XPLORE: like finding a waterfall in a desert
The months before discovering Xplore were some of the toughest of my life. The doctor called it depression and anxiety but to me it just felt like failure. I’d gone from being confident and bubbly, to quiet and withdrawn with little sense of self-worth.
I was chatting with a friend (Amy Hayes, Pioneer Evangelist at Selby Centre of Mission!) about how I wanted to find some kind of Christian community outside of my own context. I felt lonely and desperately wanted to make friends. I thought this could really help me to regain some confidence and grow in my faith again. Amy told me about something called Xplore and it instantly felt like this could be the thing I was looking for. Xplore was due to start the following week, so I sat up late that very night and completed my application form. The next day I heard that despite my last-minute application I’d been accepted! I was so excited!
I knew I’d be challenged to get stuck into evangelism during Xplore… and was absolutely dreading it. I’d been part of different outreach initiatives as a teenager in Northern Ireland and had experiences of speaking to strangers about my faith. but now, years later with little confidence and my faith shaken, I was terrified. I decided to give doing evangelism a good go but silently resolved to stay well within my comfort zone. Little did I know that God had other ideas!
My Xplore group consisted of Christians around my own age who were from different parts of the UK (we had one American too!). I was a wee bit scared about our first Skype call, but I needn’t have been! Our group leader was fantastic and knew when to fill in silences and when to let them just be. After the first couple of weeks, and as we shared our stories, it felt like I’d known my Xplore group for years. I’d gained some very special friends.
Over the next few months, we listened to some incredible teaching on evangelism-related topics like prayer, blessing others, neighbouring, and boldness. I diligently took notes and really felt like my knowledge of these areas increased. But I gained so much more than that! At each Xplore meet up, we would share what God had spoken to us about through the teaching and we would then take it in turns to encourage and challenge one another. I soon realised I wouldn’t be able to get away with staying inside my comfort zone. I’d have to venture outside of it to experience growth.
So, venture I did! And wow, I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was! God ACTUALLY showed up. Every time I prayed for an opportunity to speak to somebody about Him, he put people in my path. Every time I asked Him to speak to me, He spoke. In that place of discomfort and unease where I forced myself to go, I found God. As a bonus, I also ended up finding myself! God brought me on a journey, from terrified and unconfident to fulfilled and bold.
The steps I took on my journey towards evangelism weren’t huge ones. They were small and simple – but still stretching enough for me! I’m not a natural evangelist (so it still scares me and makes my heart beat fast!) but I know now, through my time with Xplore, that God equips me and empowers me as I step outside of my comfort zone.
I left Xplore with a new group of my very own friends, a new sense of purpose and calling and a quiet, bold determination. But much more than that, I left with a renewed intimacy with God. He showed me that He wanted to use little old me to reach the lost. He gave me courage and purpose that I thought had been lost forever in the waters of depression and anxiety. He caused my heart to break once again for the people in my town, and life will never be the same again.
Finding Xplore felt like finding a waterfall in a desert.
Applications to join Xplore this September are now open! To find out more and apply, please go to www.xplore.org.uk. If you’ve got any questions, Emma would love to hear from you! You can get in touch with her via email.
17 July 2020
Emma is an Xplore Evangelism Coach and helps to keep Xplore running smoothly! She is from Northern Ireland and now lives in North East England with her husband and son. She’s part of the leadership team of her local church and in her spare time likes to play Animal Crossing, watch documentaries, and bake cakes (but not at the same time!).