Spiritual Growth in South Wales

I recently read an interesting article by Dale Mansona in the April 2018 issue of Beacon Lights about the life of a young Christian in Ireland, so I thought that I would share my experiences as a young Christian in Wales.
Although I grew up in a “Church in Wales” primary school, the school was filled with unbelieving families. This meant that the students with whom I spent seven hours a day had no thoughts whatsoever for the things of God. This meant that my best friends through the whole of my schooling were unbelievers. There are no Christian schools around where I live so I have always attended a state school, which means that in every lesson I am surrounded by individuals who have no appetite for the word of God. I have heard it said that if you spend all day, every day around the same people, then you will become like those people. This is most definitely true in my experience. By the time I was 15 years old, I was no different from those unbelieving friends, and I was looking for ways to distance myself from the church and those in the church. I find that very embarrassing to admit now and I am ashamed of this. Nevertheless, the Lord helped me spiritually through that difficult time and has brought me to where I am today—a God-fearing young man who is now a member of the church. I know that there are many who will take their Christian schools for granted and my plea to you is, please don’t! It is so important to be surrounded by the right group of friends and that is a lesson I have learned over time. 2 Corinthians 6:14 highlights our need for Christian friends over ungodly friends, as it states “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”
The turning point for me was a visit that I made to the USA with my parents in August 2015 when I attended the Young People’s Convention at Camp Michindoh, in Hillsdale, Michigan. I was a little sceptical of attending the convention as I did not know a single person there, but I cannot stress enough what a wonderful week I had there. I made so many Christian friends, many of whom I see every year and I would class as my best friends (you know who you are!), and I was blessed by the preaching I heard, not just at the convention but also in the Protestant Reformed Churches that I attended with my parents.
Since that summer, things changed for me and I realised that I needed the Lord Jesus Christ. In Wales from my experience, Christians are seen as a bit weird and a bit crazy as the country is largely atheist. However, visiting the PRC showed me that there is nothing “weird” or “crazy” in believing in God and I learned and grew up so much in the time that I was there. I have now been to Michigan for three summers in a row and each time I go, I grow spiritually and build upon the wonderful friendships I have, with which the Lord has blessed me. I hope to be in the USA in August and I know that once again the Lord will strengthen me through Christian company and fellowship. I am very thankful for the Protestant Reformed Churches indeed for these memorable summers that I have spent in the USA.
Another encouragement to me has been the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) conference. We had a wonderful time there again this summer, this time in Wales, and we were truly blessed by the ministry of Rev. Lanning and Prof. Engelsma. It was very encouraging and enjoyable to have 15 of our friends from the conference staying with us afterwards, and we greatly cherish the times we are able to spend with our brothers and sister in Christ. Although I had a very difficult time spiritually for many years and it is difficult for me to think about those years without shame and sadness, it is important to remember that all that happened was part of God’s plan for me and he has made me value him all the more having seen first-hand the dangers of the world.
It has not been easy sailing since the summer of 2015. I have encountered many challenges along the way which have tested me and also showed me that I have a lot to learn. There are always new challenges facing me, but I trust in God and pray that he will help me overcome these challenges. These past two years in college (American equivalent of the last two years of high school) have been very difficult, as my friends in college have taken to going out drinking on a regular basis and developing very bad tastes in life. I recently received a comment from someone saying, “Why didn’t you come out (drinking) last night? You were the only person in the college not there.” Being told this kind of thing is difficult to take in, as you are being told that you are an outsider and you feel distant from your friends. Being young, it is easy to follow the crowd and be tempted to copy the wicked things done by those around you. I am the only Christian in my school, which has been very challenging especially when people around me don’t understand what it is to be a Christian. They seem to see going to church as a kind of club rather than a life commitment and they don’t realise that God and the church should be the priority in life. Some people have told me that being a boy makes it harder to be a Christian, as in a lot of cases it can be difficult to be different to other boys around you and if you are different then there will no doubt be “banter” over the differences. This wasn’t a problem for me, but the number of Christian jokes increased over the years and hurt, even though they were intended not to.
I am pleased to say that I have drifted from these friends since finishing college (I hope now to go to a university in Michigan, if the Lord wills it) and I feel that this is a burden lifted off me in many ways, as their bad influences have been removed from me. I have since realised the true importance of being surrounded by friends who share the same beliefs and love for God as I do, and I want to discourage anyone from hanging out with ungodly friends on a regular basis. You cannot have true fellowship with unbelievers and there is nothing that compares to being with my Christian friends with whom I can openly discuss godly things without fear of being ridiculed. Trust me, I know what will happen should you pick the wrong friends and none of it is good for your heart or soul.
The church we attend, Swansea Evangelical Reformed Church (try saying that quickly 5 times), is one of the only solid churches in the whole of Great Britain and we are very grateful for the ministry there by Rev. Neil Pfeiffer. We have about 30 regular attendees and there are only a handful of young people, which has been difficult especially since almost all of them live about 30 minutes away and, as few of us have cars due to their high cost to keep, we only see each other twice a week—on a Sunday in church and also at our young peoples’ meeting on a Friday evening. We had a split in our church five years ago which was a very tough time for all involved, but we have recently acquired our own church building and we can see that the Lord is blessing the work here in South Wales. This has been an encouragement for us and when you have less, you value the little things more and this has certainly been the case in the church for us.
My family and I would consider ourselves a Protestant Reformed family in our beliefs, so it has been a challenge to find a church that is suitable for us to attend. Although there are several differences in belief between us and the church, we realise that we are very fortunate to have a church to go to that teaches the word of God faithfully. We do, however, long for the day when a Protestant Reformed Church is established here in Wales.
It is easy to be discontent with what we have here with no Christian schools and the like, but one must look at God’s blessings to us and realise that he has been gracious to us, and when we see these blessings, we learn contentment.