Alice: As a medical science soon-to-be graduate at Cardiff University, I was considering what the next step would be. So I went to a careers event where I found a very enthusiastic man working for a company that sold proteins. Though I wasn’t so interested in his field, his advice kept ringing in my ears – ‘Find out what you love doing, and then do that!’ God used that to show me a new direction. At the time, I was heavily involved in the international student ministries of the Christian Union and Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff. On the following weekend, I attended an event I was helping organise for students. When I returned, I figured – ‘that’s what I love doing!’ Soon after, I contacted three student missions to apply for a time overseas. Two of them said, ‘Sorry, our deadline has passed. Please come back next year.’ The other one was IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), where the boss said, ‘The deadline has passed, but if you apply within the month we can make an exception!’
Gabi: Like Alice, I was finishing my degree and was also involved with student ministry, but this was in Portugal. As a molecular biologist, I used to say that my academic time was like a gigantic birth experience. I used to have my career plan all figured out – study hard, get good marks and become a researcher specialising in one of the many diseases needing a cure. But at the end of university, I found God had put another calling in my heart and what I loved doing, even more, was working with students. So when I graduated in 2015, I applied to IFES Interaction Europe, which sends graduates to help movements in another country supervised by a local team. In chatting with the same German lady who had spoken to Alice, I learnt that Cyprus was now one of the countries in most need.
When we got in touch with each other, we became excited about the possibilities of what God could do in Cyprus. So, that is where we went in October 2015.
The work in Cyprus
Arriving on the island, our priority was to meet the students in different places and to get a group started in the capital, Nicosia. We also needed to build an organisational structure to support the work in a sustainable local way. This brought about many Jesus stories. A Pakistani student wanted to study the miracles of Jesus that he didn’t know much about. Christian students felt called through a Bible study to start and lead a Bible club at their university in the capital. We have experienced the joys and difficulties of working in a pioneer context: discipling students to live out and share the good news of Jesus Christ; mentoring and equipping student leaders to lead missional communities of disciples who use their gifts to be living stones, serving God and others in the likeness of Jesus. Today we can say we have seen the first student leadership committee established in Nicosia.
Two students from an Islamic university in the north of Cyprus went to the IFES European evangelism conference Presence17. They came back with a fresh vision that they are not only at the university to praise God themselves, but that they are ‘a gift of God to the university. If we have the love of Jesus, we must go and share it!’ We had spoken many times with them of spreading the love of Jesus to the nations, but experiencing Easter at the evangelism conference, with almost 2,000 students from all over Europe, was what made it click for these two. Even during a demanding exam time, they spent one hour every single day for several weeks with the other student leaders to pass on everything they had learnt at the conference.
Recently we visited this group and realised they are already applying the tools they received from the conference, having decided to go out during exam time to encourage their friends with biblically inspired messages distributed along with a hot cup of coffee or tea. This allowed them to strike up important conversations – several students, curious to know more about Christmas, asked if they could come to the group’s Christmas party.
On a more organisational level, exciting things have also happened, like the training of a national governance board composed of Cypriot graduates working hard after hours. The student movement here is being registered as an official organisation, which will enable them to employ staff, among other things. We are supporting them as they work towards being affiliated as a movement in the IFES World Assembly in 2019.
- Pray for the young board to have God’s wisdom and strength to carry out all the legal processes required for the movement at this time. Pray for a successful affiliation in 2019.
- Pray also for the time we spend visiting Christian communities in Cyprus, that God will bring about good partnerships in prayer and finances.
- Pray for God to send staff and a general secretary. Pray for people who would contribute to a healthy movement, with sound gospel vision, creativity and moved by the Spirit and grace of God.
- Above all, pray for the students, who are the heart of all the work. Pray for the moments when they are discouraged by numbers being small (10 students in the capital), for them to remember Jesus started conquering the nations with only twelve people.
- And please pray for the vision of making new disciples, by investing personally in a few as Jesus did, to dawn in the minds, hearts and especially hands of students in Cyprus.