Roffey Place had opened it’s doors to students the previous year and our friends John and Scylla Bridger and Dave ‘The Rave’ were already studying there, so we at least had someone to show us the ropes. We didn’t know quite what to expect but by the end of the first week we were wondering if we had joined a cult. It was just so intense. We had been to the ‘Faith Camp’ that the fellowship ran the previous year, but at least at the end of the week, you got to go home. Here it never stopped. From the early morning praise and prayer meeting at 6.30am (optional), then to the regular 9.15am prayer meeting, morning lectures, afternoon small groups or work parties and occasional evening meetings, it was full on. After a few weeks we got into the lifestyle and enjoyed it. We initially lived in a room on the girls corridor as they had a limited number of double rooms, and even limited number of double beds – we brought our own bed settee and slept on that.
Whilst the course taught the Bible, Church History, Theology and so on, the main emphasis was on spending time with God and discerning where God was leading you. Many of the students were much like ourselves, at a crossroad in life and wanting direction for the future. I had pretty much come to the conclusion that my future wasn’t in Graphic Design, but was expecting to find a way for Donna and I to travel, (especially since we didn’t have children!) perhaps back to Africa, and as part of that I had to figure out whether I needed to retrain in some other skill.
With about 50 students, living in community definitely had pros and cons. On the negative side, because it was a spiritual hot house or melting pot where everyones motives, desires and spiritual inclinations were laid bare, it resulted in everyone knowing everything about everyone else. On the positive side, the quality of relationships was of a level I had never experienced, since we were all in the same boat of trusting God for our finances, and not knowing what the future held.
God’s provision came in all sorts of ways. On top of support that we had received from friends at Redhill, we often received ‘one off’ gifts from the strangest of places. On one particular occasion someone left some jewellery on our bed by way of a gift. We had great fun going to the lanes in Brighton and selling it, haggling over the price we could get for it.
People came from all sorts of backgrounds. At one point we had a former member of the CID and an ex-offender, who ‘knew’ each other in their former lives. One student was a former captain of a nuclear submarine, who had spent most of his career chasing Russian submarines under the polar ice cap. Some like Chrissie Chapman, had amazing testimonies of physical healing from a wheelchair. Others like David Ndarahutse had somehow escaped the genocide in Rwanda and was destined to become a peacemaker and Bishop in that country.
Two major outcomes
The year resulted in two major outcomes. The first was that quite unexpectedly Donna became pregnant.
Discovering that Donna was pregnant was an enormous shock to both of us in different ways. For Donna, who didn’t want children at this point, this meant giving up on the midwifery course that she had postponed in Leeds and not going into midwifery at all likelihood. For me, I couldn’t see how things could work out, since our flat in Reigate that we had let out, required two incomes to pay the mortgage. The pregnancy test took an hour in those days, and that was the longest hour of my life. I went for a walk and talked out loud to God. Instinctively I felt that I should read my Bible which fell open to Isaiah 9, verses 1 – 9, which include these words.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
I knew it was going to be alright – somehow!
The second outcome was that shortly after this, I was asked by Bob Gordon, the principle, to join the staff and help him with the Graphic Design for his new project “The King’s Coach”. We were given a self contained two bedroom flat in the college, with a small room for a nursery and it turned out that the college was going to be a good place to have a baby, since there was always help on hand and meals available in the canteen if Donna couldn’t face cooking.