The question of the universe

I lived like a prince — a wealthy Muslim family, in a wealthy Islamic country. Everything was done for me; I didn’t even know how to tie my shoelaces until recently. My parents, being devout Muslims, taught me the Islamic way of life from the very beginning. I would sing the call to prayer in the mosque every day and once even went on pilgrimage to Mecca.

But from the age of 12, I started to have doubts. There were things about the Quran that just didn’t sit comfortably with me — the history, the science, the teaching. At the age of 16 I made the decision to leave Islam. I was too tired of religion. I felt betrayed; I felt that I’d been living a lie. So I closed my eyes to all religion.

by Oana-Maria Sofronia on Unsplash

Here by chance?

That’s how I stayed until January 2018. I had felt very sure of my atheism, but then I started to wonder again. No matter how much I studied, no one could explain how the universe came to be. Believing the universe came from nothing also required faith. Many times I would see beautiful things — the majestic mountains or amazing pictures of the cosmos captured by the Hubble telescope. How could it all be here by chance? It just seemed impossible. I had to acknowledge that there must be a God.

Clicking into place

Eventually, I started reading about Christianity. And I really loved it. But I knew I’d need to be more sure of it before making any decisions. A few months ago, I moved to a country in Eurasia to study. I would often find myself praying to the God of the Bible, asking for help, because I really wanted to know the truth. One day I met a Christian, and when he invited me to go along to his Bible study group, I happily agreed.

by Ben White on Unsplash

A week later, I went along to the meeting and I loved it. I found myself craving to learn more about the Bible and the Christian faith, and in my heart I felt that this is the right path. It all clicked so well in my mind. I came to understand that God loves me so much that He sent His Son Jesus! Jesus came to earth specifically to die for my sins (and the sins of the whole world) so that I could be forgiven. Ephesians 2:8–10 declares that salvation is a gift of God — not something earned. It is received only by faith — simply trusting completely in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as payment for my sin.

New life with Christ

Since beginning my life with Christ, He has continued to change me through His word, by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in my heart. He is working in my life. I now really care for other people — not just only for myself. There is a wonderful sense of relief in knowing that I am forgiven and secure, in knowing that God is on my side and wants the best for me. I’d never felt this way before. I love this Christian religion!

Find out how God is using this small student group to reach other students

Revival on campus has not yet come to the small European country of Luxembourg. There are only six Christian students meeting regularly to study the Bible in the whole country. Most of their friends have no interest in talking about Jesus. But in this difficult pioneering location, there have been encouragements over the last year:

  • Luca* recently invited his Muslim friend Jamal* to come along to the Bible study. Jamal enjoyed it so much that he then brought along two of his friends as well.
  • A French-speaking Bible study group has just started up. Four students have been going along to improve their French, to ask questions about the Christian faith, and to look at the person of Jesus.
  • José* is a Mexican international student. He started the year as an apathetic atheist but recently has shown more of an interest. He met up with a Christian staff-worker a few weeks ago and asked questions until late into the night.
  • Student Lara* was sitting in the canteen with her friends, listening to one of them share about his struggles. At the end of the conversation she bravely asked if she could pray for him.

Praise God with us for these examples of how He is at work and join us in praying for these students as the new year starts:

  • Pray that the movement (FCSA Luxembourg) would be able to register officially with the university. They will be reapplying in February after their first application was rejected.
  • Pray that new students would join the group this term, as most of the current members will finish university in a few months.
  • Pray for José, Jamal and the other non-believers to keep asking their questions and attending the Bible study; pray that they would come to know Jesus this year.

*name changed

Thanks for praying with us!

Mission-minded international students in Japan

It is not unusual to hear stories of ministry to international students. But it’s not every day that we hear stories about the ministry of international students.

And perhaps that’s understandable. It’s not easy being an international student. Just going about your daily student life — catching the bus, buying your lunch, going to the library — these normal activities can be lonely, bewildering and overwhelming. In that situation many of us would be concentrating on just surviving — not on evangelism. Besides, you probably don’t speak the language very well; you don’t understand the culture. To share the gospel with local people seems impossible. You’re just an outsider. Unqualified. Right?

Meet Kristine.

Kristine is 25 and grew up on the tiny island of Guam in the South Pacific. She’s an international student in Tokyo, doing a Masters in literature. And she loves Jesus.


The first semester was the worst. Peaceful island life seemed a world away from life in this sprawling, sleepless city of 38 million people. Yet Kristine felt alone. Her exchange friends were only there for a short time, and they liked to go out and get drunk. Kristine didn’t know about the Christian group on her campus. She wanted to get to know local people but struggled to move beyond ‘acquaintances’ into real friendship. They called her ‘gaikokujin’ — outsider. It was a daily reminder of her identity as a foreigner. She realised that no matter how good her Japanese language got, she would never be considered one of them.

“Why am I here, Lord?” she wondered.

