I find it slightly strange, if not crazy looking back and thinking that a whole year has gone by. Most of you who read this blog will know that I have spent the last year at Gateway Church Poole doing a FP Impact year. This is a year dedicated to growing in your relationship with God whilst working in the local church.
The year provides opportunities to develop gifting and more importantly character. You are well and truly thrown in the deep end, out of your depth often not knowing what to do. This is the beauty of it. When you don't know where your next months rent is coming from or where you are going to be after the year, you are forced to run to the steadfast rock that is our God.
There were several times in the year that I thought about jacking it all in and just moving back to Winchester and working. There were times when I struggled to sleep because of an upcoming task I had to do. Through it all I have found God to be so faithful to me. Never letting me out of his safe grip whilst at the same time allowing me to be tested. His grace has really been overwhelming.
Many people choose to stay at their home church for the year. I chose to move away to experience life away from home as well as a new environment---if you are going to do an Impact year I would definatly recommend this option. Doing this provided me with freedom to grow and to be myself without any of the baggage that I had back in Winchester. It also gave me to opportunity to make many new friends and to get alongside many fathers in the faith.
I am a firm beleiver in the caught not taught method of learning. I believe you can learn just as much, if not more just from hanging out with someone than by them teaching you. This year has provided fantastic opportunities to hang out and learn from men who love God, love their wives and are amazing fathers to their children. It has been invaluable spending time with, being encouraged and more often than not corrected by these men. Thanks to James Pope, Jon Clark, Alan Mainstone, Matt Hosier, Mark Absolom, Steve Cox, Gordan Carter and Rich Stamp. There are many others whom I am also very grateful to.
Another beauty of the year is being able to share it with other people. Gateway had three students this year Rich Fishlock, Jacqueline Bennion and myself. I also need to include Elsbeth Barnett in this section as well because even though she was not a Impact student she served as the church administrator. These three have proved to be three of my closest friends. I cannot be more thankful for the times we have been able to spend together. A man could not ask for three better companions in his pursuit of God! You are all an inspiration and massive encouragement!
The year also helps you to see and to clarify what God is really calling you to do with your life. We all have a calling and our callings will all be very unique. God has really been speaking to me and preparing me for my future. I have been in a church where the word of God is esteemed very very highly and it is faithfully preached week in week out, with extreme care and accuracy. The church also knows how to worship God. Some of my favourite nights with the church were our prayer and praise evenings where we would just sing and praise God using his word.
I could probably write a whole book on my experiences as a FP Impact student, that's the extent of how much you gain and get out of the year. None of it would really be possible without support from so many people. It would be impossible to name them all. I really want to thank everyone at Gateway Church Poole for being a church where there is evidence of the grace of God. Just as Barnabbas encouraged the Antioch church I want to encourage you to stay true to the Lord with your whole hearts (Acts 11:22-23).
I also want to thank my friends and family who have been praying for me and supporting me in anyway possible, whether that be financially or by being an encouragement. Thank you also to Winchester Family Church for your love, support and prayer throughout the entire year.
What a fantastic year. I am excited for all that is ahead of me. Grace and peace to you all!