Stories of faith in the lives of the CCE family...
Hi Sergey, please could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Sergey, I’m originally from Russia and am here with my lovely wife and son, we have another baby on the way too! I work as a management consultant, helping companies to merge and separate.
How long have you been in England for?
4 years, and in this area for 3 years, I quite like it here!
What do you like about living in London?
London is a nice city, and unlike most of you I like London weather. I also really enjoy meeting lots of people from all over the world.
What do you miss about living in Russia?
Mostly my relatives, I have quite a big family, and my friends.
Please can you tell us a bit about how you became a Christian?
I was born into a Christian family and was at church from when I was very young. But during my teenage years I was really attracted by the fun of the world, and while I wanted to live as a Christian, I was afraid of missing out. It took about 10 years from then to decide to dedicate my life to God. I think from my early 20s I’ve been following Christ and growing.
How does living as a Christian in Russia compare to London?
It’s very similar to London, but being evangelical is unusual as most people would assume you were Orthodox if you said you were a Christian. There is also a scarcity of resources in Russian churches, the pastor usually has to have a normal full time job and be a pastor in his ‘spare time’.
Are there any particular pressures Russian Christians face that we could be praying for?
We’re allowed to meet and praise God, but it’s now hard for Christians to get access to serve in places like prisons, schools, and nursing homes. We’re really thankful though as we’ve had a lot of freedom over the past 30 years which we didn’t have under communism. Please pray that freedom would continue.
What do you do? Where are you from? And how long have you been at CCE?
I grew up in Sheffield, I then went to uni in Nottingham. After graduating I moved down to volunteer at Tearfund and I now work there. Tearfund is a Christian International development organisation. I’ve been there for nearly 3 years. I’ve been at CCE since February 2018.
How did you become a Christian?
I grew up in a Christian family, I went to a small local church until I was a teenager, -the youth group was basically my sisters! So we moved to a bigger church – Fulwood in Sheffield. There was a good youth group there. I struggled with the ‘rules’ side of Christianity. But then on my gap year with Tearfund I studied the book ‘Crazy Love’ by Francis Chan. It was really helpful for realising that the Christian faith is based on God’s love for us and a relationship with Him rather than just doing good things.
As someone fairly new to church, what advice would you give to people who’ve just started coming?
Get stuck in straight away, it’s great to join a small group. I’ve also recently joined a prayer triplet which has been great. Don’t get overwhelmed though, make sure you leave time for your personal time with God & for non-Christian friends.
You are part of a fairly new social action group at church. What are some of your hopes for that group?
We’re still discussing where the needs are greatest in our area. My hopes are we’ll be able to serve the community where is most needed and that we’d be able to show God’s love in action.
Thinking of your life during the week, what are some of the struggles of working for a Christian organisation?
At uni I was adamant not to be in a Christian bubble and I made lots of non-Christian friends. Then at Tearfund, everyone is a Christian! I was worried about being in a bit of a bubble. But I try to make sure that I spend time with non-Christian friends regularly. I also help out with a local girl-guiding group which is a good mix of people.
What are some of the benefits of working for a Christian organisation?
It’s great to be a able to pray through problems at the end of meetings etc. Colleagues have also become life-long friends!
Where are you from?
From South Africa, Cape Town, I grew up on an apple farm there.
What family do you have here?
I’m married to Cristie and we have two young girls
What work do you do?
I’m an accountant – working for a New Zealand firm that builds retirement villages
How did you became a Christian?
I mentioned I grew up on an apple farm – a very solid Christian family lived on the farm next to us. I grew up playing sport with their boys. They were a great Christian influence, and provided me the chance to ask questions & learn things that I wasn’t hearing about at home. I didn’t become a Christian quickly! But when I was about 13, after plenty of arguing and questioning, I finally wanted to no longer be on the losing side of the arguments and I became a Christian
Have you noticed any difference in the challenges facing Christians in SA compared to here?
