I never thought when I started coming to WBC seven years ago that I’d be standing here telling my story before getting baptised.  But I am and it’s pretty amazing so far!

 

I was bought up in a Christian family, so going to church was a regular part of my week.  I felt normal and great but then when I was five my mother passed away.  After that my life wasn’t the same but I was too young to know what was happening.  I couldn’t understand why we no longer visited her in hospital every day and, even at her funeral, I still expected to see her. 

 

A few years after mum died, my dad met new friends and I would get emotionally attached to them.  But sadly, after a while they would be gone and I would be left feeling deeply upset and lonely.  What made things worse was that my way of dealing with my sadness was to hide it in my own little bottle and not talk about it.

 

When I started coming to WBC in 2007 I remember that people were kind to me which was nice.  But I also thought that all the adults were the scariest people I had ever-ever-ever-ever-ever met!

 

Four years ago, when I moved to high school, my sadness upped a level as I had lost and was missing my primary school friends.  This left me feeling alone and I started to hate coming to church.  At the same time I started to realise that my mum wasn’t ever coming back and I began to mourn all over again.  But again I hid my feelings in my bottle and gave the impression that I was a happy guy.

In 2012 I went to a Christian festival week called ‘New Wine’.  It was there that I first met God!  At one of the evening meetings we were encouraged to close our eyes and pray that God would speak to us.  I closed my eyes and prayed.  God gave me a vision in which he showed me heaven and told me that I would go to heaven after I had completed the work he had for me.  When the meeting finished I talked and prayed with two guys and told them what had happened.  They said that I had received God’s Holy Spirit.  The next day I gave my life to Christ.

 

That week was great and life changing but when I got back home my personal and family life kicked back in.  I had a good spiritual experience in September 2012 when our church Youth Group went to a United Prayer Event at Wembley Stadium.  Over 50,000 Christians prayed together .  It was pretty amazing and I felt God’s presence.  But, after that my spark all but went out.  I almost left my faith and I went on without God - and struggled.  Sadness zoomed over me and things got much worse which eventually led to my becoming depressed.  But I still wouldn’t let it show.

 

I went to ‘New Wine’ again in 2013 but although it was good, I felt alone and awful.  I didn’t feel God’s presence as I had before.

 

I tried to find a way of dealing with my depression and started to self-harm in the hope that it’d make me feel better.  It didn’t.  Then, my little bottle of sadness burst.  I got angry and was upset all the time.  I needed help and hope but couldn’t tell anyone.   Then, last year, I got into big trouble with my family and got into some bad things.  I needed help.  God gave me that help.  But he didn’t just give me a helping hand -he carried me on his shoulders!  It happened while I was at ‘New Wine’ 2014.  I told a few people my story and they offered to pray for me.  As they prayed I had a vision.  It was a vision of a phoenix rising from ashes.  That phoenix was me!

 

Later that week I began feeling awful so I told a guy called Chris my story.  I said that I was weak and needed help to get over my past.  He said that God had told him that someone whose mum had died would come and ask him for prayer!  He said that he’d had a vision in which he’d seen a boy standing in front of a broken mirror and that God wanted to fix the mirror.  He said that the boy - me - needed to stop trying to fix things and to trust God.

 

Another member of the prayer team joined us and said he wanted to try physical prayer.  He tied my hands together and said that he would pray and that when I felt I could, I should break the cuff apart and be free of my past.  Surprisingly I found myself doing exactly that!  I felt lighter and Chris said I should pray about what my calling was.  The man who’d prayed told me that when his son was older he wanted him to be exactly like me!  This man - who knew of my sin and sadness - wanted his son to have faith just like me!  I knew then that my depression and actions do not define who I am.  That people can look past them and that was what I needed.

 

Later that year our Youth Group, ‘Dynamite’, attended the ‘Soul Survivor’ week when two good friends dedicated their lives to Christ.  It was amazing to see God at work in their lives.  One of the sessions was a talk about ‘loneliness’ when people who felt lonely were encouraged to go forward for prayer.  I hesitantly went to the front and during the prayer I felt my hand start to shake uncontrollably. 

 

When I opened my eyes one of the guys who’d prayed with me, said God loves you no matter what.  At which I burst into tears and I hugged him for a full five minutes!  Someone else who’d also prayed with me said that my hand shaking symbolised me shaking the dust off my past.  I got really emotional when a friend told me that he had seen a vision of a holy creature celebrating whilst praying for me.  It felt amazing - it was the first time I’d accepted that God truly loved me and would continue to do so.

 

On the last night there was a talk about a really personal subject to me.  I asked the church's Youth Worker if she’d pray with me.  As she prayed my hand began to shake and I felt my legs giving way.   As I lay down on the floor a man prayed for me and I re-committed my faith and promised to become the guy God had called me to be.  The man spoke about the Prodigal Son - a story that always speaks to me.  At the end of the prayer, I found myself saying I have found my father and I am home.

 

So, after that week, I’m happy to say that my flame didn’t go out.  I’ve found my calling which is leading worship with talks.  God can use my childhood experiences when I talk to people.  I can speak about loss and how to get through it.

 

In November last year I mentioned that I was thinking about possibly getting baptised and was encouraged to attend a baptismal course.  Here I am.  God and I are still working on the depression as I still have down days but we’re getting there.

 

I thank God for everything that he’s done for me.  For giving me a great father and family who’ve helped me through the darker times;  for putting so many great people into my life who’ve helped me massively; and of course, for giving me a truly lovely church family who’ve always been there for me and reminded me that God loves me and will never stop doing so.

 

Finally - during the baptismal course God spoke to me through the the Bible.  Ephesians 2 sums up my journey, and I ask you to read it.

 

Will Kennedy

January 2015