Here is an amazingly honest (and very eloquent) testimony from Gregory Ben Dunn about what God is doing in him at the moment, and especially about the Student weekend away this last weekend which was an incredible time. Take some time to read this!
“I was looking forward to the weekend away, but my excitement was to catch up with friends and enjoy the other activities, I had no intention of engaging with God. The past year has been the most difficult of my life, I have started dealing with stuff that I have been carrying around since I was about 11 as well as dealing with fresh pain within my family. Over the last few months’ things got worse and I became angry at God and my relationship with him seemed to be nothing but a burden so I made a conscious decision to disengage with my faith. My coping mechanism was to numb myself to the pain, withdraw into myself and bunker down until the storm passed. On entering the delightful Denston Prep school my guard was firmly up and I had every intention of it remaining that way, but throughout the weekend God would slowly and at times firmly bring that guard down.
To be honest I very rarely connect with sung worship so I assumed just standing there unengaged would be easy, however as the worship started I started to think about all that was going on in my life and I became angry and upset, one of my main weaknesses is I don’t like to show weakness or emotion (despite being a very emotional person) In my state I was in no mood to listen to a talk so I took myself upstairs until the talk was finished. I just happened to catch the end of the video being shown which was of a Father carrying his son who had cerebral palsy whilst doing an Ironman, the message was clear God wanted to carry both me and my burdens but in my stubborn mood I was not going to let that happen.
The following day I was able to make it through the worship and also the talk. The talk was brilliant and I felt like it spoke directly to me, It was about living in fear and shame and how this leads to living like and orphan rather than a child of God, I’m sure this talk could have had a profound effect on me at the time but I only allowed it to penetrate skin deep, however I could feel God starting to take down my barriers. After the talk, we split off into our huddle groups. I have always loved small groups; I think it is a great way to delve deeper into Gods word and be challenged and encouraged by our Christian brothers and sisters. Our huddle session was brilliant, we could speak openly and frankly, one of the great things about a weekend away is you get to know new people and it was real joy to do this in the huddle and find that we were quite like-minded and able to support one another in areas where we often feel isolated.
During the Huddle I was also given some brilliant advice about my current situation and coping mechanism “If you numb yourself to pain you also numb yourself to happiness” these words had a profound effect on me as I realised I had not really felt proper happiness in a long time and this helped in the process of continuing to bring my guard down. This time in huddle was a real tipping point for me I felt a lot of my anger towards God disappear and I was open to the idea of letting God back into my life, it was also great to be able to help other people in their various struggles and made the sense of family even stronger for me.
Heading into the evening worship I wanted to engage but again found the worship hard to deal with as my pain and anger started to surface again, when Andy started speaking I felt like it was directed straight at me but I was unable to let go in front of everyone so once again I took myself off to be alone. When I came back a prayer tunnel was being formed, I knew at this point there was no escape, as soon as I entered that tunnel the guards came completely down and I was covered in God’s love, despite hearing the story of the prodigal son about 1000 times including on that weekend you always expect a bit of a telling off when you return but instead the unconditional love you receive is just so all-consuming that it almost takes your breath away.
By Sunday I was a different person than the one who had entered that building on Friday, I was ready to be open and vulnerable and was able to have a chat with Pete and Jem about the issues I had been facing at home and as they prayed over me I felt the burdens I had been carrying with me lift off my shoulders and a sense of peace came over me that I had not felt in a very long time.
The brilliance of a weekend away is that you have the space and time to delve into God surrounded by a loving family who want to support and encourage you in your relationship with God. The weekend away had a huge impact on me that I’m sure will be lasting and It was a real pleasure to be able to see others go on a similar journeys, although I rarely connect with sung worship it is always a pleasure to see people revelling in God’s presence, and it is great to be part of a family that really encourages and supports one another in our individual journeys.”