Life in Vancouver

I’m Going Back to University!

I’m embarking on a new adventure this year – I will be studying for a masters degree! A Master of Arts in Theological Studies with the concentration in World Christianity to be precise.

I wanted to share a bit of the background behind this journey, and take you along for the ride…

It’s not something I ever saw myself doing, but after a while of searching for my next steps in life and career, I really felt like God was moving me in this direction.

Background

9 years ago I visited Vancouver for the first time, and to cut a long story short, it sparked me going to church when I went back to England, and transformed what the next years looked like.

Prior to that, I hadn’t been interested in church, seeing it as a thing my Grandma frequently did, and I did at Easter and Christmas either with school or family. I considered God to be real but found religious practices predictable and – to be frank – boring.

When I went to my Godmother’s church in Vancouver, I saw that my thoughts weren’t all that accurate. The service seemed relevant – the people who filled the room were of all ages, the speaker was engaging, and the music was provided electric guitars and drums…

I returned to Preston after the summer break for my dreaded final year of uni. By this point I wasn’t enjoying my course and no longer wanted to go into that field so was just riding the wave to get the degree, and enjoying hanging out with my housemates and friend from my course in the meantime.

I started going to a church just down the road that had a bunch of students there, really good music, and an engaging pastor who preached from the Bible each week in a really applicable way. I made friends, found a community to belong to and dived into every kind of volunteering I could. I loved it! It really stoked a passion for the church in me, and helped me to build a personal faith and taught me the basics of what being a Christian actually looks like. Having this new found faith really helped to keep my head above water as I struggled through my final year of studying.

A few months after graduating I started working for that church, and stayed working there for five years in many different roles.

My passion for church culture grew, and how it intersects with every day life. I did a year’s study within the church – getting some deeper Bible teaching, and also training in leadership skills, and personal development. I found my voice and started to see what was truly important to me.

Coming to Canada

Ever since that holiday back in 2011, I had a dream and desire to move to Vancouver one day. Something in me always felt like it wasn’t just my dream – but that God had planted it in me. Here I am, 9 years later, writing this from my Vancouver apartment!

The whole story of Tom and I coming to Canada is laced with God’s fingerprints. When I first mentioned to Tom about wanting to move to Canada, he wasn’t interested. When he realised I was serious, he said he’d pray about it – thinking it’d be a cursory prayer and nothing would come of it. But, over time, he came round to the idea.

Then, when it came to applying (a few months after we got married) it turned out we couldn’t apply as a couple, so separately we entered our visa applications into a random drawer – thankfully we were selected in the same batch (for reference: you first get drawn to be in a batch, and then from the batch people are invited to arrive, then once you’re at the border they decide whether you get the visa)!

Before getting the “invitation” to come, we came here on holiday here – Tom still hadn’t visited Vancouver at this point! On our third day here, we were in a small coffee shop with wifi, and whilst checking our phones, found out we had both received emails inviting us to come! So, later in the trip we hired a car and drove around neighbourhoods to get a feel for where we’d like to live.

The following summer we packed up our lives in the UK, and set off. The invitation to come to Canada not being a guarantee of a visa meant it was an incredibly stressful time. We had rented our apartment to friends and loaded all of our things into storage, and didn’t actually know for sure that we could stay once we landed.

After weeks of emotional goodbyes with family, once we were at the airport we felt apprehensive and exhausted. I prayed when we got on the plane that things would go so smoothly at Immigration that we wouldn’t even be asked any questions – that we’d just get the year long visa we applied for and be allowed to leave the airport.

On arrival, we picked up our luggage, went to Immigration with all of our paperwork ready, approached the desk, a lady asked us for our documents, we handed them over, she asked us to confirm what visa we had applied for and then asked us to take a seat. A few minutes later she waved us back up, handed our documents back, and a two year work permit for each of us, and directed us to the exit. No questions. Just a visa for double the time we expected.

Local friends had arranged an apartment for us to stay in for the first few weeks, and we quickly found an amazing, affordable apartment in our top location of interest from our previous trip.

Tom set up to be a self-employed freelancer and I got a job at the same church that had piqued my interest in God all of those years ago.

It definitely seemed like this was exactly where God had been leading me (& now… us!).

Deciding to Study

Since we’ve been here we’ve had lots of very cool opportunities – not just in exploring the local area, but also being involved in local community. Our church is a huge encourager of neighbouring, and we have made it part of our mission too – last summer we hosted a getting to know you event for our building with ice cream – paid for by a grant we got from church.

We’ve also been able to get involved with things like leading the team for planning the church’s annual retreat. And I had the privilege of organising this year’s 24/7 Prayer week for the church, and the women’s Christmas event too.

As our visas have been getting closer to ending, we’ve realised that right now, this is where we want to be, and it seems to be where God wants us too. As we started to think about what the near future might look like, I started thinking about studying for a masters degree.

I want to develop myself personally, spiritually, and theologically. I felt a nudge toward looking into some kind of theological course. Many of my friends are students at Regent, and after meeting and being hugely inspired by my Theologian neighbour Sallie MacFague, I looked at it more seriously.

It feels like a stretch for me, considering how my final year of my undergrad went, but one course really caught my eye, and when I went to Regent College on an Experience Day (where you look around, sit in on a class and meet current and prospective students) I talked with the professor of the course and really wanted to apply. It felt like a great place to study with a strong supportive community element.

I figured – considering everything leading to this point – if it was God leading me to, then I couldn’t ignore it. All I had to do was apply, I wasn’t sure I would get in, but it would be clear to me – if I was accepted then it was the right move. So I sent my application and prayed that whatever the outcome I would see it as God’s call.

And here we go… I was accepted, am enrolled and very excited (and slightly nervous) to be going back to school in September!

Next Steps?

We’re still waiting on visas at the moment. We applied in April, just after receiving my acceptance letter, but this was when everything shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been asked to provide biometrics (finger prints and photos taken at a government office), but the offices are yet to open.

I had hoped to start summer school and get ahead on some classes, but am not allowed to study on my current visa. We’re hoping and praying that the biometrics offices will open in the next couple of months so that my visa can be processed in time for school starting in September. If you are a person of faith, I would love for you to join us in prayer for this!

Thankfully we don’t have to leave the country or stop working when our visas expire as we have another visa in process – we will be on implied status until we hear back on our current application. This means we can continue on the terms of our current work permits and then (hopefully) seamlessly transition onto the new visas. Tom will be able to stay freelancing over the summer and then continue when the new visas kick in.

I’ll post updates here on this blog as they come along!

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