For those that don’t know me, my name is Mark Chalinder; I am 50 years old; I’ve been married to Lynn for nearly 10 years; I’m step-dad to Jacob; and I’ve been coming to Hope for the last 4 months.
Before that, I had what I would describe as a very distant relationship with church for all of my adult life. As a child I went to church regularly, I attended Sunday school and at around the age of 13 I was confirmed. But as I became older I chose not to attend church and focused on work instead. I was probably not dissimilar to many others of my age in that I sought the materialistic things in life although I didn’t recognise that at the time. But the materialistic things didn’t provide long-term fulfilment.
When I met Lynn her life was different to mine; she did go to Church regularly. I remember her asking me if I believed in God and my response was “Yes, Absolutely” but I don’t think she realised how challenging it would be to get me to go to church. I attended intermittently, and was invited along to Church events, but for whatever reason I didn’t commit to going regularly.
Then last year, after Lynn and Jacob had attended Hope for about 6 months, Lynn came home with a leaflet for the Weekend Retreat at Brunel Manor; and she asked if I wanted to come along, both Lynn and Jacob were going to go. I said yes, not expecting it to be any different to church events I’d been to before.
So 4 months ago, on Friday 23rd October we went along. Many of you were there too; and as you know I spent a lot of time listening from the back of the room. Well the weekend finished without incident, and I didn’t give it much more thought … except that in the following days I had a feeling that I couldn’t dismiss; and that was to dust off the Bible that Lynn had given me nearly 10 years earlier and start to read it.
And that’s what I did. And the more I read, the more I wanted to read. I was actually looking forward to the next time I could sit down quietly and read.
I started coming along to Hope on Sundays, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than me when one Sunday, when Lynn was unwell, I came on my own. I remember sitting at the kitchen table at home thinking should I go? And I remember knowing that I would regret it if I didn’t.
I started praying again, and just like the reading the more I prayed the more I wanted to pray. It was then I realised that I needed to say sorry to God for all the wrong things I’ve done, and for keeping God at a distance for so many years. So I prayed for Jesus to come into my life; I prayed to receive the Holy Spirit; and I prayed for forgiveness. The more I pray for forgiveness the more I am reminded what I need forgiveness for.
Then on 15th January I was reading a Prayer of Commitment from a book that Andrew had given me, and I asked Jesus to take my sins off me; I handed them over and I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders, a sense of finding what I had been searching for.
Earlier this month I was reading daily Bible Study Notes that Tom had lent me, although they were nearly 2 years old, but the prayer for that day struck home. It was “Today, may my boast be only in you Lord. Enlarge my faith that I might grasp that you are the God of the impossible.” So that evening I contacted Andrew and told him that I’d like to take the next step and be baptised.
Before the 23rd October I’d have thought that all of this was impossible, but here I am. I don’t want to live the way I used to; I don’t want to do things my way anymore; I want my life to be changed going forward. I am sorry for the things I’ve done in the past and I want to have a new start.
During the week, I work with children from 3 months to 4 years of age. I also have started to help out with Bubbles and Splash children’s groups here at Hope.
Since I can remember church has been part of my life. Growing up with a mother who worked for St. Matthews church at Elburton, I was always around there and felt at home. There have been a few times I would say have been steps toward my faith with God, starting when I was around 8 and I had been to a panto and came back and cried to my mum ‘I don’t want die like Snow White’. Mum then told me that if I loved God I wouldn’t just die I would be with him so we prayed that I would understand his love.
As I got a little bit older, I started to question my faith and if I wanted to commit my life fully as I had a better understanding of God’s love, but never found the right time as I would find an excuse to why I shouldn’t.
When I was 13 I went on a camp with the church and there whilst singing In Christ alone I realised I couldn’t keep ignoring him anymore, so I committed my life to God, with help of a friend, as I was crying too much!
So the years went on. I would go to church, go to bible study, and say to people at school “yes I’m a Christian”. I felt like I was following God’s word, but when my life came crashing down around me in 2014 things changed.
Finding out my mum had cancer, I quickly pushed God away and stopped going to church and bible study, but prayed when nothing else worked. In 6 months I went from thinking I know and love this God, and have a perfect life …… to losing my mum and feeling disappointed in God how he could let this happen to someone who loves him so much.
I began to think about church again some time later, when a friend of my mum suggested Hope Baptist and so I came along and I felt the love of God around me straight away. I decided early on that I wouldn’t get baptised because mum wasn’t here to see it.
I have recently come to terms with this. It has got nothing to do with my mum, even if she was here, it’s between God and me…our relationship. Mum can see it from wherever she is.
From then on I decided I would come back to church but not to my old church because it was too hard seeing everyone. Looking back over those 6 months I would say I still went to God when nothing was going right and He gave me a strength I couldn’t have found within myself. I began to love God again with loving friends and new friends I have made here.
So here I am 18 months later. I now know I have a relationship with Christ that is better, stronger and mine.
If I have any worries I talk to the Lord and I trust in him to support me in the way He has in the last year and a half. I don’t understand everything but can only see that through His work that I have changed so much.
So the reason why I feel baptism is right for me, is I want to declare publicly my love for God, and make a fresh start with Him. I don’t know what the future holds, but I just want to follow what He has planned for me.