“I promise you, if you come with us to Spring Harvest it will change your life.” Pretty cocky words from my colleague, Charlie, who was recruiting helpers for the King’s Kids team at Spring Harvest. He didn’t say it might or could – he said it would. I probably didn’t believe him, but I signed up anyway and found that his words were not just truth – they were prophecy.

I was 21 and single. I’d been struggling with singleness for a while, especially since starting at Bournemouth University. I was doing a sandwich degree so for my placement year, I chose to volunteer for YWAM England as their PR Girl. During that year God taught me so much about myself and how to fully rely on him for all my needs. I had slowly been changing from a desperate, flirty teenager into a more trusting woman of God and my life was much more content as a result.

I was also open to doing new things like spending ten days of my life helping Kings Kids run the 8-11s programme at Spring Harvest in Skegness. It was such a blast! There were about 50 helpers in total and roughly 800 children. The mornings and evenings were busy with the kids’ sessions but the afternoons and late nights were free time and the kids team became like family for those ten days. We hung out a lot together in the team lounge or around Butlin’s or on the beach front.

And there was one guy who I seemed to bump into a lot – several bumps a day actually. For hours at a time. “It’s either you or me he fancies.” I said to my roommate Joanna. His name was ‘Johnny G’. He worked for Innervation and was launching a new girl’s band called tbc. (Their male counterparts were called thebandwithnoname so they had this ‘We are too cool to have a proper name’ thing going on.)

It turned out Johnny did like me. In fact, what I thought were friendly overtures, were actually official requests for dates but I was deaf and blind to them. When (finally) the penny dropped and I realised on the last night that he was properly asking me out, I was so shocked that I hadn’t noticed.

I was the girl that decent Christian guys were scared of. I was the girl so desperate for love and acceptance that I had developed a highly sophisticated radar for eligible bachelors; I could scan a whole room, assess which genes would make the best-looking babies when combined with mine, and make sure that male had my number by the end of the night. I imagined myself in love with a different guy every month and had done since as long as I could remember.

So I always assumed that when the man of my dreams, the future father of my children walked into my life, I would catch him and not let him go. But in my second year of university, God challenged that attitude in me. The attitude that thought a husband is a prize to be won and marriage is an achievement to be proud of. God challenged me to see that a husband is a good gift from God and that there’s more to marriage than love and sex.

Instead of desperately manipulating situations, God challenged me to relax and trust him. To wait patiently for my gift and in the meantime get my priorities in order. It wasn’t easy to hear but it was just what I needed.

So back at Spring Harvest, Joanna and I prayed about ‘Johnny G’ and God confirmed in my heart that Johnny was indeed the gift I had been waiting for. It took me 2 weeks to fall in love, 6 weeks more to get engaged and then a 16-month long-distance relationship till we were finally married.

And that’s when I had to really start trusting God. If I thought being single was hard and that marriage would solve all my problems, then maybe that explains why marriage came as such a shock! 

God promised that he would use my weaknesses to become his strength, that he would be glorified through me and that I would have a testimony to share of his faithfulness. I found that whenever I shared my story, first on my wedding day, then back at Bournemouth University, then in youth groups in New Zealand, people would respond and lives would change. So three years ago I wrote it down and put it in a book. It’s called Looking for Love.

This April, 13 years after Spring Harvest changed my life, I am returning there to launch Looking for Love nationally. Not because I have a husband to show off, or because I achieved some spiritual maturity that meant I could be rewarded with a husband. But because God is faithful and he has given me a story that is not just for my own benefit, it is also for others. It might even be for you. 

Joanne Gilchrist is the author of Looking for Love: Finding God’s Purpose in Love and Marriage (Malcolm Down Publishing). For more information visit joannegilchrist.com 

For more information about Spring Harvest and to book in for this year's event visit springharvest.org/book

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