I finished the challenge on Friday night and on Saturday I jetted off for the weekend to Aberystwyth.
Now this weekend was exciting for a number of reasons:
You may remember I was in Aberystwyth last year too (you can read about it here), as every year on this bank holiday weekend the cricket club gathers for a graduates vs current students tournament. It's always great to catch up with how everyone past and present is getting on - the nights out make for great banter. This year we played a brilliant game involving a 10p, a body part, and a pint glass.
As well as seeing those guys, I also managed to catch up with lots of people who I knew from various sports teams who were visiting for the annual Rugby 7's Tournament. This was great as a number of people I hadn't seen since I left Aber 2 years ago. It's so weird to all be back in the same place but a couple years on and to hear what people are doing! Great to catch up though.
Also this weekend a number of my friends from Christian Union were back in Aber because the Rector of one of the Churches was celebrating 25 years in ministry at St Michael's Church. Stuart and Pru Bell are total winners - they have been people who massively influenced me while I was at university in terms of my understanding of God's word and how to live a life that is pointing to Jesus. The Church had organised a weekend of surprises and it was massive fun getting to be a part of it.
Finally I was able to catch up with the congregation at the main Church I went to at uni - Elim Christian Fellowship. This was brilliant for me as since I have left the Church has gained a new pastor and it was great to see how the Church is growing and that God is moving really powerfully.
I guess going back to Aberystwyth has always been something that I have loved because I still know people there. Especially on weekends like this where lots of people are back at the same time, it can make it feel as if nothing much has changed. I think I had a realisation over the weekend that Aberystwyth has been my "safe place" - it's a place I was massively blessed by throughout my student days and I have fond (fond isn't strong enough but I can't think of a better word) memories of the people and places around here.
I feel like every time I visit God seems to speak to me more clearly than any where else. I don't know if that's because the pace of life is generally slower with more time for listening, or because I am stuck on a train for a long time and so have little else to do. But I know that I am always super blessed by my time and that God seems to refresh me.
I guess this trip was a little scary as Stuart announced his retirement at the end of the summer. Firstly to me that was scary because Stu and Pru have been solid people who I have looked up to and respected massively - the idea that they are retiring is unsettling, what if their replacement is rubbish?! This will also have an implication on who goes back to visit as a number of my friends are people who attended that Church and so might not be so inclined to go now. Things change, life moves on. I don't know whether Aber will always be my safe place or if it was just for a season, I just know I have appreciated it so much.
Up until now Aberystwyth has been one place where I just experience God through creation and hopefully that won't change - the sea, the mountains, the beautiful countryside. I have loved it! I still do. I know I'll be back next year - we'll see what's changed by then.
ps. I was practising my photo taking skills - Nom/Malc have they improved yet?