I wrote this for my the magazine of my former school and upon reflection, perhaps it might be helpful to someone out there who is wrestling with future plans or perhaps when life doesn’t always follow the “ten-year plan”! (Undoubtedly THEE WORST job interview question ever… always made me develop a speech impediment!)
“Be strong and courageous and DO IT!” 1 Chronicles 28:20
It’s hard to believe that I left Cookstown High School twelve years ago and much has happened in those intervening years. Indeed, my year group have all been turning the big 3-0 this year – how did this happen?! We used to go to each other’s eighteen birthday parties and talk about when we could take down our “R” plates! Anyway, before I let my mid-life crisis issues takeover, let me tell you a little about what has happened since I left Coolnafranky in June 2005. I’m currently studying at Tilsley College, which is a Bible College based in Motherwell in Scotland. So how did I get from 8H2 to here you may ask? After finishing my A-levels I went to University in Dundee where I studied Law with German (a big shout-out to Mrs Allen for being my german inspiration!) I have to admit that the CHS modern languages corridor is probably my favourite corridor… however I digress! After finishing my studies in Dundee I came back home and did my two-year solicitor training contract in Ballymena. I then got a job with an organisation called The Christian Institute in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where I worked for four years, up until August 2016. I am a Christian and this job really showed me that every part of life is impacted by my faith. How God wants me to live, according to His standard in the Bible is the best way for us to live our lives – not based on a set of rules, but on the death of the Lord Jesus. He gave His life for me, so now I live my life for Him. And so it was in January 2016, after having read an article in a church mission magazine about mission teams in Europe with an organisation called GLO (Global Literature Outreach) Europe, based in Motherwell, that a journey started where God has been showing me the importance of living my life for Him. I know, this all sounds a little strange, but keep reading!
As a result of that article I ended up going on a mission team to a couple who are missionaries with a church in a suburb of Paris, called Rambouillet. Mrs Purvis would be proud as my GCSE and A-level French came out in full force. I think I may have even asked someone what they did in their spare time and where the train station was located. #classicoralquestions
It was during this trip that I was really impacted by the passion that the French Christians had for their faith. They did not have the same Christian support network that I had (we live in a very privileged country in Northern Ireland) however they were fearless when talking about their faith. This had a lasting impact on me and when I returned home I couldn’t get this experience out of my mind. At this point I was very happy in my life, church and job in Newcastle, but there was a restlessness inside me that felt that God had something else for me. So I prayed that God would show me what he wanted me to do. It was then through a series of circumstances along with passages from the Bible that led me to come to Bible College in September 2016. How you may ask? Well as strange as it may seem, God still works in the lives of Christians now – it wasn’t just something that happened in Bible times. God is very much the God of the individual and through a Bible passage in 1 Chronicles 28:20, where it says, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD even my God, is with you…” I knew that I was to take this step and apply to Tilsley College – there is much more to the story, but space does not permit the details!
So I started a course at Tilsley College in Motherwell in September 2016 and what a year it has been! I have been doing biblical studies, alongside a range of practical placements with different churches, which has included children’s work, youth work and a social placement. As well as that I have been on a mission awareness trip to Italy. I have learned many lessons this year, including many things about myself and my character, as I have had to go back to living as a student again and living with lots of other people in community certainly rubs the sharp corners off you!
It has also been reinforced to me this year that God cares about all of the details of our lives. During the course we had a four week mission placement. I did mine in the office of GLO, which is the mission organisation connected with Tilsley College. I worked on the organisation of their short term summer mission teams. GLO have teams of missionaries all over Europe and each summer they send out a team of young people to help the church in that area reach out into their communities. As a result of that placement I was amazed at how God does not waste any of our experiences, talents, previous jobs etc. I saw so many skills that I had acquired through my training and working in an office come into play as I did my placement and I knew that I was in the place God wanted me to be. Again, the Bible was very real to me and spoke directly to my circumstances from 2 Samuel 7:3 where Nathan the prophet says to King David, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” I am very thankful for the passion God has put in my heart for mission and for showing me that my relationship with Him must be the priority in my life – there is no other place I would rather be than where He wants me to be.
Since I started at Tilsley College I have started a blog, which goes under the name of “Judith McKeown” – inventive, I know! Feel free to follow me at: https://judithmckeown.wordpress.com For now I know that God wants me to be in Motherwell, using the skills He has given me to do the work He has for me. I intend to be here for another year at least, as I do the second year of the course. As I sign off one thing I have to thank CHS for is a great group of friends who often encouraged me in my faith and a great group of teachers who led Christian Fellowship on a Friday, all of which I believe God used to nurture in me a love for Him, His Word and His mission – to tell the world the good news of Jesus.