I left uni and came to the UK for a gap year that would change my life.
8 friends and myself spent our days giving students an opportunity to consider Jesus. I learnt British culture. I learnt a handful of other cultures. I found a church I loved. I learnt funny words and ways of saying things.
My language is now littered with u’s and an intonation that does not always fit a normal American.
I spent a lot of time on campus and in bars and pubs having discussions about Jesus (and in bars and pubs on campus.) Nothing was better than hanging out with someone in a pub and getting to talk about Jesus together or study the Bible. What a grand way to live!? From my early days in Britain, I loved it.
I have walked with friends for a moment and some for many, many years and the question is the same.
“What do you think of Jesus?”
Other questions came later of course. But I love the first one, it just gets to the heart of it.
“Do you know he loves you?”
“What does it mean for us to follow him, together?”
Jesus is really life changing you know.
My gap year turned gap decade and I continued in my funny little job. My friends went back to America but I stayed and joined a British team. Working for a non-profit, fundraising for your own salary, is not the normal route for many graduates but it was the question that I loved putting out there with people and giving people a chance to explore for themselves:
“What do you think of Jesus?”
The conversations would all be different. Many people don’t think much of Jesus. Some think he’s a made up fairy tale, others think He is just irrelevant. Some somehow think science discredits Jesus. That is always a weird tangent. (Jesus and science are great together). Some, like my Muslim friends, do think of Jesus but only know him as a prophet. We have had long conversations through the years about Jesus and his claims to be Lord and God. Some have been hurt by people who claim to know Jesus and that puts them off. That always makes me really sad.
I have sat with friends as they have decided to give following Jesus a try for themselves.
Those are some of my favourite moments.
I love seeing someone follow Jesus and become a Christian for the first time.
I have sat through thousands of questions, good conversations, cheek, genuine interest and uncomfortable avoidance. Jesus has something to say to everyone.
My gap year turned decade, shifted and changed over the years, but only a little bit. We partnered with churches at times, the CU at times, Agape’s name on campus changed to Student Life, I went from a gap year stinter, to long term staff, to a team leader. The city I worked in changed. But the best part of my job remained the same, getting to introduce people to a God who loves them so much. He offers real life, hope, freedom, and the answers to many of life’s big questions. His name is Jesus.
I am going into an autumn for the first time in a long time where I will be outside of working with students. I won’t be on campus during the craziness that is freshers week (and since I always worked with multiple unis: freshers’ month for me). There won’t be conversations about Jesus in the uni bar for me.
There are some really exciting aspects of what is ahead. I am working with refugees. What a timely need in the world.
I will miss my students though and the engagement we would always have over the big things in life. Being a student is a great time to explore a great many things.
To all the students I am friends with near and far, I encourage you to use your time at uni to learn many new things, have a lot of fun, make friends for a lifetime, and grow as a person.
I encourage you not to miss looking at the question of Jesus while you are a student. He has a lot to say to you. It is worth discovering.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity