Look back to my gap year in Adelaide
I can’t remember when exactly it was, but I think it was around this week last year. It was in the late February 2017 when I went back to Adelaide for a half-a-year gap year before I officially begin university in the UK. I remember that I wasn’t sure of where I was heading in life, but I sort of decided to accept the offer from the UK and to start university in September that year (long story short). I knew I left some room for changes of plan, just in case.
Basically, I had a gap for about nine months before university started in September, so I decided to go back to Adelaide for a large part of my gap year in spite of the many other options I had. For many reasons, it was never the path I thought I would take. For I clearly remember that just a month before I departed for Australia, I promised not to go back to Adelaide ever again. Things always change. So, there I was, packing my stuff and getting ready for Adelaide again, and that was the longest time I was away from home.
It was a mixed feeling right now looking back to the journey, it was only a year ago, yet it feels like a long time ago. Sometimes, I sat down and I was still overwhelmed by how much had happened in a year. Unbelievable.
Spending a gap year in only one place doesn’t seem to be the brightest idea when compared to how other people spend theirs – volunteering in many places, several work experiences, or setting footprints on the other side of the globe. Nonetheless, it was everything I ever wanted in a gap year – I took a break, and then I started off again. I had some rest, and I felt refreshed.
(I paused for 20 seconds after I finished the last sentence just to wipe my tears away. I have no idea how my tears just started streaming down my face, I could not think of any reason but of standing in awe of God’s faithfulness.)
I do not have a particularly good memory bank, and I am serious. I am very forgetful of the details of events, and I get really frustrated about that. But I remember some pieces of memory here and there, and now I try to recall the time when I was about to make up my mind.
As I was about to wrap up my decision, I prayed to God. Making a decision of where and how to spend a gap year doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but it was a big decision for me personally. I prayed to God the whole time since I graduated from high school in Adelaide. I wanted God to give me the most suitable answer from all the options I had, I wanted Him to tell me exactly where I should go. As time went by, going back to Adelaide came to me as a natural decision, everything seemed to work well together, and I took all these indications as an approval from God. In addition, I am forever grateful for the support my family gives me, for it occurred to be a natural and suitable decision for them as well. I remember praying to God to help fix all of my relationships, to help me with my friendships, and to grow my relationship with Jesus deeper. I just wanted to go to a place where God can do all these “fine adjustments” for me, and I felt the urge to face these challenges.
Today isn’t the first time I reflect upon God’s work in my gap year. When I was about to leave Adelaide, and conclude my long holiday, I could already see that God was fulfilling His promises that He put in my prayers. He fixed a lot of, or I should say, all of my relationships. My friendships got challenged, but God brought them to a place they never were. During my time in Adelaide, I established relationships with my church friends like never before, and they have become my best friends in life ever since. How could you say that God doesn’t work in our lives? During that half a year, I experienced God so significantly, so personally, so miraculously. One thing that I learnt from my personal encounter with Jesus was that He is true to His word. He is a God who plans, who fulfils. This is probably the reason why I am so touched and deeply moved when I think of His faithfulness.
I didn’t intend to write this blog post for the purpose of recording every single detail that happened in my gap year, or it would never end. I am here to look back and be the most grateful I can be. Too much had happened in that half a year that I would never, and I could never forget. Never had I experienced the love so deeply and so genuinely, both from God and people. Never had I felt so loved and undeserved of everything God has given me. Never had I got surrounded by the entire fellowship to pray for me, and got hands laid on me to pray for me by everyone in the Connect Group. Speaking of the Connect Group, it was another gift God has given me. I never take the credit for initiating a home group, because I know it was God who placed the seed in my heart and He who built us up. Connect group was a home group of around 10 to 14 people coming from the massive fellowship in the church, we came together for a deeper and more personal bonding in Christ. I will never forget the time when we sat in a circle to eat, to worship, to listen, to share each other’s burden, to know each other in a whole new different way, and most importantly, to pray together. As these pictures flash out in my head, I can almost imagine God being present in the midst of us, as if He was just sitting in the middle of the circle, being so close to each of us.
In my gap year, I went to university to study Journalism. I have to admit that I wasn’t very committed at all, so I perceived it as a short course rather than a degree. I got to catch up with many old friends, and I went back to my high school as a tutor to my younger friend. I joined Bible Study Fellowship, it happened every Monday night, and I still remember going to my friend’s home for supper, and of course, to sleep over. There were many sleepovers that I couldn’t possibly count, and many late-night conversations as well. I served in the worship team of my fellowship, where I learnt so much from people who are so passionate to serve the LORD with their talents in music. I was very happy to participate in the worship team of Easter camp with the English Youths. I knew those people from Tuesday Night Bible Study back when I was in Year 11, and they were truly awesome. I always felt home when I was with them, and I am so glad to be able to study the Bible with a group of people who loves God so much and are so eager to know His word. I also went to the annual Winter Camp with the Cantonese Youth, which was the fellowship I spent most of my time at, and the camp was definitely one of the most memorable pieces of all. Looking back, church-life occupied most of my time in my gap year, and I felt so spiritually and emotionally strengthened through all of it. During that time, I was exposed to different ways to look at Jesus. Sometimes in a bible study setting, sometimes in a worship setting, and mostly in everyday life setting. I went to both Chinese speaking church, and Influencers Church, an English speaking Australian church. Both churches helped me to see God in a wider perspective and helped me to grow in faith.
