The Pais Movement is an international missions organisation with a free gap year that trains young adults all over the world in youth and schools work using a unique approach to mission, discipleship and Bible study. This gap year comes with high quality training, accommodation and meals. In addition, each apprentice has a mentor, works with a team, and is placed in a supportive church environment.
1. Hi, tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Dean, I’m from a scenic part of Lancashire called Pendle, I’m 23 have graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in Maths, and I love to tell stories!
2. So, your gap year… what did you do and where did you go?
I spent a year (actually two years I enjoyed it so much!), first in a town called Leigh in Greater Manchester with a fantastic Anglican church and as part of a great team dedicated to working with young people, and then I had the wonderful opportunity to be called back to my home church in Pendle, to give back to the community within which I found my own faith. I worked as part of a team talking about Jesus in schools with children and young people, not only sharing the Gospel with those who don’t know Jesus but helping to build up the faith of those who do to share their own faith with others.
3. What organisation was this with and how did they train you and support you?
I worked with Pais, an organisation dedicated to spreading the Good News of Jesus and equipping those who already know him to do so. I joined Pais because I wanted to incorporate mission into my daily lifestyle and knew how important that was but had zero idea how to do that and found the prospect of sharing my faith scary! I’d already searched for help elsewhere whilst at Uni, with little success, but with the training with Pais, wonderful role models to look up to and imitate and the chance to put my faith into action each and every day in schools and the local community, I can now say that mission is a part of my daily lifestyle, and I’m now more fired up than ever before to talk about Jesus. I’ve felt supported and been challenged in ways that helped me grow rather than let me plateau or sink, and feel that I’ve been able to make my own impact on my local area, and the work we do.
4. What were some highlights of the year?
One story I’ve told a lot about my year is of one particular bible study group we run, we’d split into two groups to talk about prayer. My group got through the questions easily, and we challenged ourselves with improving the prayers. However, when the other group came back, it was clear they’d gotten a little of topic. One of the young people came back in and asked why God had allowed someone close to them to commit suicide. And of course, I don’t know the answer to that question, that’s a terrible thing to have happened and said as such. However, I gave them some encouragement in a part of scripture that I find comforting, from Revelation, about God promising to create a new heaven and a new earth, where he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. And their response was, ‘Why can’t we live there now?’ and for me, that response really illustrates the hope that we have in Jesus and gives new and fresh purpose to the work we do in schools, reaching young people who might never otherwise hear about Jesus, at possibly a particularly turbulent time of life. The work we’re doing with Pais really matters, wherever we go we take the hope we have in Jesus with us, into schools and we can speak that into young people’s lives.
Another highlight of mine was on a weekend away organised by Pais itself and held in Burnley (which is next door to Pendle, so not such an exciting destination for our young people!) Over the course of the weekend the idea is to excite and equip young people to share their faith, and then to give them a chance to actually do something (something, I feel, we often forget to do in the church when talking about spreading the gospel, we can talk the talk, but how often do we walk the walk? Pais does both!). So, we were in Burnley town centre, doing our mission project which we call ‘Because You’re Loved’ (we’re doing it because people are loved, both by us and God). We spent the first half an hour or so asking people if they would like a free hot chocolate (showing folk that they’re loved) and this was a big step out of my comfort zone alone. The last half an hour my group were then challenged to ask people what God could do in their lives (The Miracle Question). I managed to ask five people if I could ask them the question. The first three ignored me, the next swore at me, and then the fifth person I got to pray for on the street! This was a big step of faith for me, and I could never have imagined doing something so bold this time last year. However, that’s not even the highlight of the weekend. Because I was stepping out in faith, the young people could see the example I was setting and actually imitate me, and step out in faith themselves, again them saying that they never thought they’d be able to do something like that! God used my actions that weekend for not only what we were doing, sharing God’s love, but to challenge and encourage the young people from my youth group.
5. What were biggest challenges of your year?
For me, one of the biggest challenges I face is constantly having to step out of my comfort zone. As a naturally very anxious and shy person, most of what I do is stepping out of my comfort zone by talking to people I don’t know, however each time I do, I’m amazed by what God is doing in me, and with me, and each time I step out of my comfort zone, I become more confident, and more trusting in God that he’s got me when I do. Of course, because I am stepping out of my comfort zone so much, and growing and pushing myself, it can mean that some weeks I’m simply exhausted by the end of it and can think of nothing better than spending a day in bed on my own. This can sometimes be quite difficult, as there may be other things I’d like to do with my weekend, but I simply need to rest and be alone for some time.
Another challenge is that some of my friends and family simply can’t seem to understand why I’d give a year of my life, without pay, to live with strangers (or even back at home after leaving five years ago). It’s difficult to meet that resistance from some of the people closest to me, who have usually supported me through everything else I’ve done. However, I’m confident that this is exactly where God has placed me, and I can rest in that comfort.
6. How did the year impact your faith? How did God change you, challenge you, did it cause you to grow closer to him?
As I’ve already said, one of the reasons I joined Pais, was to make mission a part of my daily life. I always understood that sharing the Gospel was important, but never felt equipped, or ready to do so confidently. Through Pais I can confidently say that now I do feel equipped and ready to share the Gospel in different, and engaging ways. However, of course, God has gone much further than simply accomplishing my hopes for the year, and through various moments in the year, and circumstances, I’m now exploring the notion that perhaps I may be called to be an evangelist. Something I certainly never thought would happen, as surely evangelists are the weirdos who manage to bring somebody to Jesus on their bus journey home, or speak to crowds of thousands and see many people come to Christ. But here we are, and time will truly tell whether I’ll be any good at being an ‘evangelist’ and where else my calling is going.
Of course, because my daily life is set up to work for God’s Kingdom in a very clear obvious way, I’ve had to grow closer to him as well, and have found different ways that work for me in constantly growing in my daily walk with God, from podcasts and reading the Bible to my prayer life and my trust in him.
7. Would you recommend this as a gap year? Why?
Yes. Of course, I think Pais could be one of the best ways to grow in faith and in mission, study and discipleship, in ways that utilise my own gifts and talents. In fact, I think it’s so great, that I’ve even applied for a third year! The year is hard and challenging, but is completely worth it, not only for my own growth, but for the impact that my actions and life can have on children and young people, and even the church I’m partnered with.