My XP2017 Ross Gilmore
So, another year of Xpression has come and gone. The blue t-shirts neatly folded away, the gardening equipment put in the shed, and all of us back the everyday life. I myself have returned to my normal day to day activities, attending Portadown College, training for and playing rugby, and heading to CE on a Saturday night. The ‘holy high’ has well and truly passed, but it doesn’t mean to say nothing has changed. It doesn’t mean we can forget what it is truly like, to walk in the way of Christ.
Anyway, this was my fourth year doing Xpression, having done it already in 2013, 2014 and 2015. I came to properly know God during Xpression 2014, and it completely changed my life (obviously!) But I ended up missing 2016 due to deciding to head away on CE’s mission team to Malahide. Within the one year, a lot of stuff went down that I missed. I missed the change from black to blue; I missed the change to a shorter week, and I missed a change in direction. In that one year, Xpression had become something completely different, and it almost put me off signing up. I felt the Xpression I knew was completely gone, and that this new style just wasn’t for me. But whenever the forms for this year were realised, something happened. My feelings changed, for some reason, I was excited to get back out and serve God’s people in a town where it is so desperately needed. God had reignited a fire in my life for service and called me back to the place where He had first worked in my life.
So, the first day of the week came around, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the week. I had been away again with CE in Malahide the week previous, so I missed the info night, and so all the actual info itself. But whenever the meeting started, I began to recognise that it wasn’t too different to what it used to be. Yes, it was in a different building, and yes there were quite a few new faces I didn’t recognise, but still at the heart of Xpression, was a love for God, and a love for others. This was also reflected in the theme for the week, and the teaching. The worship and constant prayer also greatly encouraged me throughout the week and was one of my highlights of the week. Repeatedly focusing on our minds on God is so important, especially before service, and there is no better way than the Xpression way.
The theme ‘Walk’ was a challenge to my own life, to how I lived, and showed me that even after years of knowing God, I never walked with Him as He intended, I never truly walked in inheritance, faith, love, grace or hope. Every day I was challenged in a new and increasingly difficult way. The entire week I was forced to look at my life, at the areas where I had been letting God down, in some areas where he wasn’t present, and even in areas where I thought I was putting God first. I needed to refocus my life, to make sure that even though I was living in a fallen world, I was not of this world. I was to easily led astray by others, and I needed to make sure I walked with God in all parts of my life, while not rejecting those who don’t know him. This for me is what I have been challenged with since Xpression, to not go along with the crowd, as is so easy, but not to completely distance myself from them either. To help those around me know God, but not allow them to impact my life in such a way that damages my relationship with Him. This is something I got to practise throughout the week and is something I still need God’s help with all the time.
During the week, I was a part of the team running the Kid’s Club in Garvaghy, and every day we saw God work in more evident and better ways. From getting parents to bring their kids along, and the behaviour of the kids being so well behaved (at some point anyway), God just continually blessed us every single day. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you about all the amazing things God did through the Kid’s Club and other Garvaghy teams during the week, as there’s just too much to tell. So instead, I’ll just tell you about my highlight, which was the Wednesday whenever we held our pop-up Kid’s Club in the People’s Park. It’s a day we as a team had been dreading a bit because having to keep all of the kids in a certain area is usually hard enough at the Ashgrove Centre, never mind a massive park. But God really helped us that day. He provided good weather, he settled most of the kids and helped us overcome what seemed to be a mountain of a job beforehand. However; the real reason this is my highlight is that we didn’t just get to share God’s word with 60 kids, but with everyone in the park. Teenagers sitting at the picnic benches, parents waiting around helping with their kids, or people just walking their dogs, everyone heard the Good News of how God loves them and sent his son to die and take away their sin. Even though nothing major came out of it, and there was no mass conversion or revival on the Garvaghy road that day, I do believe God was working in people’s lives that day; that people who hadn’t heard about God in years heard a little bit about His great love and that people from the Garvaghy will come to know God.
To anyone reading this who hasn’t done Xpression, and may be wondering what this is all about, I encourage you to come and see first-hand next year. It has helped me so much in my faith and has impacted my life immeasurably. To anyone who has done Xpression, and may feel like they won’t do it next year, please don’t give up on it as I almost did. And finally, to anyone who is sure that Xpression is the best thing about Portadown, thank you for encouraging others, and myself, to walk alongside you in God, and show His love to others.