I think it is slightly harder being a Christian in London, as London is more obviously secular. Christianity is a bit more known in SA, – people have more of a background of it. Here in London, you can engage with someone and they have absolutely no concept of what Christianity is about. Also, people’s need in South Africa is so much more obvious; you have people knocking on your door every day with some kind of need, so there are plenty of obvious ways for Christians to serve practically. Whereas here the need is still there, but you maybe need to dig a bit deeper to see how you can get involved/find out what people’s needs are.
How can we best welcome you and other South Africans at church?
That one’s pretty easy! If you’ve got a braai (a BBQ for the uninitiated) to invite us to, doesn’t matter what time of year! I’d say that Christ Church Earlsfield, is particularly good at this, we’ve felt incredibly welcome from the time we walked in, that’s in direct contrast to how may South Africans/other nationalities find moving to London. For instance, – I went to a dinner party held by a South African couple recently , there were about 10 couples there, and I noticed that everyone was speaking in a South African accent. I asked the host why she didn’t invite other friends, – she said they’d been here over 2 years but had no other friends, she said that relationships at work were friendly but all surface-level, they’d never dream of doing stuff together outside of work. My family and I have had the opposite experience! We really feel like we’re able to share our lives with different people from church/different nationalities. Though it must be hard for the Londoners who have these foreigners move in when you know there’s a good chance that in 5/10 years they’ll move again. Don’t underestimate the effect that your welcome for people moving here, newcomers are far from family, and a support base, – welcoming us really is a massive thing, so well done!
And whereabouts are you from originally?
Born at St Georges’ just down the road – then lived lots of different places
How long have you been at Christ Church Earlsfield for?
About 6 years
And how long have you been a Christian for?
I don’t think I’ve known a time when I haven’t known Jesus, but I remember praying a prayer at camp when about 8, grew in understanding as older.
What helped you to know Jesus from such a young age?
My parents always told me about Jesus & I grew up going to church, which I also needed to as my Dad is a vicar! I also went to other Christian children’s groups.
Looking back, what were some of the benefits of growing up in a Christian family?
It was great to be part of a family where it’s normal to know and love Jesus and not feel judged for it. Things like praying every day around the dinner table were a normal part of life that meant I saw God a reality day-to-day. Mum especially was very gentle and servant-hearted and showed me what it look like to put others first
Can you think of any things that were hard about growing up in a Christian family?
It was hard being the daughter of a vicar and feeling an expectation from others as to how I would/should behave. It was sometimes hard not being allowed to do things that my friends would do, eg. Going to Halloween parties eg going to pubs before 18, drinking heavily. But, having said that, I’d made a commitment to follow Jesus, so didn’t want to do those things either
What there anything else that was particularly hard about having a Dad as a vicar?
At home we see each other as we really are, and none of us are perfect, including vicars! This would show itself particularly when I’d had an argument with Dad at home, and then would have to listen to him talking about God in the sermon afterwards. Also, my sister and I were the only ones at my Dad’s church who were our age for a good number of years, so it was hard not having church friends my own age.
What have you learned about being part of a church family through that experience?
It was good having older Christians to look up to and learn from I really appreciated the grownups being willing to spend time with us kids
I also learned to serve from a young age- things like doing tea and coffee when I was 11, and helping with Sunday School.
It’s been great to have been part of churches where people know each other well and the relationships are genuine. Also where people have a real sense of ownership over the church’s ministry, with everyone willing to get involved in their own way.
Thinking about life outside of church now, how does being a Christian affect your work as an Occupational Therapist?
It’s a compassionate work place, so in that sense Christian character doesn’t make me obviously different, but I want to honour God at work, and ways I particularly try are not joining in with office gossip, and not wasting time.
Also, being an Occupational Therapist means I’m used to seeing areas of people’s lives fall apart all the time, which is a good reminder that things we have here don’t last and that people don’t have perfect lives
And generally as a Christian, what are some of the things that God has been teaching you over the past year or so?
I’ve been growing in seeing that circumstances might not be how I would like them to be, but that God’s purpose for me doesn’t change. I’ve also realised that we easily make our lives about ourselves, so it’s good to know that my circumstances aren’t what defines me, but Who I am in Christ and how I can serve Him.