Discipleship Q & A
Interviewing Andrea Hensher
Q.1. When did you first hear of Jesus?
I grew up in a Christian home. Mum was a Pastor’s Kid from Jamaica where both my parents were born, so church was a massive part of my childhood. I was constantly hearing stories about Jesus, or hearing or singing songs about him. I grew up in a church that did regular altar calls, so the concept of making a personal commitment was a very clear concept to me. Belief in God was just a given in the circles we moved in. I confess when I met my first atheist (we were both aged twelve) I just laughed at her. I remember telling her not believing in God was like not believing the sun would rise the next day.
Q.2. How do you see discipleship?
Discipleship is learning to actually do what Jesus says. Sometimes it’s a series of small, private things between you and him, which to others might seem trivial but for you are not. Sometimes he sends a more mature Christian into your life to come alongside and help you deal with an issue. It took me a while to realise that becoming a Christian is the start of the journey, not the final destination. Discipleship is a great adventure if you’re up for it.
Q.3. Who were the Christian influences on you growing up?
Mum was a massive influence. Money was often tight, and from time to time she would break into prayer when unexpected money arrived just in time for a bill, or someone would drop off some food at the house ‘just by chance’, always thanking God for his provision. I also had amazing youth leaders when I was a teenager, one in particular who demonstrated that he had an individual relationship with God that sometimes meant going against the crowd, even the church crowd. I also used to go to a youth camp like the Anglican camping ones that run here, and met some incredible role models who were very influential – the summer camp and the new year reunion were the highlights of my year for about five years straight.
Q.4. Were there any issues that you struggled with?
My parents were very strict, so inevitably my teenage years were a bit rocky as I fought against that. Looking back I appreciate what my parents were trying to do. I was also the first in my family to get to university, and I was fortunate to get a place at Oxford. There was a lot of pressure that came along with that but I made some great friends and met my husband there, so it worked out alright !
Q.5. Are there any passages of scripture that have shaped your life?
Matthew 11: 28 – 30 Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Q.6. How has your experience with Alpha shaped your faith?
I first heard about Alpha when the new vicar of our home church in London decided to have the whole church do Alpha back in the early 90s. I thoroughly disapproved and had no intention of doing it. Clearly God had other ideas for me, because a few months later we ended up moving to South Africa, and within weeks of arriving I was invited to go to an Alpha course. It was a bit of a watershed as it gave me what I hadn’t realised I needed – a safe place to ask questions that church culture sometimes is uncomfortable about and therefore doesn’t usually encourage. I went deeper than I ever had with God, and experienced his specific love for me for the first time, even though by then I had been a Christian for about 15 years.
Working with Alpha Australia to give others those opportunities, both Christians and especially non-Christians, is a huge privilege and also lots of fun. Even though I have watched the talks many times, I find I keep learning, and in each group conversation, I’m stretched and challenged to keep expanding my appreciation of God’s love and the many ways he reaches people.
Q.7. Whose Christian writing has inspired you?
I grew up reading the stories of Israel through the words of a Jewish writer called David Kossof. He brought the patriarchs so close I felt like I knew David the shepherd boy turned king, and watched Abraham raise the knife to sacrifice Isaac. I also enjoy C.S. Lewis and Phillip Yancey. I loved The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard and for laugh-out-loud honest non-churchy Christian writing I love Anne Lamott’s work. Always good after a difficult day.
Q.8. How important to you is prayer?
Prayer is essential to me. It is my refuge, my safe place. Sometimes I struggle to have a set time of prayer but I tend to find myself praying through the day, and I am trying to listen a bit more as I get older. I feel it is the biggest privilege we have as believers, to come to God in prayer. I love that we are encouraged to pray at all times with all kinds of prayers. God certainly gets all kinds of prayers from me!