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Talking With The English

Surface Level

Last week was our first full week spending time with students at the University of Sheffield. Walking up to random people is probably one of the most terrifying things for me, but after the initial awkward tension (usually) a friendly conversation develops. It is this way with most of the students here in Sheffield. Once they get over how weird it is to talk to a random stranger, they open up quite quickly. Willing to talk about the weather, their lives, politics, and (of course) religion. I don’t think I expected people to talk so freely about religion. If you bring up Christianity or God at the University of Minnesota, people usually greet it with hostility because a lot of the time they have been personally hurt by the church, or grew up with it and don’t want anything to do with it. In Sheffield, church or religion is so far removed from their lives that they are able to talk about it as easily as one would politics. But it often doesn’t make a personal connection to their own lives. I think we are learning that a way to get personal is not by talking about religion, but by asking questions about what they believe, whether it be success, happiness, purpose or whatever. It’s finding out what what people are putting their hope in.  

Personal

But, once you ask them a personal question of what they believe, they begin to get more closed off. This can be hard when the God we believe in is such a personal God. A God who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15), has a plan for our future (Jer 29:11), loves us even when we don’t love him (1 John 4:10), and knows us deeply (John 10:14-15). This is the God of the Bible. He is not an intellectual concept that can be solved, He is a personal God who loves us in ways that we cannot understand. This is something that has been so hard in talking to students; they don’t want to believe something unless it can be understood fully. But, we as believers know that we will never understand God. And yes, we could have conversations for hours debating whether God really exists, why evil is in the world, or why there are other religions. All of which are good things to talk about, but those things are not getting at the heart. And the God we believe in gets at the heart of things and that is what the gospel does and is. It is God loving us so much that even while we were still sinners (and continue to be sinners) He sent His son to us to take on that sin so that we could be united into a relationship with Him. It is so much better to know God through that relationship, then to fully understand him.

God Still Works

One thing that can be hard with all of these conversations is feeling like we are not getting anywhere. It can feel discouraging to talk to someone for an hour and walk away feeling like nothing was “accomplished”. But, God is accomplishing something so much bigger than we could ever imagine. He is a very creative story teller and is drawing people to Himself in ways we could never understand. 2 Corinthians 3:6-7 says “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” It is important for us to remember that in our time here, we are not the ones saving people; God is. God is the one who changes hearts, but He is gracious in honoring our feeble attempts to make his name known. So even if we walk away from a conversation that went really well; able to ask lots of questions about what people believe and articulate the gospel in a personal way, God can work in their hearts. Or, if we have a bad conversation; we didn’t talk about God, or didn’t get their phone number to follow up, God can work in that too. We cannot see into God’s ultimate plan for people, or the story He is telling. All we can do is be faithful to what He has called us to do. Whether that is by loving them by listening, or loving them by telling them the best news in the world. God is still working in both the surface level conversations, and the deeply personal conversations.

Here are some photos from the last week of our team and some new friends we have made along the way. 

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Our New Home

Traveling 

Well we are finally here and settled in to our new home. It feels like the past week has been a whirlwind, but here is a short snippet of what went down in the past 5 days. We boarded our plane on Tuesday afternoon headed for DC with a connecting flight to Manchester, England. There was a lot of looking out plane windows, watching movies, reading, and trying to sleep in an upright position. As we descended down into Manchester it was obvious we were somewhere different. Many beautiful old houses with red brick, rolling hills, and roads winding every which way. As we made our way by train to Sheffield, the beauty of the countryside blew me away (even though it was really hard to stay awake after not sleeping at all the night before). Once we got to Sheffield our group lugged ourselves and all our luggage a mile (or should I say kilometer?) up some pretty big hills. The amount of people staring at us as we walked by in our zombie-like state was almost laughable. We made it to the Wilson Carlile Center and checked into our home for the next two months.  We weren’t allowed to go to sleep because our body clocks would be way off, so the rest of the Wednesday was spent going over a few technical things like finding the nearest grocery stores, and getting a taste of the local food (which, contrary to what everyone has said, food here is pretty good). After dinner we welcomed the long awaited comfort of sleep.

