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I was born into a Christian family. However, although I’ve been a churchgoer all my life I’ve only been a Christian for 11 years. I went to Sunday School and church from a very young age and readily accepted what I was taught.
At difficult times in my life I found comfort and strength from being part of a church fellowship and from the hymns we sang and reading the Bible, but I knew deep down that it was all just head knowledge and I didn’t know Jesus in a personal way as many of my church friends did.
In the church where I was brought up only those who had been baptised were able to take communion, so I didn’t. However, when I moved to the Durham area in 1984 and began to attend a church where anyone was able to take communion, it seemed easier to do so than to be the odd one out.
In 2004 I moved to Gateshead at a very difficult time in my life. I came to Durham Road on the first Sunday after I moved and was immediately made to feel very welcome … so I’ve been here ever since!
A few months later, I was very challenged when our then Minister explained that communion was for those who knew the Lord as their personal saviour and were living for him. I knew that wasn’t true for me, and so decided that I should no longer take communion.
After another few months, a very good friend challenged me as to why I wasn’t taking communion. I poured out my heart to her. She encouraged me to talk to our minister. She said if I didn’t tell him I needed to talk to him, then she would!
So I plucked up the courage to talk to him a few days later. One verse he used in our conversation which really hit me was Acts 17:30 “God commands all people everywhere to repent”. He said this doesn’t say God suggests that some people in some places should repent but commands all people everywhere to repent. He looked at me and said, “I don’t believe that excludes Chris Thompson!”
Following that conversation, I went home with a copy of the little booklet “Knowing God Personally”, which I read that night in bed. As I result, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life and save me. Although at the time I wasn’t convinced that my prayers were really going any higher than the ceiling I soon felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I was laughing and crying all at the same time and I knew at that moment that I had finally met Jesus.
In the early hours of the next morning the words of a song came to my mind. The song is “Jesus What a Beautiful Name”. The chorus includes the words “Grace that blows our fears away” and it struck me that my fears – of what people who assumed I was already a Christian would think, of admitting to wrong things I’d done in my past, and of what my future might hold – were not just blown to the side of the path by a gentle breeze but blown completely away by a strong wind.
Life hasn’t always been easy since then. During the past 11 years I’ve been through various difficult situations, including the loss of a job followed by a period of unemployment, the deaths of three close family members, and a serious health problem. Being a Christian doesn’t mean life will be easy, but one verse which leapt off the pages of the Bible when I read it a week or so after my conversion is Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you ‘do not fear, I will help you’.” That has certainly been my experience.
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