“With the Christian student community, I realized that in this world I am loved. I’m not alone here.”
For student Sophia*, this was not just a good feeling. It was life-saving.
She had been suffering from the personal repercussions of war in the Eurasia region. Her boyfriend had left the country, her father was drafted into military service, and her mother, due to a change in personal circumstances, also moved abroad. She was devastated.
Her loneliness further deepened because she felt so at odds with the political beliefs of those around her. Day after day, she lay in bed, often screaming into her pillow. She was diagnosed with severe depression.
At that time, Anya*, a volunteer staff with the national student movement, invited her on a church trip to see some horses. “For the first time in months, I started to feel something – it was happiness,” Sophia recalls. As she was touched by the beauty of the animals and the friendship of the group, she felt able to engage in conversation about God. She heard how he not only saves us, but keeps going with us, coming alongside in troubled times. The darkness started to lift.
This was a reawakening of the love Sophia had experienced a couple of years prior. At the time, a close relative was sick with cancer, and Sophia shared her distress with a Christian lecturer at the university. She offered to pray for Sophia and brought her a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which Sophia devoured. Then she invited Sophia, along with other students, to her home for meals, Bible studies, and prayer. This is when Sophia first met Anya.
Sophia describes the quality of relationship in those gatherings: “I felt loved – they always listened to everybody and seemed to relate to the pain students were going through. They never superficially asked ‘How are you?’. They were truly interested in our answers.”
Life-changing groups like these were widespread in this country until the pandemic and a recent war. Anya is one of two volunteers and nine staff who currently work across six cities to sustain and re-invigorate this IFES national movement. At the end of August, staff were able to train up a dozen new student leaders with their “Ambassador” program. In her university city, Anya says that their main goal is to develop relationships with the students: “We dream of reviving the traditions of student lunches and dinners.”
“I’m still working on my emotional condition. But I know for sure: if it were not for God, prayers, and the love of that family, if it were not for the other students that I can talk to and have some fun with, I would never feel anything again. But now I do. And I’m really thankful for that.”
Pray with us for students and staff in this Eurasia movement:
- Give thanks that the love of God has been felt as well as heard. Give thanks for Sophia*, Anya*, and the student ministry in this sensitive country – that in the midst of personal and national troubles, God is at work.
- Pray for protection and inspiration for the movement as it seeks to navigate the limitations caused by recent political events. Pray that the staff will be able to establish deep, loving relationships with students in all six cities.
- Pray for the student leaders who attended the “Ambassador” training – that they will be filled with all the wisdom, boldness, and love they need to be witnesses for Jesus in their universities.
*Names changed to protect identities