1st Year Reflections from Andrew and Debbie
Tell us a little about yourself
Andrew: My name is Andrew Gray and I’m in my first year at the Irish Baptist College. I’m from Armagh and have lived there my entire life with my parents (and my older sister Victoria), and I’m a member of Armagh Baptist Church. My interests are mainly sports related, whether that be rugby, football or CrossFit but I also enjoy reading and being involved in children’s ministry at church at the weekends.
Debbie: I’m Debbie Leslie and I'm in first year. I’ll not tell my age; let’s just say I am a mature student! I have four adult children and two of the most wonderful grandchildren that ever graced this earth and I’m not biased! I live in Londonderry/Derry, and attend Richill Park Baptist. For many years I’ve worked for Cancer Focus NI. I love the work I do with ladies who have undergone traumatic life changing breast surgery, and how with the right help and support they can grow and blossom into a new era of their lives. Life may be dramatically different for them, but it can still be good and in some cases better than it was before diagnosis.
Why did you come to College?
Andrew: During my first degree (Mathematics at Queen’s University), I was very fortunate to have lots of opportunities to get involved in different ministries. Through involvement in these and opportunities in my local church, God began to really lay on my heart a desire to serve him in full-time ministry. Through conversations with my elders and with other friends, I decided that setting time aside to come to College full-time to study and prepare for ministry was the best next step.
Debbie: In secular work, there is little opportunity for sharing the gospel and the freedom it alone can bring from the “cancer” of the soul. So, with a desire to work with women who have suffered trauma, be it health related, childhood neglect or abuse, or tragic circumstances that life throws up, I decided to go to Bible College to be better equipped to minister God’s love and grace into the lives of broken women.
What is your favourite thing about College, and what is the most challenging?
Andrew: My favourite thing about College is definitely the people. Whether that be fellow students or the staff, I have learnt so much from each of them. In both discussions in class and conversations over a cup of tea, I have been both challenged in my thinking and encouraged by each of their love for Jesus. The most challenging thing for me would probably be adjusting to essay writing. While lecturers have been very helpful in this regard, coming from a Mathematics background, it has taken a bit of time to adjust to writing academic essays. However, this has also proved incredibly helpful in learning to engage with differing viewpoints and coming to a well-thought-out conclusion.
Debbie: College is hard! Especially for older slower brains! But the fellowship with the other students is amazing. There are few women at college, and even fewer older women, but the student body is tremendously supportive and encouraging and I’m truly blessed being here.
How would you describe the College community?
Andrew: The College community this year has felt like a family. Different people from different backgrounds and yet united by our union with Christ. It has been such an encouraging community, one that bears each other’s burdens, builds one another up and continually prays for one another.
You live onsite for part of the week, how are you finding that/what is the accommodation like? Would you recommend it?
Debbie: I live onsite from Monday to Thursday. The accommodation is very comfortable and well equipped. This year three of us are living in. Ana-Rut and Katharina from Spain are great housemates. We each have our own spacious room and share a kitchen/living room and bathroom. The girls make great Spanish food, and I’ve introduced them to the delights of Northern Irish puddings!