Once an atheist, now a mission pioneer on a new housing development: Fiona Mayne, a first year BA student with CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training, and a pioneer ordinand, told me her story.
HH: Can I ask when you first realised that God was real?
FM: I always thought that the Bible was a collection of fairy tales and nice stories growing up. I didn’t realise it had any basis at all in truth. I was far from God living a materialistic and shallow life as an independent financial adviser, thinking only selfish thoughts about myself, my family and my career. I didn’t believe in God nor did I ever even think about him at all. It was at Sidholme, a Christian Guild hotel in Sidmouth when I was aged 40 when I had a “Damascus” moment. We were sitting around the table at dinner one night discussing faith and in that moment something in my heart changed. I suddenly knew for the first time that God was real. The next day I looked in the mirror and saw a different me. I liked myself for the first time and felt a joy and inner peace that I had never known before. I felt compelled to buy a Bible.
HH: Wow, that sounds amazing. Can I ask what took you to that hotel? And what led up to that moment and how has it changed your life?
FM: As a single parent I was looking for a place to go on holiday with my children. Someone recommended a Christian hotel as they said it would be a friendly safe place to go to. I went with trepidation despite being an atheist. The people there were kind and friendly and didn’t try to force God on me so I needn’t have worried. I went on a few of these trips. I still go to Sidholme every summer now as it is such a special place for me as it is where I became a Christian.
I had read a book many years earlier than the Sidholme experience. It was an autobiography by Dave Jeal who is now chaplain of Bristol Rovers and vicar of St James’s Church, Lockleaze, Bristol. I knew him as I trained doing martial arts with him and I bought a copy of his book at that time. It told his own personal story about how he used to be a football hooligan and how God had dramatically turned up in his life and turned it around for the better. Following my own experience of finding God at Sidholme it reminded me of the book and I still had it on my bookshelf. Inside I found written the prayer to say if I wanted to accept God into my life. Which said simply:
I know that I need and want you in my life. l am sorry for the bad things that have done and I turn to you and want to follow you and for you to be Lord of my Life. Please fill me with your holy spirit and give me the strength to follow you.
FM: I prayed this prayer privately on my own with God. I said sorry to God for all the bad things I had done and felt a massive relief and a clean fresh page which was my future. I was able to cast off all the shame of my past and leave my baggage with him. It was liberating. The book also had an email address to contact Dave to find a local church. I did this and found one and also went on Alpha.
HH: When did you first feel a call to ministry and how did you realise you were a Pioneer?
FM: Just three months after first finding God I felt I was being called to ordination. I knew I had experiences and things to share that God could use. I knew I was a pioneer because I didn’t fit into the usual mould and also I felt very much like a bridge between the church and the community. I often found myself acting as a kind of ambassador for the church and for the community. A middle man or person I suppose you could say!
HH: Can you tell us about some of the challenges along the way and also how your family have been supportive?
FM: It has been hard to leave my job and my home and move to a new housing estate, and financially I am a lot worse off, but it has been worth it as I realised that money was not making me happy. I feel as if there is real purpose to my life now and I have never been happier. My family and friends have been so encouraging and supportive and they have been inspired by the change in me. I am calmer, better at parenting, more patient, more generous, happier and less selfish. People around me have witnessed a transformation in my life and what a positive impact God has had on it.
HH: What was it brought you to the Pioneer course at CMS and what have your experiences of the course been so far?
FM: I heard about CMS when I was researching Pioneer courses. CMS is an outstanding place to learn and meet other like-minded people. I feel fully understood and supported. As a Pioneer I don’t think there is anywhere else I personally could even consider wanting to go. I have made some amazing friends and look forward to studying here for the next three years.
HH: Lastly, what does the future hold for you and how can we pray for you?
FM: It is very exciting. I am working on a new housing estate called Haywood Village in Weston-super-Mare leading a church plant there. I currently run a cafe called Take 5 as well as Tea and Toast Church, which is a cafe style church, and we are now looking at doing detached youth work. My role is simply to make God relevant there. Far from being a village even though it is called Haywood Village, once completed it will be a huge place. Every week I see new houses going up. The challenge for me is to gather everyone in and make it a loving community with God at the heart of it. Prayers would be appreciated for how we can make God real to the people there in a way that is meaningful to them.
Please do pray for Fiona and her courageous heart to do new things.