Exploring

Thursday was spent exploring the city, which is pretty large and has about 550,000 people. We were given a very tiny map with no labels and expected to find different buildings, landmarks, and parks based off of it. I’m convinced it was made really hard on purpose to force us to get help from the locals. As we were exploring the city one thing became very clear: there are hills everywhere and we walk everywhere. I have never walked so much in my life (I’m talking like 6-7 miles of casual walking a day!) Although it has made transitioning into the new time zone pretty easy, I’m out the moment I hit the pillow each night. The next two days were a mix of exploring, talking to people, and learning. On Saturday we went to campus and finally met some of the college students at the universities we will be spending so much time at. Surprisingly, most people are so friendly, and very willing to talk to us. I think we have a little bit of an advantage by being American in that we can get away with walking up to random people and asking them to talk. I think everyone on our team was able to connect with a student that we can follow up with in the coming days. It seemed to be gracious of God to give us some nice friendly people as our first interactions, it definitely helped to calm some nerves that I think all of us are experiencing.

Church

On Sunday, we had our first gathering at the Crowded House Church that we will be attending and partnering with for the summer. It was great to be in the company of believers, after hearing and witnessing a culture that is turned off to God. Our relationship with God through Jesus connects us to people across any culture. What a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like someday (Revelation 7:9). After church we were able to meet with the life groups we will be a part of for the summer. These life groups meet together after church and spend the afternoon eating, talking, and drinking tea in each others company, but more on that later...

Prayer

Overall, I think the team is excited to finally be here. Pray that God would continue to comfort nerves that we have in sharing the hope that we have in Jesus to a people who are in desperate need of a savior. Pray that God would grant us boldness through the Spirit. Lastly, pray that God would be softening the hearts of the people we interact with and love. 

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It's Finally Happening

INTRODUCTIONS

It’s crazy to think that 11 days from now the CCP team will be boarding a plane headed for Sheffield, England. Eleven days to finish finals, raise remaining support, buy power converters, pack our bags, and tie up loose ends. The time to leave has kind of snuck up on us, but I think the team is ready!  But, before I even write another word, I think it is important that you see who exactly is on the CCP team this summer.  And because I think faces are beautiful and important and putting names to faces is important, here is a lovely picture of our team. I have really loved getting to know these people better over the past 5 months. We have had multiple retreats focusing on support raising, team building, and British culture. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun these retreats were with the team. It made me so excited to spend 2 months leaning on them, learning with them, and laughing (a lot) with them. 

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Bottom Row (Left to Right):
Lauren Dunlap, Junior at Washington University 
Kayleigh Marks, Senior at University of St. Louis 
Hannah Henley, Junior at University of Northwestern
Mckenzie Smith, Sophomore at University of Minnesota   
Torrin Nelson, Junior at University of Minnesota (the person writing) 

Top Row (Left to Right): 
Rob Eller, Junior at University of Minnesota
Josh Netterlund, Junior at University of Northwestern
Harmon Squires, Junior at Bethel University
Larry Martini, CO Staff at St. Thomas
Lynn Martini, CO Staff at St. Thomas

WE'RE ALMOST THERE

After months of planning, support meetings, retreats, and praying we are about to see it all come to life. When people ask me how I feel about going to England, the answer is usually ‘I just want to be there’, we have been talking, planning, and thinking about it for so long that it’s almost like I have forgotten that WE ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO ENGLAND! A real place, with real people that we will soon be meeting, loving, and sharing the hope that we have found in Jesus. Two real universities with 60,000 students. And a real church, with a body of believers that we will be fostered into for the summer. Our ideas and dreams of what England will be like is about to become very real, and I couldn’t be more excited and maybe a little bit nervous.  By the way, the ‘I’ referred to is me, Torrin Nelson. I will be updating this blog frequently over the summer, just to give a little taste of what our team is experiencing. I’m sure at points it will be hard to express exactly what is going on in Sheffield over the summer, but I will do my best. I hope that you will check back here often to find updates, stories, photos, prayer requests, and learn a little bit more of the English culture.