Kristine soon discovered that her ‘outsider’ status was not necessarily a disadvantage. On the contrary, God was using it to open doors ‘insiders’ couldn’t access.

The mother of Kristine’s host family teaches English to people in her neighbourhood. She was planning a special lesson for Christmas and Kristine was invited to go along as a native-English-speaking guest. She agreed to let Kristine tell the Nativity story during the lesson and give out Nativity comics to the children. They listened attentively.

Another day Kristine met an elderly lady on the bus. The lady was intrigued by the foreigner. They got talking and swapped numbers. Two years on they still meet up every couple of months. Kristine is open about her Christian faith and asks this elderly lady how she can pray for her.

In the Japanese culture, it’s hard to share the gospel. Most people don’t want to hear it. Especially not from another Japanese person. It doesn’t fit with their expectations of what it means to be Japanese. Yet for foreigners, those social expectations and restrictions don’t apply in the same way. As an outsider, you can get away with more. Sometimes people are more willing to listen to the gospel when it’s shared by someone coming from outside their own context. And outsiders like Kristine have the added appeal of being fluent in English. Rather than being a hindrance to evangelism, the language barrier can be a useful tool, providing a way to meet people, build friendships and share lives together.

Investing on campus

After she had been there a while, Kristine discovered the KGK Japan group. A number of them decided to start meeting together every morning before class for a short time of Bible study and prayer. Two students were particularly regular and became close friends with Kristine. Each morning they’d share how God had answered their prayers of the day before. One of them enjoyed it so much that she started doing devotions with her family. Once a week she’d cook her parents breakfast and then sit down with them to study the Bible together. The other student was a new Christian, and the only believer in her family. Those morning devotions were a time of exciting spiritual growth for her. She decided to get baptised, and has started praying for her family to turn to Christ.

One-sheep mentality

This life-on-life approach takes time, commitment and effort. But that’s the kind of investment Japan needs. 99.4% of people in Japan are not following Christ. That’s not going to change with a hit-and-run mission approach. They need to see life with Jesus lived out authentically, day after day, year after year. Kristine knows she might never see large numbers of Japanese people turning to Christ. But she’s willing to stick it out, for as long as God calls her to stay. She talks about having a ‘one-sheep mentality’ — a willingness to go all out just for one person, patiently sharing and living out the gospel, praying for the miracle of salvation.

For Kristine, this foreign country has become her home. She even found herself supporting Japan in the Football World Cup! Though it’s hard always being viewed as an outsider, she recognises the unique opportunity that that status affords to reach people with the gospel. As she’s spent time investing in friendships and praying for Japan, she’s grown to love its people more and more.

KGK staff-worker Yasu longs to see more servant-hearted international students moving to Japan:

“I think international students have the potential to influence the Japanese church and campus ministry positively. They bring new passion, energy, and perspectives. That will be key for the gospel to advance further in Japan.”

International students might seem unlikely people to share the gospel, given the language and cultural barriers. But Kristine’s story is a reminder that God is more than able to use us in our weakness, as the gospel is proclaimed among the nations.

Friendship behind the veil

Student Camps in Northern Europe

“Who are you, God? Are you there at all? If you’re there, take me to a place where I can find answers.”

God heard Alfred’s* faltering prayer.

It wasn’t long before he had the unexpected opportunity to leave his Muslim community and move to Northern Europe to study for one semester. There, he heard about a camp some Christians were organising for international students. Alfred decided to go along. He was curious. He wanted to know more about the God these Christians worshipped. He wanted to see for himself what the Bible said. Could it be true that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the only way to be forgiven?

Over the following months he continued to meet up with his new Christian friends, asking them questions, watching their lives. They cared for him. When he injured his ankle, they visited him. They spent time eating together, playing games, chatting.

There was another camp at the end of the semester. Alfred delayed his return flight so that he could attend. On the last night the students heard the story of the Prodigal Son. Alfred knew that he wanted that relationship with God as His Father; he wanted the new life Jesus offered. That night he prayed for forgiveness and put his trust in Jesus as his Saviour.

The very next day he shared with the other campers how God had been working in his life over the last few months. He spoke of the change Jesus had made in his heart, of the hope and joy and peace he now felt, of his new desire to love and serve God.

Now back in his home country, Alfred is continuing to read his Bible and pray. But he has no Christian community there. Please pray for protection and for fellowship for him. Pray that he’d have opportunities and wisdom in sharing his new faith with his family and friends. It’s not going to be easy for him.

*name changed

Hospitality in Eastern Europe

I had never intended to work with Muslim students. I didn’t know much about Islam. I didn’t particularly want to. But as I opened my home to host international students, I was surprised to find that half the students turning up each week were Muslims. And so, I sort of stumbled into this exciting ministry, learning as I went.

Apart from the social activities we organise, we also offer a weekly English Bible Study. Although the Bible studies are open to all international students, it’s the Muslim students who are regular. Over the past few years, we’ve had the chance to study the Bible with Muslim students from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Yemen, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.

