INTRODUCING is a blog series introducing you to some of the members of Redeemer. You will meet some of them through their fact file, their life story, or their faith journey.
Hi, My name's Matt and I'm married to the lovely Rachel. We live in the north of Colchester and have been married for 5 years. I moved to Colchester 10 years ago, and that in itself was a work of God.
I was living in York in 2007 doing a Christian gap year. I spent some time praying about what I might do afterwards and I felt drawn to the career of speech and language therapy. I knew that in order to get onto a Masters course (of which there were only 7 in the UK) I would need to have had experience doing something in the field and I had none. What's more, every letter I wrote and phone call I made was met with a negative response. I found one Masters course where work experience was desirable but not essential and I applied, thinking I had nothing to lose. I went for the interview, didn't get a place but was offered a place on the waiting list. "OK", I thought "I'll just stay in York while I continue to try and find some work experience in the field." This continued to prove difficult and once I finished my gap year programme, I got a temporary job to earn some money which would help with the volunteering that I was hoping to do. Then one day in late August, I got a phone call that would change my life. It was the university I had applied to, and there was a space on the course for me, starting in 2 weeks, at Essex university in Colchester!
God clearly wanted me to get on this course at this time and saved me from fruitless job hunting. What's more all the finer details were sorted out by Him in incredible timing: someone to take my rented room in York (only sorted the weekend I moved), university accommodation in Colchester despite limited supply, my Dad being free that weekend to transport my worldly belongings 200 miles! Colchester has been a massive part of my life, from completing my degree here, starting my career, meeting, falling in love and marrying my wife Rachel, and growing in my relationship with God and my understanding of how to outwork that in my church, work, marriage and social life.
But God's work in my life started way before then. I grew up in a Christian family that were quite academic people, meaning that they emphasised getting to know God by reading about Him through the bible. I had lots of knowledge about Jesus. I was always the one answering the bible quiz questions at sunday school. But I missed a heart relationship with Jesus. At a Boys Brigade camp aged 11 after hearing an emotive message, I felt called to follow a call to come to the front and be prayed for, and I trace having a relationship with Jesus back to that point. However at school I was a bit of an outcast, partly because I wasn't good at sport, partly because I was a bit socially awkward and didn't really fit in. I wanted desperately to have friends and be accepted. Sometimes I would go to great lengths to win approval of class mates. I was not happy in myself and I hadn't let Jesus transform me. I did not think you could be a Christian and be cool.
Then one September a couple of guys, James and Russell in the year below me at school joined the Christian Union (up until this point run by a teacher and quite dull) and had become Christians over the summer. They were so passionate about their faith yet I would class them as 'cool'. They were so unashamed of their faith and I really admired this. They transformed the CU to a place where we were passionately praying, worshipping and reading God's word. I wanted to spend more time with these guys so I went along to their church on a Sunday night, where I met even more people who were sold out for God. I wanted in but I was torn by what the world had to offer and what the genuine joy that Christians were experiencing.
Part of me thought that I could make a fresh start when I went to uni where no one would know me and pre-judge me. However God had other plans. My parents wanted to send me on a Christian retreat between my A Levels and uni to teach me some life skills as they felt I needed to learn to cook and take care of myself before I left home for good. It was an intense two weeks of prayer, bible study, growth and social action with about 15 people my age and a few leaders. I hated it at first, feeling really out of my comfort zone with total strangers. But God spoke to me on that retreat. He told me that I had to stop wasting time and make a decision: I had to give my life completely to him. I decided to commit to him and I'm so glad I did, as I could have been another statistic of teenagers from Christian backgrounds falling away at university. I have never looked back from that point. Life has not always been easy, but God has been with me every step of the way and for that I am so grateful.