I truly thank the Lord for leading me to worship at Grace Baptist Church Stockport during my 6-month long stint here in Manchester while I was on exchange. So many blessings have been poured so abundantly and freely on me. Writing this and reflecting on the past 6 months, I’m truly filled with gratefulness and thanksgiving to our good and gracious God. Here are some of the blessings I enjoyed which I’d like to share.
First of all, GBC became my home away from home. I remember my very first Sunday at GBC, just 3 days after I first landed in Manchester. Filled with loneliness and intense homesickness, I prepared for worship on the Lord’s day, all the while missing my church, family and friends back home, and yearning to be worshipping in a familiar environment in my home church. How happy and comforted I felt, then, when I stepped into GBC and instantly felt the warmth from all the brethren here, when I sang the familiar hymns that I sing back home too, and when I heard the faithful preaching of God’s Word.
As time went by, I grew to truly love the people in this church – the adults are so genuine and full of the love of God, and the children are so adorable and lovable! Even though I was only here for a mere 6 months, I thank God for the bonds I formed with the brothers and sisters in Christ in this church. I really looked forward to each and every Lord’s day and mid-week meeting and Bible studies, for this is where I knew I would be able to enjoy and experience true Christian teaching and fellowship.
GBC also became a huge source of spiritual food for my soul. I truly thank God for Pastor Stephen whose faithful exposition of God’s Word week after week helped me to grow so much in the 6 months that I was here. Somehow, it seemed that the messages always spoke straight into my heart and met my every need. When I was feeling down and in need of comfort, the messages spoke of God’s abiding presence and peace. When I felt stressed out over school work and other difficulties, I was reminded to trust in the Lord and to cast all my burdens on Him. And when I was struggling with certain sins in my life, the messages rebuked me and challenged me to lead a righteous and holy life for God.
Last but certainly not the least, attending GBC helped me to remain accountable. People always say that studying overseas can be a very challenging time in the lives of Christians, for it is when you are far away from home, church, family and friends that it becomes easy to backslide and to drift away from church. I thank God for His grace, then, in keeping me close to Him throughout my time abroad. Back home, I’m used to spending most of my weekends and weeknights at church activities. I was pleasantly surprised therefore to find out that besides the worship service on Sunday mornings, there was also an evening service, a midweek meeting and even a student Bible Study that I could attend. Knowing that God had provided me with so many avenues for spiritual growth, I made a commitment to attend these as regularly as I could, and to not make any excuses for myself.
The friends that I made here at GBC also provided me with much encouragement. Even simple weekly smses like “Are you coming for Bible Study today?(:” helped a lot in making sure I went, even when I didn’t feel like going. Their testimonies were also very encouraging, for I always told myself that if they, who were full-time students over in Manchester, could always make the time to study God’s Word even when they were most busy and bogged down with work, I, who was just an exchange student, could have no excuses at all (to be honest, I really didn’t have much school work most of the time so being too busy with schoolwork was really not a valid excuse at all!)
In retrospect, being a part of GBC was perhaps one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, blessings of my entire exchange experience. Some might find it foolish to spend so much time on the things of God, when all that time could be spent instead traveling to as many destinations as possible or experiencing life abroad as a student to the fullest. Or some might find it rather pointless to become so attached to a church while on exchange, because of the short-term nature of such exchange programmes. But for me, I greatly treasure every memory I have of GBC, every lesson that was taught to me from the Word of God, and every bond that I formed with the people that I met here.
To those from GBC who are reading this, thank you so much for the love and care you showed me during my time here. I truly thank God for each and every one of you, and pray that the Lord will continue to pour out His abundant blessings on the church. And if you are a student reading this and wondering if it’s really that important or beneficial to find a church while you are studying abroad, I hope that my simple testimony will encourage you to seek out a sound, biblical church in which you too will be able to enjoy countless blessings.