Student mission week exchange

GBEU Switzerland meets UCCF Great Britain

The university semester in Switzerland was finally over. Four students packed their suitcases and made their way to the airport. But they weren’t going home. And they weren’t going on holiday. They were going to spend a week putting out chairs, handing out flyers and making sandwiches. Lots and lots of sandwiches.

GBEU Switzerland students Chloé, Clara, Isaline and Olin, along with intern William and staff-worker Noël, went to serve alongside students at Oxford University (OICCU) in England for their week of evangelistic events.

We caught up with Chloé, an English and History student from Geneva, to find out more:

“I went without knowing exactly what I would learn, but I knew I would learn more about God and more about how to tell my friends about Jesus. I wanted to meet non-Christians there and hear the different questions they’re asking.”

Fairy lights and sandwiches

Their first job was to transform the city town hall into a welcoming, fairy-light-glistening, café-style venue, complete with sofas, cushions and pot plants. They also had the task of making sandwiches to feed the hungry students at the lunch bars each day.

It might not have been glamorous. But it was striking — to the OICCU students, as well as to observing non-Christians. One curious student told Chloé, “You must really believe in this Jesus to be willing to come all this way just to be here this week.”

The days were long and full. Mornings began with an 8am prayer meeting. Days ended late with set-down after the evening events. The hours in between were spent in an unfamiliar language. It was an exhausting week for the GBEU students. What did they think about the experience?

“Even though it’s been tiring, it’s been a lot of fun. And definitely worth it. It’s such a good thing to do if you want to be closer to God and learn more about Him. There have been so many occasions when you’re alone in a situation, and you realise the only one who can help you is God. It’s also been great to serve with students from another university in my country and get to know them better.”

Extended family

It was a chance for the students to realise they are part of something bigger. Something that reaches beyond the gates of their universities, beyond the borders of their country. Staff-worker Noël reflected:

“It’s been hugely encouraging to see that we’re part of a large family. We have brothers and sisters everywhere. And we have the same good news to share. The gospel is about Jesus Christ, and that’s true whichever country, whichever city you’re in. So I would definitely recommend other IFES movements to develop these partnerships. Why wouldn’t you go visit your extended family?!”

It actually wasn’t the first time the Swiss and British students had met. Last September five OICCU students spent two weeks in Geneva, helping to run the parallel English program at the GBEU student conference. It left an impression on Oxford student Gwilym, who led the trip:

“I was encouraged by the faith and commitment of the students in French-speaking Switzerland and their zeal for the gospel and evangelism. During our trip, I realised again how God is the Lord of all nations and his gospel needs to be proclaimed to people of all cultures and languages.”

It was exciting for them to reconnect in Oxford. Noël hopes that the partnership will continue, and plans are already underway for another group of Oxford students to go back to Geneva this summer.

Back to Switzerland

Going back to their own universities, the students are keen not to forget the experience they had in Oxford. Chloé reflected on how she thinks it will change her:

“I will have more confidence to talk about Jesus clearly. I will definitely pray more — put prayer first in the order of things to do when I want to talk about Jesus with a non-Christian. Prayer is the first thing to do.”

The context in Swiss universities is very different. Most students don’t live on campus. And that can make sharing the gospel more challenging.

“It’s more difficult to have really deep relationships with students on campus. So please pray for a deeper sense of community. Pray that Christian students are able to have really good relationships with non-Christians. If they can see your lifestyle then it has a bigger impact.”

GBEU will hold its 5th mission week at the University of Lausanne in April. Noël asked us to pray that GBEU students would have boldness in talking to their friends about Jesus.

“In a country where people have pretty much everything, it’s hard to see a need for Jesus. But pray students really see the gospel as good and life-changing news. Pray they have a renewed passion for mission, and for Jesus. At the centre of Christianity is Jesus Christ — and that’s true in Oxford, and in Switzerland, and right across the world.”

In a world of increasing political and national division, what a privilege it is to be part of God’s global family, united in Jesus Christ. Join us in giving thanks for this one small example of a gospel partnership between IFES movements. Could your student group be involved in a mission exchange, to learn from and be encouraged by each other?

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