BEFORE WE GO

Larry (our fearless leader, along with his wife Lynn) just emailed out our itinerary for traveling to Sheffield, and our plane leaves at 11am on May 26th! Another wave of, ‘Oh wow, this is actually happening’ hit when that email came in. Before we go, our team has a bit of support left to raise. Right now our team has raised about 81% of the support we need, which is awesome considering that our goal is $49,000! It has been absolutely amazing to see the ways that God has provided so many generous people to partner with us! It is a good reminder that God provides even our physical needs (Luke 12:24, Matt. 6:31-32), probably an area that I struggle the most to trust God with. God’s providence in support raising has really encouraged us all to see more of his power and fulfillment of his promises like the verses above. Both things that we will especially need to rely on while in England, and will probably be a big theme throughout these blog posts.

 

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4 Reasons We’re Thrilled about Going to England

Every year Campus Outreach sends a small team of students to another country to share the Gospel with college students. We call it our Cross Cultural Project (CCP). This summer, we’ll be taking nine students to Sheffield, England for eight weeks, and we’re thrilled about it. Here are a few reasons why...

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Dying to Hear It and Dying Without It

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Dying to Hear It and Dying Without It

Well, we can hardly believe it.  It seems like just yesterday we were finding out who the Lord had chosen to be a part of our support team.  But after raising over $53,000 of support, much air travel, and 7 weeks that flew by, we have grown and changed in ways.
We’ve...

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Missions Week

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Missions Week

We have finished our time in the UK.  On Wednesday morning at 5:15 in the morning, we left our home of seven weeks and began our long journey back to the United States. But before we went back home to Minneapolis, we set off for South Carolina to spending a week at Summer Training Project.  Summer Training Project...

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What We Do Here Echoes For Eternity

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What We Do Here Echoes For Eternity

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,"

Ecclesiastes 3:1

As many of us have been wrestling through the sorrow of leaving Sheffield and those we have befriended this summer we have found great encouragement and joy in the reality of God's sovereignty. He has given us 7 weeks here in Sheffield and that was no mistake, even if we may wish we had longer. We have had 7 wonderful weeks to see the Lord working in a cross cultural context through The Crowded House Church, in our own lives, and in the lives of both international and British students. Sunday night was a wonderful opportunity to see two of those areas connect. Maura and I have been involved in the international students life group and our leaders, The Richardson's, hosted a going away party for us to invite all of our international friends to in order to prayerfully get them connected to the local church! It was such an encouragement to see our life group meeting and connecting with the students we have been sharing the love of Christ with all summer. It is clear that the Lord soverignly provided The Crowded House Church for our trip for more than one reason, but it is particularly clear that God is opening doors to continue to move in the lives of our international friends although we may be saying goodbye to them. We are merely links in a chain that God is using to pull dead hearts out of the grave and back to life, as Tim Chester said at Church this Sunday, "You do not have the power to bring someone that is dead to life." Only God does and he is graciously using his people from both The States and The UK to do so. What an incredible joy it has been for all of us to realize how a God so great and powerful would allow us to participate in a mission with such eternal significance! So as we head back to the states and to the next season of life God has prepared for each of us we can joyfully look forward to the wedding feast mentioned in Revelation 19:9, " And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”Even if we never have the opportunity to see our brothers and sisters again at The Crowded House it will surely be an incredible reunion with them in heaven with our savior! Please be praying that we would also be able to be reunited with the students we have met this summer at the feast because they have entered into the family of Christ!

Although our trip is 7 weeks in total it is clear that what has occurred this season will echo into eternity. So far this trip has impacted the team, the church, the students, and the city of Sheffield. Prayerfully as we head back to the States and down to The Summer Training Project (STP) it will begin to impact the students their and grow their vision for and desire to reach the "lost world", which in turn impact their campuses and one day the world! Please be praying that our time at The STP would be just as fruitful as our time in Sheffield to plant these seeds of vision and that we would be able to rest and ease back into the culture and life of America!

