English-speaking church in Eindhoven

My journey to and through Capernwray Bible School

By Pamela Armstrong

I came to know about Capernwray about 12 years ago when some friends invited us to come along to a ‘family week’ holiday.

I would often whimsically mention how ‘I’d love to do Bible School here’, but when my husband and kids offered me this ‘gift’ in August 2022, I came up with many excuses as to why it wasn’t possible: family and church responsibilities, cost, time away… it was all just too big a step and sacrifice. Yet there was a longing. I prayed. My family remained persistent. One might come to the conclusion they wanted rid of me! By December 2022, they had nudged me enough to speak to Harrison and the council. They enthusiastically supported this opportunity. So, I filled in the application form and the rest is history. I was very excited to arrive on site in mid-April 2023, yet quite apprehensive at the same time. I had not written an essay for over 30 years and that was with a young brain and now I was old enough to be most people’s mother!

What was I thinking?! The first couple of days were quite overwhelming – this was not a family holiday (which until now had been the only side of Capernwray I had seen). I had to join Google Chat and use Google Classroom – I wanted to crawl into a corner and cry! But my lovely desk partner was so patient and helpful at putting me at ease. The staff were so obviously ‘for us’ and wanted everyone to thrive. It seems you can teach an old dog new tricks. I got into the flow of life and community. I love to listen to the word of God and as we embarked on week 1 of lectures, I began to realise what a tremendous privilege I had been given to soak in this environment for 10 weeks. The first theme was ‘The Servant Heart of the Believer’ and set such a marvellous tone, which profoundly impacted me and helped frame my perspective for the rest of Spring School. Being exposed to hearing firsthand, someone whose life had been dramatically transformed by the grace of God despite incredibly tough circumstances, reinforced both the remarkable sacrifice of Christ as He endured the cross for my salvation, but also, just how much I had taken for granted. I remember saying to a fellow student ‘how do they top this?’ Yet week in week out, more incredibly rich and dynamic teaching was on the menu.

I thought I knew the Bible quite well, but realised how much treasure is still to be found in the depths of His word and sometimes we need a spade (aka Bible School) – to dig deeper. Quite often my life is a bit like that of Martha and now I was able to shift into Mary mode and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him; be embraced, convicted, encouraged. Resting with Him.

With all my usual home and work responsibilities set aside, I could throw myself into this experience with full abandon. The community was fun, open, accepting, supportive – quite soon I felt about 25 in my head at least! There was much laughter, some weeping, tearing my hair out as I tried to write my first essay, a lot of love and encouragement, and an ongoing encounter with God.

One particularly powerful time was about mid-way through the course. We had a prayer day. I had no idea what that meant. Sounded ominous to be honest. There was the encouragement to combine this with a phone fast, to minimise distraction. This was such a freeing experience. I have come to depend way too much on my phone and constant communication with others, subtly luring me from depending on the One from who I need to rely on for my very breath. When God says, ‘draw near to me and I will draw near to you’, He means it. I experienced such a warmth in His presence that day. I was known, heard, loved, freed. It was my most precious time there.

That was then, what about now?
I was both sad and glad to leave Capernwray. Sad to leave a place where quality time with the Lord was part of the rhythm and sad to leave a community of people passionate about Him, people from whom I had gleaned so much insight and who were just so much fun to be with. Glad to be returning home to my family, friends, church community and my dog! I hit the ground running – back into laundry, dishes, organising end of term events, preparing for a family holiday etc. Suddenly it all felt so distant and unreal. Was that it? Someone in my church asked, ‘So is your time away helping your church ministry?’ This was a killer question. Was it I wondered? As I thought about how to answer, I realised that time spent with God wherever and whenever, is always fruitful. It transforms and informs everything we do. Perhaps I carry out my roles with a little more confidence. Perhaps I prepare things with deeper insight and care. With His grace being sufficient in my weakness, I can see His hand in my life and whilst, I still bring ‘me’ everywhere I go, He too journeys with me and, as He started His work in me, so He will finish it. He uses my five loaves and two fish to make something above and beyond my comprehension. I am so thankful to Him for my time at Spring School!

Whether you are a school leaver, a student, in full time employment, a parent, a pastor – consider taking the opportunity to go for an extended time to soak in His word and presence. The excuses will always be there. The challenges to do so will present themselves. Life will always be hectic and demanding. As we intentionally take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him, He speaks and says, ‘Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her’. (Luke 10:42) Everything else will fade away, but His word will endure forever.

This is a wonderful, equipping investment at any life stage. For more information click here: Capernwray – Bible School and Christian holiday centre

My family group for the duration of my Spring School time – we met every week for coffee and cake to support each other through relationship and prayer.