My name is Sarah and when I moved to Workington in November 2008 I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life.
I had been working as a weekly newspaper reporter and living in Yeovil, Somerset, only about two hours from my hometown of Swindon, but was looking to move on having qualified as a senior reporter.
The obvious next step was to become a reporter on a daily paper and I applied for what seemed the perfect job. It was even nearer to Swindon and I could get home on one train for a mere £3.
I went for the interview but, with the recession just kicking in, the editor had to jump through several weeks of hoops to get clearance to actually employ someone.
Keeping my options open, I stumbled across an advert for a chief reporter on a weekly paper called the Times & Star in a town called Workington.
I didn’t think I’d get it (I was only just a senior and no experience of leading a team of reporters) but I thought I might as well apply, if only to find out from the rejection letter what further experience I needed.
But then I got invited for an interview and, without a definite job offer on the cards, I couldn’t really say no.
Off I went to the interview, came out thinking I’d done really badly and I wouldn’t employ myself let alone anyone else…and two weeks later got a call offering me the job.
I really couldn’t understand how it had happened but a month later I was packing all my worldy possessions into a van and travelling 300 miles to Up North (anywhere north of Birmingham was like a foreign country before then).
My boyfriend (now my husband) took the opportunity to go travelling for three months before joining me so I was in Workington, in the winter, on my own, knowing virtually no-one, in a freezing cold, single-glazed house and the best part of a six-hour drive from all my family (not that I had a car).
I started work and it was a nightmare. I was taking on a role that nobody had done for a long time so, understandably, it took everyone a while to adjust. It took me a while to settle in to what I was meant to be doing and to be honest there were many days when I went home from work, cried about how badly it had gone and spent much of the evening dreading the next day.
To top it off, I got a call a week or two after I’d started the job offering me the one I’d actually wanted but by then it was too late. I couldn’t understand how I could have got it so wrong.
Then Gary came back from travelling and he said he’d like to find a church to get involved with. We both believed in God and called ourselves Christians but we’d never really been regular “churchgoers”, let alone been truly involved in a church.
I had a relationship with God, and I knew He had carried me through the hardest times of my life such as my dad’s death in 2007, but I’d never taken the next step of wanting to help other people come to know Him.
To be honest we were looking at church more as a way of meeting people in a new community rather than building on our relationships with God.
We decided to start out search was a nice, friendly church that Sunday. We would start with Bridge Church on Central Square (it was nearest to our house so we wouldn’t need to get up too early to get there) and go somewhere else each week until we found the right one.
So we went to Bridge Church. And the next week we went to Bridge Church. And we never went any further than Bridge Church. It was friendly and we just felt at home. We didn’t know why.
A little while later we were at a Sunday service on the subject of answers to prayer. Karl, who was pastor of Bridge Church and is now a leader of its successor Christ Central, described a prayer day the church had held a few months earlier when small groups had gone around different places of the town praying for various things. One group had stopped outside the Times & Star office and prayed for the church to have better links with the local media. Then, a while later, I’d turned up.
Suddenly it became clear to me. I hadn’t made the biggest mistake of my life relocating to Workington; I was following God’s plan for my life – I just didn’t know it at the time.
I thought I was moving to progress my career. God was moving me to fulfil some purpose within His ultimate plan.
Since then I’ve got more involved in church life and outreach events and in serving people, and therefore God, in other ways outside the church and I hope I’ve been right in interpreting the things God has called me to do.
But I’m still here and I haven’t heard any call from God, either obvious or not, to move on yet so He must have more plans for me in Workington.
I don’t know what it is and I don’t know what impact I might have had so far in the things I have done but I do know that one day it will all be made clear when God’s plan comes to fruition and everything that has gone before makes sense.
Until then, I’ll continue to operate by faith.