’ Hymn – Currently ‘Your presence’ by Brian and Jenn Johnson Book – Red Moon Rising by Pete Greig and of course the Bible! TV Show – ‘The West Wing’ Crisp flavour – Walkers Sensations ‘Sweet Thai Chilli’ Bible verse – 1 John 3:18 ‘Dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.’ Random Lesley Smith fact....I love theme parks, but hate the rides....


PAGE S8

JULY 2010 - OCTOBER 2010

ALPHA NEWS SCOTLAND

‘Edinburgh ghost tour made us search for God’ How a terrifying experience led a young couple on a journey to faith

Recently engaged, Moray Stewart & Tamsin Bell

MORAY STEWART (28) a chartered surveyor from Larbert, near Falkirk, and Tamsin Bell (26), a teacher originally from Belfast met through a series of events and embarked on a journey of faith together. Both now live in Glasgow and here is their story of rugby playing, ghost tours and Jesus. Moray: I had a good family life. I went to private school, which I loved. I am dyslexic so I found the academic side tough so I didn’t put in too much effort. I spent more time on sport, particularly rugby, which I enjoyed because I was good at it. Mum and Dad went to church so I went along to Sunday School until I was about 12. I had never enjoyed it much, apart from when they let us play football. After that I didn’t really have any church influence. I think I did believe in God but I thought church was for older people, I wanted to just enjoy being young and then I thought I would go back to church when I was older. After school I went to study Business at Napier Uni in Edinburgh. My friends were rugby playing public school boys; They were all driven and wanted to be successful and rich. We were all really into our drinking, a bit larey and pretty badly behaved. I remember one night the lads nicked one of those rickshaws you see going about Edinburgh, they drove it away and hid it from the driver. That was one of the more gentle stories. I thought it was fun but looking back I felt really unfulfilled. I was out 4 nights a week, drinking and looking for a girlfriend. Towards the end of uni I was pretty unhappy and so I decided to go to Australia for 8 months. When I came back I realized that if I applied myself I could do much better at my studies. I decided to do a masters degree in property, something I had always been interested in. By this time all of the other ‘lads’ had moved to London. I met Tamsin

soon after I moved to Glasgow. Tamsin: My parents are both medical doctors and Christians, so I had a really nice, secure upbringing. I went to Sunday School but as a teenager I didn’t see the point in it so I stopped going. I know my parents were always praying because I had definite experiences of God even before I was a Christian. When I was 17 I had a dream and I saw an angel who said, ‘Tamsin I really want you to make the right decisions so think carefully’. I didn’t think too much of that then. I had a great group of friends and spent my time partying hard and studying hard at school, I was always quite a perfectionist. After school I went to study English and Music in Glasgow. I enjoyed first year but in second year I realized I didn’t know where I was going with the degree so I took some time out, which turned into 1 ½ years, to study violin. It was a strange time for me, I felt a bit lost. Eventually I went back

I was desperate and just wanted to get out to uni and finished my degree. It was weird going back into a different year full of people I didn’t know. I felt quite isolated and I wasn’t happy. God was not really in my picture. One of the girls I lived with was Catholic and I would chat with her about God but that was about it. In the first couple of years being with Moray Christianity just didn’t come up. I could see from all the Christians I knew that their faith was genuine but I didn’t think it was for me. I suppose I always believed in God but He was ‘faceless’, I would pray at times but I was missing the whole Jesus part, I just didn’t understand. After we had been together for a while, Moray took me for a love-

ly anniversary meal at a beautiful restaurant in Edinburgh and as a surprise he had booked for us to go on a ghost tour because we had both always had an interest in the paranormal. We were taken to a closed off graveyard where people had been shot a long time ago for not renouncing their faith and you could still see the bullet holes. At this point I didn’t think this was a normal ghost tour and my gut instinct told me something wasn’t right as our guide told us what had happened there. We were taken into a mausoleum where we were told a poltergeist resided. Part of me was thinking ‘yeah right’ but there was part of me that felt it was real. After a few minutes I started to hear a buzzing noise coming from my right, everything was swaying and the room went freezing cold but my cheek was burning hot. The noise was getting louder and I kept asking Moray if he could hear it, I just wanted to get out. I knew what was happening was real and evil and I prayed to God saying ‘I know I shouldn’t be here and there’s no reason for You to protect me but please just stop this, just get us away’, I was desperate. When we went home I was really scared and this buzzing noise followed me everywhere. The next day I looked in the mirror and I had a lot of scratches on my cheek where it had felt hot. I knew that it was evil. I remember thinking after that that if there was something so evil out there that can cause that then by balance there had to be a God. I started reading a lot of books and one of them told me that I should pray to God and ask Him to reveal Himself and tell me anything I needed to hear. I prayed and this word came into my head. I didn’t know what it meant but I could see it and knew how to spell it so I typed it into the internet. The word was ‘Emmaus’ and the internet search brought up the story of after Jesus had risen and was on the road to Emmaus. It spoke to me because it was like I was the person Jesus had been walking with but I hadn’t recognised Him. I felt like Jesus was saying he had been there my whole life but I hadn’t been able to see Him. Moray: Tamsin started to really think about things and kept saying that we should go to church but I was not interested. Although I always believed in God I still had a lot of questions. Tam was really serious about it so I read a book she recommended and after the whole ‘Emmaus’ thing Tam-

sin said we should do an Alpha course. Tamsin: My mum had often said I should do an Alpha course. I didn’t have a good perception of Christians because of experiences I had at school so I was a bit nervous but we had heard of Vineyard so we decided to see if they were running Alpha. Moray: I also had a bad perception of what Christians were like, I thought they were boring and never had fun. Tam wanted me to go to Alpha and at first I was horrified at the thought but after watching the advert for Alpha on the Vineyard website I warmed up to it, one of my colleagues was even on the video! It seemed like a nice gentle way to go and check out Christianity. Deciding to go was a big step for me. The first week was really informal. I thought everyone was so friendly so we went back the second week. I was fascinated and keen to learn more. After that I looked forward to every week. I remember the feeling of going to Alpha, I always looked forward to Tuesday nights because I was living in this crazy world with so much going on and at Alpha I would feel this peace and

warmness as I learned about God. It was just a really nice experience on a bog standard Tuesday night. It also made sense to hear that God had a plan for me because I had experience of that - Just before the course I had the ‘luck’ of getting a new job so quickly after being made redundant. Alpha really helped me to integrate into the church and also to get answers to my questions and get over the challenges. By the end of the Alpha course I was fully converted to Christianity. There wasn’t a specific moment that I became a Christian, I just knew, when I was asked at the end of the course, that I was. Tamsin: I was quite struck by the fact that the Christians running the course were about the same age as me and they were pretty normal. They were a great mix of people from a variety of backgrounds, they were funny, open minded and not how I pictured Christians at all. Although I had always believed in God, I had never grasped the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. Alpha really drove that home for me. I just couldn’t believe it was so simple.

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Alpha News UK July-Oct 2010  

Alpha News UK July-Oct 2010