Andy Wilson, Lead Evangelist, Gloucester and Forest Centre of Mission shares his faith story in our #OneDiocese blog
“At the age of 9, many kids will not necessarily have thought about what life may hold for them, but for me losing my eyesight to a disease called retinoblastoma, would mean there would be some very big life changes ahead.
“Growing up in a Methodist church in Northern Ireland, living with my parents and sister, life was as it would be for many kids that age. My loss of sight meant that 2 years later I left Northern Ireland, to have the best opportunity of education and went to a boarding school in Worcester. The Irish were not popular in England in the ’80s, and so I was picked on by some of the staff, and also abused by older pupils at the school. I concluded quickly that God could not exist, or why would he let these things happen?
“In my early 20’s, having made it through school, and to uni, I went to stay with some friends, who actually turned out not to be friends at all, and I was thrown out in the middle of the night. Sitting on the Cathedral walls in Worcester, I challenged God that if he existed I wouldn’t sleep on the streets. A police car stopped soon after I spoke these words, (not what I had in mind), but he took me to a friend’s house, and I slept in a bed that night, and I knew from that moment I could not turn away from God.
“I spent 25 years in youth ministry, helping young people know they had a purpose, value, and they were worth so much and helping them know God loves them. I was also part of a team that pioneered a new community on an estate where we lived. I learnt so much from those people we journeyed with.
“Getting married, and having kids was something I never thought would happen to me.
I never really felt I would be worth loving much, or even for someone to spend the rest of their life with.
“I have now been married to Emma for 19 years and she gave up so much with her 6-year-old daughter to say yes to me, and join me on the adventure that God had in store for us. Grace was born a year after we were married, and so I have lived being the only man in the household.
“Moving to Gloucester in 2019, was a totally obedient action on our behalf, to do what we felt God was asking of us. It was not straightforward. Grace was settled at school, Emma had a successful job, and I led a youth charity and was part of the leadership of a growing church. But I always knew that my call was to enable those who did not know Jesus to know that he knew them, and loved them. And so the opportunity came, through my training with the Church Army to come to Gloucester, pioneer something new in Matson, and support and encourage pioneering across the diocese.
“Pioneering will not be the answer to everything, or to everyone, but it may just help us as the Church think about what it really means to go, be with, journey with people and see what God is doing. That is my hope in being here, supporting and encouraging others, and my biggest heart’s desire, in the midst of all of that, (as well as seeing Man United win the Premiership again, and to enjoy another U2 gig!) is to see more and more people across this region, know what it truly means to be loved by God and journey in following Jesus in community with others.”