Sister Act

Sister Act

UK

I’d never felt so fulfilled in an evening

Sophie and Lucy are sisters. They work in the creative industries and share everything with each other. When Sophie did Alpha, their lives began to look very different. However, the impact was far beyond what they could have imagined. 


Sophie

We weren’t born into a Christian family, but when mum did Alpha she became a completely different person. She could be quite stressed and anxious, but after Alpha she became loving and patient – it was amazing.

In my third year of uni, I was trying to recover from several years of bulimia. I wasn’t fully cured at that point and I was very unhappy, even though I didn’t realise it at the time.

I met a girl, Amanda, who was always so kind and lovely, and I was drawn to her. When I found out she was a Christian, I mentioned that I was interested in Alpha and she invited me to her church.

It was challenging at first. I found the small talk difficult, and had never enjoyed talking about myself. But after a few weeks, I realised that I was learning something amazing. I’d never felt so fulfilled in an evening.

On the weekend away, someone had a prophetic word for me. They spoke about my physical pain and the problems I had with my body. They told me that God wanted to use me to open doors for other people. It was overwhelming; I felt like I’d won the lottery. I remember calling my mum and saying, ‘It’s real, it’s real!’

The next year was a turbulent one. I was in a bad relationship at the time. My boyfriend hated that fact that I had become a Christian. He was very insecure and jealous because he wasn’t my God anymore.  I worked at Vogue and my life looked amazing, but I was still bulimic and run down. I wasn’t content but I was so used to feeling that way I almost thought it was normal.

I remember crying to my friend Katie in a café, telling her I was ready to give up. I didn’t feel I was good enough to become a Christian. I was too tired to pray and I couldn’t read my Bible.

She said, ‘Sophie, you don’t have to do anything. You’re already saved. It’s finished. You can’t earn it. It’s love.’ That just changed it all for me. All of a sudden I realised that I had experienced his love, and that I didn’t need to struggle any longer.

I resigned from my job and set up my own jewellery company with a business partner from church. We made a lot of money supplying shops around the world. We thought we were going to take over the world.

But the recession hit us really hard and I’m not working at the moment. I don’t see it as a punishment, though. I think God’s scaled it all back because up until now, my work has been my identity. When I read about all the people in the Bible who were broken down and built back up, I feel like I’m in the middle of this major restoration programme. It’s tough, but I’m learning to be content every day, even if I’m not doing a really glitzy or exciting job.

Fashion is an industry that can provide so much for the poor, but it’s a place where God isn’t considered. I would love to start some kind of social enterprise. He has made us all so unique, and given us incredible gifts, so it’s great to be able to use them in whatever capacity we can.


Lucy

Our family are close, passionate and very loud. When mum did Alpha, it had a powerful impact on life at home.

Sophie and I are very different. When she became Christian, I would see her and Amanda, the friend who took her to Alpha, and think: ‘They’re just the lovely, pretty ones who like to do girly things.’ Christianity was this perfect, flowery thing that had no place for me.

I didn’t get it and would bombard her with questions. One day, she said, ‘You have so many questions, why don’t you do Alpha?’ I agreed to go, taking my strongest atheist friend as an ally. I knew he would have the answers that I couldn’t articulate, though by the end of the course, they fell short. His answers didn’t bring any hope or satisfaction.

One Sunday, I went to church with a few of Sophie’s friends and one of the girls asked if she could pray for me. I just cringed. I didn’t want to let her but I had already started to feel God speak to me. Over many months, he’d been revealing how much he loved me.

When she prayed, I felt myself saying, ‘I want to know you. I want to know who you are.’ The Holy Spirit swept in and filled me. For someone normally quite self-conscious, I didn’t care what everyone else was doing. I was totally wrapped up in God.

I was totally wrapped up in God.

When I met some of Sophie’s other Christian friends – ones that were both  ‘wild’ and Christian, I realised that God didn’t want me to give up my personality. He’d made me to be feisty and loud.

God changed the way I saw my work too. After I gave my life to Jesus, I panicked, thinking that my career as an art director in the fashion industry was entirely superficial. I emailed African orphanages to organise some sort of mission trip. None of them got back to me; it seemed that God wanted me to stay put.  

I carried on with my job, working on different shoots and sets.  Whenever I was asked about my weekend, people were always so surprised that I would talk about church. I am so in love with Jesus that I naturally talk about what he has done and is doing in my life. That’s when I realised that God had put me exactly where he wants me to be, to share his love and light in an industry where there is a lot of darkness.

It’s hard to see the people around you struggling and carrying really heavy burdens. You just want to say, ‘You don’t know how amazing you are, you don’t have to live like this.’ It was great when two of our family friends did Alpha. It encouraged our Dad to go along as well. Even though he was sceptical, he felt a lot lighter and less burdened during that time. Sophie and I found God through Alpha, and it’s having a roll-on effect in our family. It’s been incredible.

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Sheela's Story

Sheela's Story

 

The idea of running Alpha in the workplace honestly stemmed from a practical reason – late working hours were a barrier to my colleagues being able to attend Alpha at church. It made sense to bring Alpha to the workplace for those who were interested to give it a go.

I remember feeling quite nervous and unsure the first time we ran it back in 2014. I didn’t know what to expect or if anyone would even turn up! ‘Ye of little faith’ I remember a friend saying to me when we ended up with a solid group of about 20 in that first round. Since then, we’ve run Alpha four times - sometimes with larger groups, sometimes with smaller groups - but each experience has never failed to be just as amazing.

The most interesting aspect for me about running Alpha in our workplace was the immediate connection that people made from having something fundamental in common – where they work. There was little need for breaking the ice and discussions took off from day 1 with guests feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

Alpha in the workplace complements what the church is doing by reaching out to a community that might not have been able to be reached. So many of us know that being out there in the corporate world trying to make it in the great rat race can get tiring and it’s only a matter of time before one begins to ask “Is there more to life that this?” – which is a question that was on the minds of our guests when they came. Alpha provided that safe space for conversations that might not have taken place otherwise.

The most memorable account from a guest for me comes from a guy who had attended our first ever run of Alpha. Post-Alpha, he told us that while was hesitant initially about the whole idea, eventually the weekly sessions became a place of refuge for him in the busyness of work. He said that it was a truly unexpected experience - “Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.”

It’s not smooth sailing all the time but it is stories like this and many more of that nature that remind me that even if it’s for one person each round, it’s still worth it. And I’d just love to encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to just give it a go! The training and material make the process really simple to get started. Your adventure of a lifetime in running Alpha is just around the corner… trust me, it’s worth it!

Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.
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