IFES Ireland shares a few of the exciting stories that are happening in our univerversities and colleges.
Every year thousands of teenagers make the transition from school to university or college. It can be an exciting but also a frightening time as many of the security nets of family, friends and even church fellowships, are left behind.
As they immerse themselves in a totally new culture – student culture, IFES Ireland: the Christian Unions seeks to help Christian students with that transition and, above all, to encourage them to reach the many students in their college classes, residences with the good news of Jesus.
New Director of IFES Ireland, Dr David (Monty) Montgomery, remembers his first night away from home. “It was probably one of the most exciting and also one of the most lonely nights of my life. But it was an incredibly important moment when I knew that my faith was not second-hand. It was not dependent on the hold I had on God but was based on the hold God had on me.
It was probably one of the most exciting and also one of the most lonely nights of my life.
“From my first day, I identified with other Christians through the CU and there I learned to lead and was given confidence in sharing my faith among my mates in the halls, the soccer team and drama society.”
Along with his staff in specific campuses, Monty’s job is to inspire and equip students to be followers of Jesus. IFES has CUs in over 30 colleges and universities around Ireland. “The pressures are enormous”, says Monty. “The pressure to conform in lifestyle issues, to deny or give up your faith, or to be silent and ineffective. But the reality is that most students are incredibly lonely and insecure and the Gospel of Jesus offers hope. By reaching students we could influence a whole generation of Irish men and women.”
And not only Irish, of course, because one of IFES Ireland’s most effective ministries is to International Students through six International Cafes on campuses and in churches around Dublin. One of the things that excites Monty the most is: “seeing young Asian, African and Eastern European students open up and ask the big questions while they are away from their family and cultural pressures and ready to seriously consider the claims of Christ.”
One Irish student whose life has been changed and strengthened by the Christian Union is Aoife from Abbeyfeale, a trainee teacher studying at NUIG. She says, “Being involved in a group of young enthusiastic followers of Christ was so encouraging to me. It showed me that there was more to it then just me praying by myself. Having a strong group of Christian friends really helped me more along my walk with Christ.”
Being involved in a group of young enthusiastic followers of Christ was so encouraging to me
Aoife is passionate about the importance of sharing the Gospel with others – something that IFES wants to help her do. “It is so important that there is a witness to Jesus on campuses. People need to know how wonderful it is to walk with Jesus. Even if they just see it through how happy we are, or just casually talking about faith can make a huge difference. Showing people how awesome Jesus is, is so important.”
Sinead is studying at UCC. She says, “My life has been totally transformed since coming to Christ and the CU in UCC has aided my spiritual growth. It was during this beautiful summer just past, God was putting things and people in my way that gave me a desire to seek Him. I can’t pinpoint a particular day on which I can say that I accepted Jesus as my Saviour. But I know now I am on fire for God. I am truly a new creation.
“Before, I was lacking hope and meaning. I was in a pit of despair since I was a little girl. Now, I know that the Lord has a plan for my life.”
It hasn’t always been easy, though: “The CU has been such a great support to me. Through the CU I have been attending an Alpha course; I would so recommend it to everybody especially a newcomer to Christ. The CU has given me the confidence to express my faith with others without shame."
One of the major emphases of IFES Ireland is encouraging students not to share their faith. Last year Ciara from Belfast took the plunge and decided to pray for natural opportunities to witness to one of her classmates:
“A girl from my course broke her foot last September and I helped her with some of the course material as she couldn't make it to class. Over coffee, we got to talking about my faith and how it impacted my everyday life and actions, and it was such a privilege to share Jesus with her. She wanted to find out more, so we started Uncover together.
Over coffee, we got to talking about my faith and how it impacted my everyday life and actions
(Uncover is a resource available through IFES, which helps students read the Gospel of Luke with their friends see. www.uccf.org.uk/uncover)
“After one of the studies, she came to one of our lunch events. Whatever issue was being spoken about, I didn't think it was the most relevant. I was blown away when afterwards she told me that it all made sense.
“Over the summer, I got a text from her saying she had just become a Christian. Since then, the Holy Spirit has been so clearly at work - she has been hungry for more. I am amazed by God's goodness and faithfulness in revealing Himself to her. It has been unbelievable to see God move in such a powerful way.”
“It is stories like this”, says Monty, “that make the ministry so encouraging. There are a million things students could be involved in while they are at College but if they are serious about Jesus, I would encourage them to get stuck in to their Christian Union. We will do all we can to help them.”
For more information see www.ifesireland.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.