Here's to NCLC. Family, Community. Home. My Home.
One year has passed by too quickly. I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Newcastle as the plane was flying over the land. Such a beautiful land, I thought to myself. I thanked God for allowing me to leave my country to a land I know nothing of.
I visited NCLC for the first time. The blue lights. The songs... Nothing is Impossible, God is Able, Awakening... Gordy Alexander on stage, playing the piano, singing. I remember looking at the card with the words "Welcome Home". I smiled. Home it is indeed.
I remember the first day I walked into the church offices with Gabby for worship practice. Apprehension. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough because people like Mark Harle and Gordy Alexander were insanely professional. I walked through the wooden door. New faces. I smiled - awkwardly. Nodded when people greeted me. "Hi." My short reply with a hesitant smile.
Do I smile? Do I go around and shake everyone's hand? Do I... The questions ran through my head. My palms sweated.
Then the practice began. Matt Lewis was pushing the team with so much drive, passion. "Let's stop here." "Let's do the transition again." "What key are you in?" "Can you play this?" "I need something ethereal."
This is where I am meant to be. Here's where I can be a better musician. Here's where I will gain what I've been praying so hard for - that I may be surrounded with talented musicians who're better than me, and that I may grow to become a better musician.
The practice was over. Everyone was chatting. Gordy asked me to come over to the keyboard. "Play something!" He asked gently. "Play what?" I replied, not knowing if my skills would embarrass me. "Anything." He smiled. I touched the Juno keyboard. Oh, the touch of a keyboard. Familiarity. Home. I played.
"You're in." Veronica McCadden, another keyboardist who stood beside me, interjected after I played the first chord. "You're not allowed to leave."
I finished playing. Gordy smiled, his right hand to his heart. He sighed. "That. Was beautiful."
I never knew I would be good enough for a great church like NCLC. I was ready for rejection. Something along the lines of "I think you need more practice" or "I think you need more time." But before I knew, my name was on the rota. Jonathan C it wrote. In pink. The color I detest the most, but not this time. It was a sweet, sweet color. A color of acceptance, new challenges, growth.
Being in NCLC has been such a blessing to me. I thought that I'll be spending a lonely year in a foreign land. I thought that I'll leave Newcastle with nothing but the experience that I've lived alone for a year. But look what God had in store for me?
A group of people who allow me to love them the only way I know how, and who love me in return.
Who ceased every opportunity to encourage me and support me in any way they can.
Who are filled with passion and drive to be better musicians, and who encouraged me to be the same.
Who struggle like I do, but never relent in giving God all the glory.
Sometimes I feel that I don't tell them enough how much I appreciate each of them. Without the beautiful, great individuals that God has placed in my life, I doubt that I'll be who I am today.
I'd always think to myself that God placed me in Newcastle not to just be a better musician, but to learn what is generosity, how to love until it hurts, and what it feels like to place others before me. And when I learn of the struggles each of them go through, my heart breaks knowing that the best I can do sometimes is to either put a hand on their shoulders or bake a simple cake for them.
In the youth, I see so much promise, potential. I had to humble myself and learn from musicians who are far better than me. Musicians like Joe Draper and Andrew Gallagher have taught me so much about music than I could ever imagine. Andrew Gallagher would offer to teach me some guitars. He'd travel all the way from Gateshead over to Northumbria University, sit down with me for an hour, share with me some stuffs that he has learned the hard way and charge nothing.
I will not be surprised if I see posters plastered all over Facebook about the youths from NCLC leading huge congregations into worship, or if some of them became pastors and are now changing the face of the earth. I know then that I'll smile and know that once, I was part of them.
In the leaders, I see so much drive, compassion, grace and love. Sometimes I wonder how is it possible for people like them to exist. How can a person have so much passion, compassion, grace and love? But there they are, caring about me like no one else have. Sometimes I feel like I owe them too much, for I am just a foreigner. Yet their love surpasses race and nationality, but centers on the fact that we are all in the body of Christ.
I will not be able to fully pen everything that I've ever learned and experienced in Newcastle and NCLC because there's just too much. But one thing I know for sure: Never a single moment do I regret being in NCLC and Newcastle. The words used, the deeds done - not one do I tell myself I should have or should have not.
Though I am now physically in Malaysia, my heart is still in Newcastle with the people of NCLC. I think it'll take me a while to settle back to Malaysia. Even though I have been in Malaysia for about 4 days, I still think (and dream) of Newcastle and the awesome people I've come to love. Distance does make the heart grow fonder.
To everyone in NCLC,
Thank you for making my one year in Newcastle such a beautiful one. I doubt that I'll ever be able to thank you enough for the amazing part you've played in my life. The smiles, the encouragement, the openness, the grace, the love... I can ask for nothing more.
I look forward to the day I step foot in Newcastle again, and into the new premises of NCLC. If there is any way I can still be a part of the community or support you, let me know. Pete and Mark told me that once a NCLC-er, always a NCLC-er. I hold true to that.
Keep updating me about how life is treating you, and add me in Skype (Jonathan Chu, email@example.com). I want to keep in touch. Let me know your home address so that I can write to you whenever the chance/time permits.
Lots and lots of love,