I grew up in a Christian family, hearing about God. My parents sometimes read Bible stories to me and prayed with me at bedtimes. Going to church was also something which was quite normal for me, and each year, our family celebrated the Christmas and Easter stories. I also went to a group for children at church each Sunday, and we used to do art work and play games.
In about year 5 or 6, I noticed that most primary school friends didn’t go to church. I began to think church was really boring, only for ‘sad’ people who liked wearing sandals. I used to look around at all the funny people who seemed to be particularly extravagant in their singing. I also remember moaning to Mum that it was really un-cool to go to church and so I pleaded to stay at home, even though I knew it disappointed her when I did.
At this time, I was also horse-crazy - and my Mum found out about a riding holiday which was run by some Christians in Hampshire. I went on this holiday, spending most of the week at the stables, with 19 other girls. We also had Bible studies on haystacks at lunchtime, but the most memorable time was the last evening, when I was particularly touched. On this last evening of the holiday, I remember gathering in a room and sitting quietly on my own in the middle, while a lady sang a song about Jesus' death on the cross.
I don’t think this was the first time that I realised I had done things which did not please God, but it was the first time that I realised what Jesus' death meant for me. I realised that Jesus had borne the weight for all the bad things in my heart and life - even though He hadn’t done anything wrong. I felt sorrow for this in my heart and I asked God for his forgiveness. At the same time, I felt I could trust His plan for my life.
When I came back from the holiday, I don’t think anyone noticed any sudden change in me, but the desire was still there to know Jesus and His plan for my life. Reading bits of the Bible before school and before bed really helped me, the leaders at church and other Christians my age really encouraged me to know Jesus better.
Since trusting God with my life, it hasn’t always been easy. Particularly in the years I’ve been in Cambridge, I’ve often felt frustrated, down and disheartened as I realise how much I continue to do things which I know don’t please God, and often the same things time and time again.
But there is one illustration in the Bible that I’d like to share with you which has really encouraged me at these points - it is that of a son, who runs away from home, ignoring his father, but then realises what he has done and decides to return. Even while the son is still far off from reaching home, and has nothing to offer back, the father runs out to meet him, throwing his arms around him with compassion. I identify with this runaway son, sometimes feeling miles away from being obedient to God. But I know that God, who made me in His image, has his arms open wide with love for me. It is amazing that he was willing to sacrifice his son so that I can be completely forgiven and know Him.
And so today, I’d like to be baptised to symbolise my faith in Jesus; that He died for my sins, so that God can look at me as forgiven and clean. I believe that I live a new life with the Holy Spirit helping me.