#iamRefuge: Stu

A whitewashed tomb

I spent most of my teenage years looking for fun, love, happiness and acceptance in all the wrong places. I threw myself into sport, music, partying, drinking and whatever else I could because I was desperately looking for those things.

I grew up in a Christian family, and decided to follow Jesus when I was 8. But things changed after a few years. My heart grew cold and I walked away from God. For me it was more important to be playing for the 1st XV every weekend, or listening to the right music, or being at the right parties, drinking the right booze with the right people—anything was more important than having a relationship with God.

And everything in my life looked great from the outside, but inside I was a mess. A whitewashed tomb, Jesus might have called me. I’d never felt so empty or alone. I was utterly despondent.

back from the brink

And yet, that’s when Jesus brought me back from the brink. It was like He pulled me out of a dark pit, out of despair and darkness and loneliness. Out of the never ending fight for approval and acceptance. And He brought me home. He saved me.

Now I live in the love and forgiveness and freedom of a new life with God. Now I’ve got peace and joy that I never found anywhere else; and it’s all because of Jesus.

how did you come to be part of Refuge?

In 2011, a mutual friend hooked me up with the family who were about to come here to plant Refuge. The rest, as they say, is history...

What are some of the things you think are really great about Refuge?

This sounds like a cliche, but Refuge is like a big family to me. That’s one of the things we major on at church, and its one of the things I’ve always been blessed to have before. Refuge is a church where, just like in the best families, you can be yourself. You don’t have to put on a show and pretend you’ve got it all together. You don’t have to be like anyone else—you can just be you, and make your mistakes, and it’s ok because you have people around who still love you despite all that. You have a family who help you see Jesus in the midst of all the good and bad stuff in your life. That’s what I love about Refuge...

How are you involved in life at Refuge?

My wife Fiona and I were part of the original team of 6 people who planted Refuge. Pretty early on in that process I took on leading worship when we gathered, and I’m still doing that. I love being able to use my guitar and voice to just bless our church and to worship Jesus by singing to Him and for Him and about him. I’ve just become an elder in the church, and Fiona and I lead a community group in the East End, where we live.

what about Refuge encourages your faith?

Honestly, just seeing everyone muck in and serve together. Every week I look around at this total random group of people we call our church family, and I think “No way would we get this group together anywhere else!” There are people from every walk of life, with countless stories and experiences, and all with our own baggage; and yet we’re all there in that moment serving Jesus together. The fact that our people love God and each other so much that they’ll rock up early to carry round heavy gear, or make hundreds of cups of coffee, or set out our chairs properly so everyone is comfy and fits in…and it’s all for God. That’s good for my heart.

If you could tell anyone Just one thing about Refuge?

I’d say that you should know that you’re welcome at Refuge. If you think you have this whole God thing figured out, or you’re just a bit all over the place with it. If you’re old or young, if you’re hipster or as square as they come, you’ll find a family who will love you, and care for you, and help you, and pray for you. I think we all need a bit of that sometimes.