Diocese of Portsmouth

    MY FAITH: Summer trip inspired me to become a disciple

    Faith stories
    31 May 2023

    SHE has been coming to church all her life – but things only really clicked into place when she went away last summer.

    Alicia Lea, who is 15, has been a regular at the youth group run by Church of the Good Shepherd in Crookhorn, for years.

    She joined dozens of other teenagers from churches across Portsmouth, Havant, Fareham and Gosport for a four-day residential in Surrey last August. The High Tide holiday included baking, craft, games, lasertag, a water slide and a silent disco – as well as worship, prayer and Christian teaching.

    And one session in particular stood out for her. After a talk in which leader Jenni Whymark spoke about friendship, Alicia was prayed for and experienced God’s Holy Spirit. From that moment, she’s been committed to her Christian faith.

    “The talk was about friendship and her experience, which she related to the Bible,” said Alicia. “It was a sensitive area, as I’ve struggled with friendship with the right people. I was trying to keep in my tears. I went outside with three of my friends and they prayed for me. I could feel the Holy Spirit, and I realised how deep it all is. I realised how important it was to place your trust in God. So I decided I would take this seriously from now on.”

    Alicia’s parents were part of the Church of the Good Shepherd, and she’s grown up going there. She’s tried other churches, but kept coming back to their Sunday services, and The Zone, which gathers together teenagers on a Friday night for food, games, worship and teaching.

    She was also a regular at the monthly High Tide youth services, which launched in 2018. They bring together church youth groups from all denominations, so between 50 and 100 young people aged 11 to 18 can enjoy games, worship, prayer and food together. It’s hosted by a different church each time, allowing the young people to develop bonds between churches and deepen their discipleship.

    “I’d grown up believing in God, but not really doing anything about it,” she said. “When the lockdown happened, I had some real doubts over a couple of months, although I kept coming to The Zone and High Tide.”

    She was one of 50 young people who went on the first High Tide residential on the Isle of Wight, over a weekend in April 2022. They enjoyed paintballing, swimming, bushcraft and making tie-dye t-shirts at the Westbrook Centre near Ryde. There were also sessions of worship, prayer and teaching.

    “The first High Tide residential really gave me spiritual hope,” said Alicia. “It was also where friendships were formed. Being part of a group of Christians and being loved by them was important. There were a lot of people I’d known for years there, but also I got to know some for the first time. It reawakened my faith.”

    Many of the same young people then went away last August for four days to Luckley House School in Surrey for a High Tide summer residential. The activities were themed around gameshows, with sessions based on Bake Off, Repair Shop, Hunted, Million Pound Drop and Taskmaster. The talks were also based on the idea of Jesus being a ‘gamechanger’.

    It was organised by the youth leaders who run High Tide, in collaboration with Scripture Union. And it was the talk by Scripture Union development worker Jenni Whymark that was the catalyst for Alicia’s renewed commitment.

    “I heard how God valued me and had restored me, and that had an emotional impact,” she said. “It really changed me.” (read more below...)

    Check out our video of the High Tide summer residential 2022, to see what happened:

    The fire pit at the High Tide summer residential
    The fire pit at the High Tide summer residential
    Worship at High Tide’s summer get-together
    Worship at High Tide’s summer get-together

    Alicia was one of the leaders on the half-term holiday club run by Church of the Good Shepherd in February 2023. It was especially significant for her, as she started attending these annual holiday clubs as a four-year-old.

    She was also one of the High Tide teenagers who then signed up to the Jeremiah Project, which is aimed at 15 to 18-year-olds who want to go deeper in their faith and have an impact on their local church, school or community.

    They meet every half-term for discipleship sessions and to learn practical skills to help them to serve others. Among other things, those young people have recorded Bible reflections to share via the High Tide Instagram account.

    “It’s great to be part of this smaller group that is thinking about what it says in the Bible and how to apply it to our lives practically,” she said. “And one of the things it’s inspired me to do is to invite friends to come to High Tide.”

    High Tide leaders are organising a second summer holiday this year at Luckley House near Wokingham, and Alicia will be there. There are places for 50 young people on the holiday from August 12-16, and places are being booked up fast. You can sign up here.

    “If people are thinking of coming, I’d tell them it’s great fun and a way of receiving God’s love,” she said. “Meeting with God with other young people is one of my favourite things. Talking to God can give you the freedom you need, because it opens up your heart and gives you confidence and love.”

    For more about High Tide, or to book places on its summer holiday, see: portsmouth.anglican.org/hightide.

    Church of the Good Shepherd (CoGS)

    Crookhorn Lane, Crookhorn, Waterlooville, PO7 5QB

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