“So we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ~1 Hebrews 13:6
It’s been exactly two weeks since God brought us safely to Sheffield’s rainy doorstep. (However, like Chris said, it has been rather fair weather much of the time we’ve been here.) Many of us feel as if we have been here much longer than two weeks, and may God be praised that most of those feelings are because of all He’s accomplished through us relationally, ministry-wise, and assimilation-wise.
On Monday, our team had Bible Study training during which we learned a bit of how to study through the book of Acts, which our team is reading along with 1 John this summer. Two helpful things stuck out throughout the training. The first is that we should see it as a history—events like Ananias and Sapphira, demons being cast out, and apostles being arrested and freed by angels really did happen in our history. We want God to give us eyes of faith to see them as true incidents and believe in His power. The second helpful study method Steve posed to us was to ask the question “How?” How does this apply to or may it show in my life? How did the apostles respond to suffering the way they did? We concluded that they had witnessed real power from God in miraculous ways; they acted out of fear of God, not man; and that they had seen Christ crucified and resurrected. One application we made was to look into our own lives for areas we’ve obeyed man or submitted to fear of man and to counter that with truths in the gospel and how we might see Jesus as powerful. It was and is a sweet ministry exercise, as fear of man is an ever-present, daily struggle as we walk onto the campus.
Speaking of campus ministry, we had the delight of a Crowded House member coming to visit with us on Tuesday to share his 12-year experience with University ministry as well as to answer our questions and ask a few of his own. His encouragement in ministry with Brits and internationals was to focus on the person of Jesus and His radical claims, towards which no one can be truly neutral. We engaged this topic more in Team Ministry Training (“TMT”) Wednesday morning as we learned to challenge people’s apathy as to whether Jesus’s assertions make a difference in their lives. Along with provoking people to engage their thoughts on Christianity, we learned a new diagram from Andrew Knight during TMT called “Broken,” that outlines practical worldly brokenness and how it fits with the message of the Bible. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the details on this!)
God’s faithfulness, despite repeatedly encountering apathy, atheism, and extreme brokenness among Uni students, has been real to us this week in practical ways. As it will be our second full week being on campus, we have been aiming to follow up with the many relationships we’ve begun over the first week. On the girls end, we’ve been able to follow up with a few girls including a Japanese student who is on the verge of becoming a Christian. She has been part of the Bible studies hosted by Meg and Maura’s Life Group and is struggling to see how she could possibly remain Japanese after converting to Christianity. It broke our hearts hearing how she has even asked friends back home (in Japan) if they would despise her if she became a Christian. Lindsey (O.) expressed the truth of the gospel to her while acknowledging the real difficulty of her decision with passion, gentleness, and love as each one of us began to weep. We know that it was the Lord pulling on her heart, causing her tears to flow. The hardship and weight of her decision is unimaginable to most of us, coming from a largely tolerant and religiously accepting nation. Please be in prayer with us that God will move her heart to look upon Jesus, count the cost, and see Him as completely worth it. Pray that she will be connected to a church in Japan that will build her up in the knowledge and truth of Christ when she returns home at the end of the month.
There are many others that we have had or will have the opportunity to follow up with in the coming weeks whether it be playing futbol (mostly the boys), grabbing lunches/tea, shopping (mostly the girls), or (hopefully) visiting the Peak District. (It is a beautiful bit of countryside that everyone here says we must see.) So pray for softened hearts, Godly conversation, fear of God (not man), and opened eyes for our new friends to see and desire the gospel to be true in their lives. I would also ask for prayer for patience and continually renewed faith on our end, and that we would be rejoicing in God using us, whether we see the fruit or not.
A final team-strengthening aspect I’d like to highlight is the topic of “confrontation,” which we discussed in our TMT this week. As we are inevitably sinful and as we struggle to see our own sin, we are pushed to lovingly approach each other when sin is identified. We studied two passages in Galations (2:11-14 & 6:1-3) that address the importance of this exercise in coming alongside one another to bear each other’s burdens. Confrontation is meant to point both parties toward God and away from sin, and to cause us to die to ourselves and to fear of man as we seek to grow together. This is an area I feel weak in, for I tend to lean towards the “love” versus the “truth” end of conflict, which usually means I avoid confrontation altogether. See how fear of man creeps in so easily and in so many areas? We must continually remind ourselves and each other of truths such as Hebrews 13:6 that I shared at the beginning of this post, “…The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Well, the week has finally come to an end and the World Cup is this weekend! We are all excited to witness this event in a country so very passionate about it. Speaking of the Brits, we found out from a Crowded House member on Tuesday that of our entire group, Peter looks the most British! All of the girls look American, according to him. When asked what gave it away, he responded that it was partially our hair (they part it differently here, supposedly), but mainly our smiles. Who would have guessed? We hope it may be seen as God’s love shining through us, and not just an American thing. =)
Thank you all again for your prayers and support! Our rope-holders are so important to us!