First recollection of church
Hello, my name is Costa. I was born in Hackney, London about 10 years after my family emigrated from Cyprus to England. We went to a Greek Orthodox Church and it was treated as a special occasion. The church had 1 Bible written in ancient Greek which would be read to us by a high priest with a long beard.
Our prayers would be written on small pieces of paper which would then be passed on to the mediators to pray for us. The sermons would instruct us to help widows and orphans if we wanted to be saved.
At home it was my mother who would encourage me to read the modern Greek Bible. My mother often explained how the old covenant was about the saviour of all man in a fallen world.
Distance from God
I was 13 years old when my sisters told me that we would be just like the orphans we were helping at the church. My mother had an incurable illness and she did not have long to live. It was painful to see my mother suffering. I was the youngest so her final prayer was saved for me. She prayed that I would be adopted into a large family with the guidance from the perfect role model and find an inheritance from God.
I felt broken and lost.
2 years after my mother passed away, my father introduced me to my step mother, who was a non believer with no children of her own. I was now growing up with no love.
My sisters had made their plans for their lives, my father constantly worked and my step mother encouraged me to do the same. I was soon an angry, rebellious young man with no guidance who was living his own life without God and it was not worth living. I feared death, was often depressed, couldn’t sleep and started to smoke. I had a string of failed relationships, the list is endless…
Coming back to church
The next time I would read a Bible again would be nearly 35 years later right here in Grace Church Wanstead.
When I arrived I saw a welcoming gathering of Christians who were not directing wealthy people to the front rows. They did not object to anyone’s colour, race or religious background. I saw plenty of Bibles and the children were not using mediators for their prayers. In fact, they were actively encouraged to read the Bible themselves, answer questions and take part in everything.
Why I am a Christian
I asked to join the Bible study group at David Gibbs’ house. I started to attend and all the teachers had a patient and gentle approach to my questions and if they didn’t know the answer they would always get back to me soon.
As I read and took in the meaning of the events of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection – I took it personally. I felt a deep sense of shame for all the wrong things I had done for so many years toward God and people. I had to be forgiven and this meant forgiving others.
I found my perfect role model who left the right hand of God, humbled himself and became a man to know my weakness and temptations. Jesus willingly allowed himself to die a humiliating and awful murder even though he was the only one to walk on this earth without sin. His precious blood was now shed for me so I could avoid a second death, and be with him and his family, inheriting something much more precious than the houses, cars, money and gold I had lost in my life.
I pushed him away for years but he was patient with me. I realise today that when I wept as a child for my mother, he was right there weeping with me…