When I applied onto the program I was stuck in no mans land. With a Christian upbringing that had shaped my identity, but had since been paired with a lack of enthusiasm to pursue Christian living and a refusal to be obedient in following Jesus, my faith was dead in the water. I could never get Jesus out of my head but I didn’t know him well and, because of this, I didn’t love him or follow him. I lived a life of halves – not knowing the fullness of what God had for me, and therefore putting other priorities ahead of him. We lost touch and I lost enthusiasm for my own life too.
At the time of application my friends were baffled. “Why on earth do you want to go there?!”. Meanwhile my family was overjoyed, knowing what the village had in store for me. Naively, I fumbled my way through the LIV4Change application, and interview, and by God’s grace I was accepted!
If you’ve ever taken an ice cold shower (if you’re applying onto the program and you haven’t yet, don’t worry if you don’t understand the following analogy. A future at the village will provide lots of ice cold shower experiences!), you have a choice when the water comes on; you try and hide from it, you make a huge fuss, and you get out, partially wet, completely cold and looking a bit silly. Or, you stay in, you embrace the freezing water, you try to shower as usual and eventually you adjust, getting out clean (and looking super manly).
After arriving onto the village, I had a similar choice to make. It shocked my system, an environment and a culture that is whole-heartedly devoted to pursuing Jesus Christ in everything it does. From how the children are raised, to how chairs are set out for church, to how you will be discipled and nurtured, to how you clean your LIV4Change accommodation. It is incredible, but it was different to me at the time. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I stayed in the shower, I saw it through and I adjusted. But more than adjusted, I began to like cold showers more than hot showers. The program changed my life, and I will be forever grateful to the leaders of the program for this.
You will have so much fun on your gap year. You will laugh and probably wet your pants at least once, you will meet beautiful children, you will foster great friendships with staff and older teenagers on the village, you will learn how to speak some Zulu, you will always be the worst dancer in an African church service (but you will love it even if you are), you will get horrifically sunburnt at least once, you will have the opportunity to hear amazing stories every day, you will see God move powerfully, you will make great friends, you will probably make lots of mistakes but you will learn so much.
But above all these things, LIV4Change is devoted to Jesus Christ. The six months you spend there will change your perception of yourself, other people and your Heavenly Father. You will begin to see as he sees, and because of this you will start to give like he gives, forgive like he forgives, honour as he honours, rejoice as he rejoices and love how he loves.
I suspect two types of people will be reading this:
Category A: you are on fire for Jesus, you already know him well and you want to see more of him. You’ve heard about LIV and you think this would be a good place to go deeper. LIV4Change is for you; you will have excellent discipleship and mentoring during your six months on the village. You will grow in the gifts that God has given you and you will learn so much more about yourself, others and Him. Go for it. You will not regret it, and if you don’t, ask for my address and you can come and beat me up.
Category B: you are my favourite category (but don’t tell category A). You would say you’re luke-warm for Jesus. You’re not so sure, but you know there is so much more and you’re teetering on the edge of pursuing this faith thing further. Or perhaps you’re not a believer at all. Going on a six month gap year is a risk – a big risk – but the reward is indescribable. Jesus calls you from the shore; you have an opportunity to apply, potentially be accepted and spend six months starting to follow this voice. Follow the call and it will be the best decision you will ever make. If Jesus tells you to go somewhere else, go there instead – just follow the call!
I came to LIV Village chasing an idea that there was a man called Jesus Christ, who restored the lives of broken children from backgrounds of abuse and neglect, through his love for them. Never did I think that I would witness the same redemptive power of his unstoppable, uncontrolled and undeserved love in my own life too. It turns out that it’s not just the cute little kids that he cares about. You have a Father in heaven who loves you more than you could ever imagine. The LIV gap year pursues Jesus, if you like the sound of that, do it, basically.
Have an open mind and a soft heart and he will raise you up and release you as a star too.
P.S. I am jealous of you. I wish I could do it all again