From being scared of God and meeting her fiancé on Alpha, this is what Claire had to say 2 days before she married Nick.
Growing up in a Catholic home, faith was very scary to me, I felt like I was in trouble all the time so as a teenager I just thought God was a scary thing. I didn't think faith was a relationship thing, I thought of faith as a set of rules. My amazing parents tried to do all the right things, but I was very rebellious about that for a long time.
I grew up too fast, I had a baby when I was 21.I lost my mum when I was 15 and so I took on upon myself a motherly role from a very young age. I didn't lean on him through all of that responsibility and so I very quickly became rebellious. I didn't know who I was, I didn't really know what my purpose was. Although on the outside it seemed like I was getting on fine but on the inside I wasn't, but through finding faith I was able to find structure, peace and purpose.
My precious grandmother invited me to Alpha. She had been praying for me for many years and had been watching this downward spiral. She had always spoken openly to me about the fact that I had to really make some choices in my life. She was like a mother figure to me after losing my mum and I would always tell her that that I was fine, because I really thought that I was fine although I knew something deep inside of me was not right. Alpha started at the Catholic Church in Durban North at Fatima, so I agreed to go. I was quite excited because I got to spend 9 weeks with my grandmother because she is just amazing and actually at times I felt that I didn't need God because I had her. The experiences that I thought I would experience with God, I felt I was experiencing them with her, so I thought that was enough.
I was totally blown away by what I experienced on Alpha because I was not expecting to have that relationship with someone or something I've never met or seen. I don't know what to expect, I was just expecting to make my gran happy.
I was ready to leave my husband but I was not sure what to do because I grew up in a Catholic home and divorce was not really an option. So I was hoping for God to give me a sign that leaving was okay, because I could not carry on that way, it was breaking me down too much. It was leading to so many bad choices and I said “ok” if you give me a sign, I will try this whole “God thing”.
My experience on Alpha was amazing, I honestly did not expect to have such an amazing experience. I have never ever known such love and freedom like that in my life, to just be at peace and that for me was amazing. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I just knew that it was going to be okay. There was such an amazing sense of peace, I don't know how to put it into words and this was all on the weekend away.
I still had many awful downward moments after my first Alpha.
I felt like my friendship with my fiance, Nick, God kept my blinkers on, in terms of keeping our feelings towards each other platonic which helped us to build a strong foundation. I had done 4 consecutive Alphas because I was looking for that kind of space where I could feel the way that I felt the first time I did Alpha. Michelle, who was the Alpha coordinator at Grace said that I can’t keep doing Alpha as a guest and suggested I come back as a leader and I said ok “I'm ready”, and that's the Alpha where Nick and I met for the first time and since then we're currently leading the 4th Alpha together.
Alpha has been such an amazing tool to connect with people. I still feel so juvenile around this faith stuff, I don't know my Bible that well, but I know the relationship that I have with God. I feel so loved and free and I am not letting my past define who I am. Alpha is a tool that just puts faith in simple terms where people who may be afraid of this “God thing” can explore faith. It’s the love that you feel, not just from the leaders on Alpha, it’s the entire structure, the videos and obviously the weekend away. I realise that I have never done anything else in my life that has ever made me feel this way and I feel this way each and every time I lead on Alpha. God can change your life and God is using Alpha to change people's lives.
Grace Family Church, Durban