“Where did you go over the holidays? What are your plans for the summer? What’s on your bucket list?”
These are the questions that fill conversations on campuses across Ireland. Many students eat, sleep and dream travel. When we’re not travelling, we Instagram old photos of our last trip, or we look at flights to see where we might go next.
But what is God’s heart for travel? For the last few years I’ve been reflecting on what it looks like for staff and students to travel in tandem with God’s heart. And that led me into action.
As Christians we know that God loves the nations, the ‘outsiders’. And yet we don’t always share that love. Having seen how hard Christian students here find it to reach out to Muslims on their campus, I decided to use my holiday to explore the Muslim world. That first trip was an incredible experience — the culture, food, scenery! I met up with missionaries as I travelled around the country. At various points along the way I stayed in something like a ‘homestay program’ with a local Muslim family for a few days. I came back feeling rested and refreshed by God and his creation. But I also came back feeling challenged — waking up each morning at 4am hearing the call to prayer from the mosque had got me thinking…
Keen to return
The following year I decided I must do something similar. This time I went with another adventurous student who was interested in learning more about Islam. Getting stuck in the desert with no petrol, being followed up a mountain by a gunman and being surrounded by wild dogs were just a few of the more exciting moments. Off the back of this trip, we came up with the idea of doing an outreach program with the local Christian student groups and churches in a city in Ireland.
Mission on your doorstep
“To Ireland? There aren’t any Muslims living here!” was the comment of many on the team when we first told them about it. But as we went around the local area, we found that over 5% of the city is Muslim. Many of the team had Muslim neighbours they’d never been aware of. It was an eye-opening experience. The program went well, and has happened every summer since.
Four years later, we now have an international student ministry in the city that helps reach some of the least-reached Muslim students in the world, with the gospel. We also have small prayer groups meeting to pray for Muslim friends. We encourage each other to intentionally build friendships with them and share the good news of Jesus. And because of it, several students and graduates have moved to the Muslim world to live and work.
Come and see
This year we’re doing something a bit different. We’re taking a team to a country in the Muslim world to see what running a business there would look like.
We’re linking up with someone who has decades of business experience in that part of the world. The team will consist of some business students from across Ireland and the UK, and a few others from campuses with high Muslim populations who want to learn more. We’ll head off together to get a flavour first-hand of what living in such a culture and “loving our neighbour as ourselves” would be like. Please pray for us as we go.
“I’ve already got a profitable business and I hope to have several more over the next few years. But instead of enjoying it all myself, I would love to plough the profits back into helping build the Church in places that don’t yet have Church. Or even to run my businesses there too. This trip will help me see what that might be like.” (Irish student)
What can you do?
How are you using your time off from university to travel in tandem with God’s heart? How could you spend your holidays growing in your heart for reaching the least-reached students on earth with the good news?
Peter works with students in Ireland, blogs about faith and travel at www.aljabr7.wordpress.com and longs to see the most unreached peoples hear something of the good news.