Things have become unclear so I need to write this down. This is my story. This is what I remember. All names have been changed. This is about me and not any of the characters that may just happen to be involved.
Start at the beginning. I became a Christian in 2005. No I became a Christian in 1999. No? I was baptised in 1985. In a gown sewn by my great great great grandmother in 1890, I've seen the photos. Christianity is part of my heritage, my race, my ethnicity. But any Christian will tell you that's not really true either.
I guess my parents are agnostic. My godmother identifies more with Buddhism more than any other religion. What was my first experience with God? I went to Sunday school when I was 4 with the family my mother and I lived with. I remember getting grape juice in a little cup and liking it. I remember liking singing and I remember being bored and fidgety while the adults talked. I remember making craft and learning about a guy in the belly of a whale. I don't remember when I stopped going.
Next we moved to England. We lived with my grandparents and went to church every Sunday. It was, it is, Church of England or Anglican in denomination. Lots of people wore robes and there was a choir and afterwards us kids would run around the gravestones and drink tea and sneak more than our fair share of biscuits.
When I was twelve I went to a Christian summer camp. I don't know whose idea it was, my parents or my grandparents. It was fun and I went back every year after until I was 17 and a junior leader. I had my first kiss (in the grass at 5am after sneaking out of our tent) there, and my first puff (puff being the operative word) of a cigarette (I didn't like it), and I became a Christian.
It was the second year I went - I think - and it feels, from my hazy recollect, that it was the first time I got a real sense of what having faith and being a Christian meant. That it was a big deal, a life changing decision and it was what I wanted. It was a matter of choosing to believe in something. That was it. I went home from that camp brimming with enthusiasm and excitement and helpful bible study booklets. Somewhere along the line I joined a church where I didn't know anyone.
By January the next year (summer is in July in England remember) my enthusiasm had waned somewhat. But come the next summer camp I was ripe for being re-enthused. I remember it being good. I remember it being sincere. I also remember it being hard, after camp had faded with summer.
None of my school friends were Christians, but I must add they were incredibly sweet and non judgemental about my beliefs for the bunch of teenagers that we all were. I took myself off to church on a Sunday where all the other kids my age were there with their parents and families. I never heard about outings or gatherings until the day because I didn’t have a family there. It was just me. I wonder if they thought I was strange? I know I'm not the first person to become a Christian without a Christian family. I'm just saying it makes it harder, that's how I remember it. I started going to a different church with my next door neighbours family, that was good. It was there I decided to be confirmed.
It was a bigger day than I expected. People gave me gifts. I had no idea - I suppose it didn’t really dawn on me properly that it was like a grown up baptism until after the event. The feeling I remember when the bishop put his hands on my head and I repeated whatever it was I said was warmth, solemnity and importance. Not self importance, occasion importance. I don't remember feeling changed. I was still a fairly usual teenager, I tried smoking and drinking and dancing and kissing boys. I didn't try drugs and I didn't ever swear at my parents. I didn't sneak out of the house at night and I had a job.
I'm sure I am forgetting stuff but the next significant part I remember is from 2003, when I was 18. I finished school and the rest of my family moved back to Australia. I travelled Europe with my best friend, then went to South Africa to work in an orphanage. Now I don't know if it was my Christian tendencies or the ethics of my family that meant it made perfect sense for me to spend my gap year helping others. In particular beautiful African children. I didn't really get why you would take a gap year and do anything else.
I had an amazing time in Johannesburg at TLC, the love of Christ ministries. Aside from the kids one or two of the other volunteers really stuck in my heart. An Australian girl ( I still had my British accent at this time) who upon reflection was almost certainly from a Pentecostal background. Her enthusiasm for life, her positivity, deliberate kindness, and self assured sense of God being with her and in her, had me in awe. I craved what she had. She would write me sweet notes about how Jesus loved me and wasn't He great for making it such a beautiful day?!
In 2004, well lets skip 2004, it was messy. It was hard moving back to a country where I didn't know anyone to a country town to find a job and try and decide what to do with my life. I tried a church that was around the corner. They had a dedicated time to speak in tongues and they all said prayers together shouting over the top of each and a small disabled child was yelled at and yelled at to remove the demon from his broken body. I didn't go back, it was completely foreign and uncomfortable. I put my faith in a closet for the rest of the year...