“I will look back on this and smile because it was life and I decided to live it!"
From the cheesy traveller quote above or if you have got sick of my overload of Instagram pictures you may know that I have spent the lastsix months studying/travelling in Switzerland and many other European countries. But for those who don't know me my name is Zoe, I am 21 years old and going into my final year at Stranmillis studying primary teaching. I grew up in the mighty Portadown, went to PC and have been attending CE for many years. You may be wondering how on earth I escaped University for six months to basically live the dream and travel around Europe! Well as part of my degree I can do an exchange semester abroad, so, of course, I jumped at the chance and ended up being placed in Switzerland.
I left in February and arrived at a cold and snowy Swiss town called Kreuzlingen. The longest that I had been away from home before this trip was only a month so five months away did scare me a little, but in the end, it wasn't long enough as I decided to stay out an extra month. Moving away from home to a country that doesn't have English as its mother tongue was not going to be easy and the language barrier was always going to be a struggle when the only words I knew in German were hello and goodbye. Needless to say, our German language classes did come in very useful, even though I forgot most of it as soon as I walked out of the classroom!
However, some of the things I was most worried about was finding a good church, would there be any Christians in the university and also keeping my relationship with God solid. But I had no need to worry because God completely had that covered. We had heard about a Hillsong church near us that some girls from ‘Stran’ who had gone to Switzerland before went to, so we thought we would go and check it out. As soon as you walked into the church it had a huge sign saying 'Welcome Home' and literally from the first Sunday, I went I felt so welcomed and just felt such a peace that this is where God wanted me to be. I come from a Baptist church so a Hillsong service was very different, a lot louder and livelier! But it was a place that everyone was welcome to come and join no matter where you came from or what you were wearing, everyone was welcome. Being part of such a community-based church for only a short period of time made me realise how important community and fellowship in your Christian walk is. I am blessed to have so many Christian friends at home but within the church, I wouldn't always feel like I have a strong community there. But God had to show me what church can be like in order for me to change my situation and see that I'm not getting involved with church as much as I should be. Church isn't just a Sunday morning meeting, it is a family, it is a support network, it is brothers and sisters in Christ growing together being there for one another and sharing the amazing story of Christ to those who need it most.
With endless hours spent travelling on trains and buses, I was left with hours of time to sit and read a book and also just have time to simply think. One of my favourite things about travelling was that in these hours I didn’t only get to be amazed over and over again by the beautiful scenes around me but I also got to spend time with God. Life can become hectic and so busy that we forget to just take time out, sit down and spend time with God. God gives us different seasons in our lives to change us and develop us into the disciples we were called to be. He gave me this-time to open my eyes to trusting his timing and following him wherever He places me and He can do the same in your lives if you simply come with an open heart ready to be used. You don’t need to travel around Europe or get on Translink to find that time to spend with God, all you need to do is take time out from your busy schedule, open your bible and your heart and listen to what God is telling you. Only once you give something up God will give you something so much better and will completely change you from the inside out.
I could write on for hours but I just want to finish by saying thanks to CE for all your prayers and messages over my time away. CE is such a blessing to be part of and the dedication of all the leaders makes it what it is today, you guys are great! I hope that from this short blog you can see how amazing the world is that we live in but more importantly how amazing the God is that created it.
“There’ll be a season for joy and weeping, in everything our God is faithful.
His arms are open, I will come running. Now and always our God is faithful.” -Faithfulness by Hillsong Worship.