I miss the time when I get to go to church with a bunch of my friends. Now that I came to the UK, I have realized that it doesn’t always happen, and it is by the grace of God that people get to have a group of friends to go to church together, to have a community binding brothers and sisters together. The days when I wake up before the sunrise to prepare myself for morning Sunday service in Influencers Church City campus (I spare 1 hour to travel from where I live to the city), the days when I get to enjoy the sceneries while I hop on the train in early morning and in anticipation to see the people I know. The days when I finish off a week by attending Friday Night Worship in Influencers Church Paradise campus and go home feeling all pumped up and smelling like a barbecue sausage (what is better than having barbecue sausage after an evening service?). The days when I get to have lunch and hang around in the city with friends right after fellowship on Saturday. Friday night, and then Saturday morning, and then Sunday the entire day. Weeks by weeks, months by months … 6 months were just a blink of an eye.
It was a summer I would never forget. I remember laying my head next to the window for some cool air on a hot summer night. I remember looking out of my window seeing cars running towards different destinations during the daytime, and staring at the traffic lights standing at the centre of the crossroad in the middle of the night. I remember accidentally falling asleep while the sun goes down and opening my eyes to catch the last glimpse of the sunset. Pink skies, and yellow shadows resting against the wall. These are only the small and delicate moments, I remember a lot more, such as walking through the Rundle Mall when there was no one, looking up to the sky while I browsed at the Fringe Festival, having late night feasting when I lived with a dear friend during the last few months, listening to the sound of the railway while the train passed through the beautiful plains and suburbs, listening to songs when I had some time alone in my room, and falling asleep with an opened Bible next to me.
Sometimes I listen to the songs that I used to listen whilst I was there, and I can still feel myself living in that reality. (I shared a song below) – enjoying the breeze when I laid my head next to the window by my bedside. These scenes can never fade away.
I would call those times gold and special. They are like an album, like a category that I set aside from all the other memories I had in my life. As I flip through the album, there is so much content, and each page is unique in its own way. These pages make me smile spontaneously when they randomly cross my mind, I would literally just take a break from what I was doing and go over that piece of memory. I have some important pictures printed and pinned onto the pinboard in front of my desk here, so whenever I look up from my desk, I see this wall of memories. I have this photo taken at the airport when many of my friends were seeing me off at the gate in the airport, if I could only have one photo up on the pinboard, it would be this one. This photo doesn’t only remind me of that particular morning when I hugged and waved everyone goodbye, but the entire week of farewell gatherings and just being immersed in love. I remember that crazy last week when we basically spent every single day with the same group of people as if I was somehow stuffing up my last memory of Adelaide with these people. God was gracious. It doesn’t only take the farewell week for me to say that, for He has been gracious since the day I arrived in Adelaide (be it the day I first arrived in Adelaide or the day I went back for a gap year). He has been way too good to me to give me so many moments to remember for a lifetime. He has been way too generous to pour so much love on me and everyone around me. He has been way too kind to comfort me and my friends during the hard times, in those nights where there seemed to be only endless crying. He let me experience Him like never before, He opened my eyes to see His wonderful works.
I was always thinking about one thing when I was in Adelaide, which I started thinking about since the day I arrived in Adelaide. “What is God’s purpose of sending me back in Adelaide for a gap year?”. I couldn’t give a clear answer to that question, so I attempted some answers to the question when I look back to a certain event that happened during that time. When I was serving in camps, I was thinking, “this is probably one of the reasons He sends me back”, and while I was doing another thing, I thought that might be a potential reason. I can never know the thoughts of God, for His thoughts are always higher than mine. I still think about the same question a year later, when my gap year is already over. I never seemed to be able to reach the answer to such question. But I think I get a new answer today, right at this moment.
I tried so hard to look for the answer in everything that happened in that half a year, yet I couldn’t be sure of it. But now I think I am grasping a new understanding of His purpose when I stop searching for it inside that period of time. I was defeated by a lot of tough moments outside (after) my gap year, it was a very difficult time for me when I first arrived at St Andrews for my first year in university. It was a very tough, very disheartening beginning. I felt so discouraged and desperate. You can probably tell from the previous paragraphs, that every piece of that gap year has a huge significance to me, how vividly they still appear in my head and how dearly I miss them. Maybe all these memories are made to be a golden period of time that shines in my heart. They are made to be the little angels around me, like the lampposts along the long long road. God has handmade all these memories to be a reminder for me, that when I feel despair, I shall not forget these moments as a sign of His faithfulness. In my hardest days, I can look at these pictures and be taken right back to that moment. God gave me a gap year in Adelaide so I could create those memories. Those memories were captured in photos so that I can be reminded of these amazing times I had with whom I love.
Maybe, just maybe, it all happened, so that whenever I go through difficult times in life, I can have the confidence, the evidence, the experience, and the faith to believe and to declare that – If God loved me so dearly to allow those moments to happen last year, He must love me the same this year; If God did not forsake me nor fail me there, He will not do that to me here; If God led me through the impossible deep water and dark valley once, He will do that twice; If God had been so faithful to me in the past, He must be the same today and forever.
“No eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9
I think God prepared for me.
☾ peace, peeps. ☾
ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν.
God is love.
Here is one of the most significant songs to me, one of those songs which takes me right back to the time in Adelaide and makes me feel like as if I was there.
O “Fly On” – Coldplay