13 Jun 2017

The Gap Year that changed my life

By Louise Churchus

Have you ever been walking down the road, and then BAM! Light bulb moment, life changed, nothing will ever be the same again? A bit like Saul on the road to Damascus.

Well I’ve never had that. I’ve not had a moment where I can define life as ‘before’ or ‘after’ that moment. But sure enough, along the mundane and uneventful path I tread, there have been some game changers. Not things that I would have said were big decisions, but some seemingly small choices actually turned out to be pretty massive in the long run.

In the final year of my degree I decided to do a gap year with XLP. It seemed a good way to fulfil a bit of a passion for youth work without trying to find a job with a theology degree. I mean, what do you do with three years of Hebrew and philosophical thoughts? Seriously?!

A gap year was a great way to test the waters with the whole youth work thing. Was this for me?

Over the course of the year I spent at XLP, so many things changed. There were no lightbulb moments but when I looked back, I realised life wasn’t going to be the same. Nothing dramatic happened, it’s just that young people have a funny habit of changing your life without you realising.

Over that year I built up relationships with young people who inspired and challenged me, and worked with other people who were passionate about seeing lives changed by love. My perspective was shifting, and I realised that I hadn’t come to do youth work to or for these young people, but with them.

I didn’t know it, but my whole life was being shaken up.

When you’re faced with teenagers in desperate situations, like Maya*, your own priorities shift. Maya came to a school project we ran, and I just spent time listening to her talk about struggles at home and how that affected school life. Being able to support her in building friendships, working out her identity and growing in confidence was an incredible privilege. As teenagers started to share their lives with me, I realised that I wanted to share life with them too. I wanted to make this gap year a year that changed not just their lives, but mine as well.

The gap year at XLP was the ultimate game changer for me. I made decisions at the end of the gap year I never would have had the courage to do at the start!

If you let it, XLP’s gap year could change your life too.

*name changed!