“Hannah why aren’t you training with Church Army?” “Hannah when are you going to train as an evangelist?” “Isn’t it about time you trained with Church Army?”
Three years ago, at the Church Army Gathering (which feels like a lifetime ago), it seemed like in every coffee break, every meal time, every moment of space, someone would sidle up to me and, in one way or another, ask the question about training with Church Army. My answer each time was simple: “I’m not an evangelist, so that’s why I’m not training!” To be honest by the end of the four days, I was fed up with the questions so I decided I’d explore vocation within Church Army just to shut everyone up!
Those few days were filled with words of encouragement that began my journey through training and in those words of encouragement I found my home. As I approach my final training residential, I now find myself on the verge of being commissioned (unless I do something really stupid before then!). When I look back on all that has happened “HOME” is the one thing that stands out as being so key to it all. In Church Army I found my home.
“Home” is the place that we live. When you think of home it’s usually a safe place, a place where you belong. It’s where you can relax and enjoy, where you can feel comfortable. Home is being around people who make you feel like a million dollars one moment and drive you crazy the next. It’s a place of love that welcomes you with open arms and possibly a freshly baked cake! Home is where the heart is, and sometimes that can be lots of places.
Over the last few years, Sheffield and the Wilson Carllile Centre (the home of Church Army in Sheffield) has become my second home. It’s become a place where I am loved, accepted and cared for and a place where I can be me. Throughout the journey, the company of others has been the most valuable thing for me. We’ve shared the good times and celebrated together when life, ministry and all is going well. We’ve shared the difficult times, when life is just tough, or the people we love and care for are facing hard times. We’ve discussed difficult issues, and had the space and time to listen to viewpoints which might be vastly different to our own. We’ve been able to challenge each other and to be challenged. We’ve shared ideas about what things work and what things don’t. And it hasn’t just stopped at the end of the weekend. When we return to our actual homes, that sense of belonging has continued. We keep in contact, we pray for each other, we share the good, the bad and the ugly.
Don’t get me wrong, the lectures have been great, the assignments have been useful and made me think (even if at times I just wanted to throw the computer out of the window!). There have been highs and lows throughout the years. There’s been times when I’ve wanted to give up, when the thought of having to read another book, face another lecture or write another essay have been tough. But there’s also been a huge amount of laughter, fun and being together with the other EITs (evangelists-in-training) and the training team. The sense of being together, being in each other’s company, being at home together has been brilliant and the most valuable thing.
Someone once shared this quote with me: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” I’ve no idea where it comes from but I love it! “Home” may currently be in South Wales, but its also wherever I meet with friends. I am thankful to God that I’ve found my “home” and that it’s a great big home filled with the riches of loving and knowing people all over the place.