Sunday, 8 November 2015

TRAVEL & THOUGHTS: exploring Winchester for UCCF: South East Big Weekend Away!

Last weekend I went to an event that UCCF held for all the university Christian Unions in the South East area. It was a weekend where we were able to stay for two nights, eat, have fellowship with one another, meet other people, hit up the uber-cheap book stall and just relax. A weekend away from the stresses of university work. 

Winchester is about an hour away from my university on the train, me and Maddie almost missed it because we were still getting our tickets from the ticket machine. When we finally made it on we arrived at Winchester in no time.

Winchester at night, on observation was lovely and quaint however we were in a rush to get to the church and we were all trying to desperately not get lost. Although we did, twice.

Dinner on arrival was jacket potato, tuna, cheese and salad - tuna is literally  my world and then we had the evening service. We had arrived there pretty early before a majority of the CU's so we were able to get a really awesome seat near the front where we could view everything that was happening. Introductions, Worship, Teaching, Prayer and more Worship happened and God turned up!

By this time is was getting pretty late and we hadn't been able to settle into the church that our CU was staying at. After getting a lift from Rachel (thank you Rachel!) we arrived and were shown upstairs to where we were sleeping. The rooms were tiny and we had managed to already take up majority of the room despite the rest of the girls not arriving yet! We persuaded the leader of the church to let us swap with the boys downstairs who were sleeping in the main auditorium. GIRLS WON and boy was there so much more room for activities.

After we were ready for bed despite the thought of there not being any showers to wash ourselves with, I was feeling comfortable. We hung out as a CU playing a few games that involved us being in a circle, I had an awesome chat with one of my friends Abigail and it was great to get to know her more as well as many other people. Eventually it got to the point of lateness and tiredness where you don't really know what you're doing and you're remembering that breakfast is at ridiculous o'clock so maybe you should sleep now but you can't because you're basically on holiday with your closest friends. So off we slept and now fast forward to the morning of day 2.

"I feel groggy, cold and I have a feeling I'm having a really bad hair day but the lights are on and everyone can see what you look like anyway so it doesn't even matter". The queue for the ladies was long and despite the sun not rising yet I was in a pretty expectant mood for what the Lord had in store for today.

Breakfast was cereal, a croissant and a piece of fruit - it was literally perfect and I was so excited to get food into my belly (like I always am). We had to be at the Church for a morning meeting of worship, teaching and prayer and then we were allowed to be set loose on the seminars and talks.

Maddie and I decided to go to the answering difficult questions seminar, it involved getting into groups with people you hadn't met with so it was great to hear what others went through in regards to the really gritty, tough and sometimes mind-numbingly hard questions that our friends and strangers would ask us.

For outreach events such as Quench (where we give out free doughnuts to those who go out clubbing on a Wednesday and Friday night) and Text-a-Toastie (where we give away free toasties in exchange for a question about Christianity) where we're required to answer tough questions. It is easy to avoid them but sometimes you can't escape them so it's great to be able to take the hard questions we get asked and see how we can unpack this to someone in a simple, loving, gentle and kind way - always leading them back to Jesus.

Here are a few tips I learnt at that seminar lead by a lovely girl named Emily:

1 - Listen - try to understand their perspective and what is behind the question that they are answering. Try to pick up on a deeper issue that they might be going through.
2 - Pray - for help to understand and speak truth to them.
3 - Ask questions - is there a question you can ask in reply to their question? Jesus asked 200 questions in the Bible, not because he didn't know the answer but because He wanted them to understand. 
4 - Use the Bible - look at God's character. Emily used a phrase that someone coined before her naming it "home, away and home again" so if someone wants to know the timeline of history in terms of God, Adam & Eve, the fall, Jesus and His resurrection you start with "home - where we were made perfect in His image, away - when we fell, we were cast out, beautiful but broken but there's still hope and then home again in Jesus coming back.
5 - Talk about Jesus - If we only give people clever arguments and theologies we don't show His love.
6 - Follow-up - which could mean meeting for coffee, offering them a book to read or inviting them to church, you can be like "come and see what it looks like". What I'll always remember is something that our president Fergs always says and that is "don't say someone else's no for them" in other words don't assume that someone doesn’t want to come, ask them - if they say no they say no but if they say yes they have an opportunity to see what Jesus can do with the broken!

After the seminar, we went and explored Winchester as a CU, we visited the town, went shopping (although I had self-control and didn't buy anything which is a miracle in itself HOWEVER I did go a bit overboard at the book stall back in the main church, not gunna lie #christianbooksaremyweakness). We explored the outside of Winchester Cathedral, walked through their cute cobble roads, became captured by an amazing violinist and also played with the leaves because it's autumn and why not? After that we headed over to Cafe Nero and had coffee. 

The evening meeting passed and suddenly we were in the eve of our last full day in Winchester, it was a sad bittersweet moment that was quickly rectified with a hog roast and a hilarious game of Ninja resulting in 1 split pyjamas and one face full of split pyjamas (Alex and Chris). 

On the last day of SEBWA we had to be up and out of our venue so that those who were setting up for church could do so without a few dozen Christian girls sleeping and snoring away around them. We went to Winchester University which was absolutely stunning if I do say so myself and planned our events week. When the last meeting closed and we had to leave we were upset to be away from good company but excited for the rest of the year.

The highlight of the weekend was spending time with my CU family, I am forever grateful for every single one of them. The fact that we can come from different pasts, backgrounds and upbringings and still be there to encourage and spur one another on. My heart was so full on returning from the South East Big Weekend Away that it got me so excited for the incredible stuff the Lord has planned for us on impacting our university. If you take anything away from this post let it be, get stuck into your CU, I've met some of my closest friends there, they're great! 

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