One thing I’ve realised is that working with Muslim students doesn’t require a lot of training, or a certain type of personality, or big outreach events. We’re just ordinary Christians. We try to make our Muslim friends welcome, asking them questions and getting to know what they believe. Because religion is a big part of their lives as well, talking about spiritual matters happens surprisingly naturally.

Small things make a real difference: making sure we cook without pork; waiting to eat dinner together after sunset during Ramadan. Hospitality is such an important part of Muslim culture. Sometimes they cook for us too — once we had eight Yemeni students come over to cook us traditional Yemeni food!

I’m so grateful that God brought these students into my life. I know that God is at work in all of the international students in our groups, but it seems more apparent with the Muslim students. I encourage everyone to become friends with a Muslim student or two, and see how God will use you to have an impact in their lives, and them in yours.

Mission trips to North Africa

It was my first time going to North Africa. I was totally captivated on arrival.

The heat, the noise, the smells, the colours! It was so different from what I’d ever experienced in Europe. The people on the street were warm and friendly. But I was also struck by the poverty of many. Such a contrast from the wealth I consider normal back home.

The five days went quickly. We got to know one young Muslim woman. She had suffered a lot, having been treated badly by some of the men in her life. We talked to her about God’s love for the broken and the lost. We were able to give her a copy of Luke’s gospel before we left, and she and I have stayed in contact since. She’s invited me to go back and visit in the future.

We also met a local man who had converted from Islam to Christianity, along with his wife and two daughters. He had spent time in prison because of his faith. His children were being excluded at school because they didn’t wear the headscarf or take part in Ramadan. And when his family met up with other Christians, they had to do it in secret. It was incredible to see his strong faith, enduring real suffering with joy, for the sake of Christ.

It made me ask: why am I so afraid to talk about my faith with my friends back home, when the only thing I might lose is my self-image and not my life?

Coming back, I have a new appreciation of the privilege of knowing Jesus and of the freedom I have to talk about him in Europe.

International Student Forum in Eurasia

Earlier this year my friend and I travelled to a neighbouring country in Eurasia to help out at a camp for international students. There were more than sixty participants from 12 countries. Many were from closed Muslim countries that we can’t go to. There were talks explaining the Christian faith, and lots of other fun activities throughout the day — sport, national dances, games, music, drama!

We were both helping to lead small discussion groups. During those group times we discussed big questions such as, ‘Who is God?’ ‘What is sin?’ ‘How can we be saved?’ I was able to share what it means for me to be a follower of Jesus and why I decided to follow Him.

As we chatted together I believe that the Holy Spirit was at work in the hearts of these Muslim students. Some of them shared their reflections:

“God helped me to find myself through this forum. I found out who I am.”

“After this forum I’m starting to get an interest in relations with God.”

“I am really eager to find the Truth after this forum.”

Please pray for these students.

Discussing the Quran and the Bible in France

Why would they only discuss the Bible and not the Quran?! The Turkish student was furious and said he’d never come back.

That was what prompted me to try something new.

We now have five discussion groups across the country. Muslim students and Christian students come together to discuss what they believe in a friendly, respectful environment. They ask questions and learn about each other’s faith. We look at topics such as ‘What is faith?’ ‘Who is God?’ “Men and women in the Bible and in the Quran’, and ‘Prayer’.

French universities welcome more than 70,000 students every year from Muslim countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Senegal. There are also many French students of Muslim faith. Over the last three years, 60 Muslim students have participated in these discussion groups. We praise God for these 60, but are all too aware of the vast numbers yet to be reached.

Pray that more groups would be started across the country. Pray that the Muslim students who have already heard the gospel would come to faith in Jesus.

These discussion groups are known as ‘ABC’ groups (Autour de la Bible et du Coran). There are resources available in French for students wishing to start discussion groups at:

Buddy program in the Netherlands

It was an everyday sight. A group of students, laughing together, as they slipped and skidded around an ice rink. But what made this group unique was that half of them were Dutch Christians; the other half were Middle Eastern Muslims.

The buddy program, linking up international Muslim students with local Christian students, has prompted many new friendships. The ‘buddies’ meet up at least once every two weeks. It’s more than just an opportunity to practise Dutch. It’s genuine friendship. And through it, the Muslim students are getting the chance to hear about the God of the Bible for the first time in their lives.

There have also been dialogue evenings organised for Muslim and Christian students, to learn more about the others’ beliefs. Big questions get discussed:

“What does it mean for you to pray?”

“Could God forgive you if you kill someone?”

“What do people in the church here actually think about us Muslims?”

Many have been keen to know more. Some have also been willing to read the Bible.

And with the recent arrival of many refugees (including students) from Islamic countries, the opportunities to reach out to Muslims are abundant. Pray that we would make the most of this unprecedented opportunity to share the hope that we have with those who are lost without it.