Thank you all for your continued support throughout the summer! Please remember that although our time in Sheffield may be complete, the ways that God will be working through this experience is not! We still have one more week of the trip in South Carolina and an eternity to discover and rejoice in the fruit he will bring from it! 

 

-Meaghan O'Toole

Our going away party at The Richardson's

Our going away party at The Richardson's

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He Hears Us

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He Hears Us

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” ~ 1 John 5:14

Less than one week is left of our ministry adventure in Sheffield this summer, as we leave for North Carolina next Wednesday...

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So Little Time, So Many Opportunities

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So Little Time, So Many Opportunities

This week was international students welcome week for Sheffield and the churches of the area.  Many of the international students who will be taking courses in the fall arrived this week in order to take English courses to improve their language skills for their upcoming courses. This provided us with a brilliant opportunity to...

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God at work, We are privileged to see it

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God at work, We are privileged to see it

I have two very exciting bits of information to share with you all.  The first is that we received notification last week that our entire team is 100% fully supported! $53,419 has been raised thanks to your generosity and has been used for the glory of God through giving (1 Chronicles 29:9), partnership (Ecclesiastes 4:9; John17:21), receiving (James 1:17), and the gospel being shared (Romans 10:11-15; Philemon 6).  On behalf of our team, we are so grateful...

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A trip to Ireland

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A trip to Ireland

Since the last blog post, our team has spent two more days in Ireland before returning to Sheffield in time to attend church at The Crowded House. We have one more week of travel ahead of us, as we will be traveling to Leeds for a campus evaluation on Tuesday and to London for holiday fromThursday to Saturday.

The last two days of Ireland were incredible...

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Final Exams, Birmingham and Dublin

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Final Exams, Birmingham and Dublin

As The University of Sheffield finished exams last Friday, our team is slowly transitioning our focus from English students to international students. This past week has been making final follow-ups with the English students who will be heading home for their summer. 

Birmingham:

Monday of this week...

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Creating Meaning in a Meaningless Society

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Creating Meaning in a Meaningless Society

Ezekiel 37:1-6

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered...

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What can man do to me?

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What can man do to me?

“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...

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Trusting in an Unfailing God

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Trusting in an Unfailing God

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth…

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

So it’s raining.

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Fellowship with Light

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Fellowship with Light

Our first full week in the city has been a whirlwind so far! Despite the many blisters we've acquired from walking, EVERYWHERE, and recovering from jet lag and culture shock (its remarkable how different the culture is here), I believe that our strength as individuals and as a team is only growing stronger as we've been diving into ministry this week and deepening our dependence on God and each other.  The Lord has already provided in so many ways.  As this is the first week I'll give you readers a breakdown of our schedule and highlights from the week!

Monday we started...

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First Four Days in the UK

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First Four Days in the UK

We made it. Sheffield, United Kingdom. As I type that, it still feels a little surreal. God has been faithful through the last 5 months since our first team meeting in late December. I am blown away by the amount of generous people He has provided who have committed to pray and/or give financially in order to make this trip happen. If you are reading this...

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So Why the UK?

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So Why the UK?

The United Kingdom is a very strategic region with regards to reaching the world. According to Joshua Project, there are 8% evangelical Christians, but pastors in the UK that the CCP team has been in contact with say that is an incredibly generous estimate. In reality, a better estimate would be less than 1% evangelical Christian.

The United Kingdom is strategic because it is seen to serve as a gateway into many other places in the world, such as the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

 

What will we be doing all summer?

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Get to Know the Team!

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Get to Know the Team!

Maura Bickner

School/Year/Major: University of Sioux Falls, Senior, Business & Accounting

What are you most excited about for your trip to the UK?: I just want to meet these Sheffield students already!  And also get a feel for if Sheffield could be a place that I might want to go long term if the expansion goes through.

 

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