Our Stories: STORY Canterbury 2018
Story Canterbury was a whirlwind of excitement and blessings. The Christian unions from Christ Church and Kent University were working alongside UCCF, the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) and Above Bar Church Southampton. Together we had a massive presence on both campuses, giving students across Canterbury the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. God provided us all with so much strength and energy throughout the week and placed many of us in situations where we could share his love with others that don’t know him yet. We can’t thank everyone enough for the consistent prayer and support that the churches throughout Canterbury provided.
We gathered each morning at Pret Café to pray together, and start each day blessing what lay ahead. These prayer meetings were a key time to chat, worship, and pray about the challenges and wonderful breakthrough’s that we each had been experiencing. It was so important to give each day to God and remind ourselves that it is by His grace that others will be saved, and not by our work alone.
Lunch time talks offered challenging questions like; ‘If God is real then why does he let bad things happen?’ which opened up interesting debates between atheists, Christians and people from other faiths. The OCCA and Above bar church teams did a fantastic job in answering many difficult questions with love and compassion, and it left many students with changed hearts, minds and the need to know more. Callom and Lara flew in from opposite ends of the world to speak from God’s word in the Cathedral Lodge each evening. The lodge provided us with a relaxed atmosphere where we could bring our friends and have intimate conversations over a glass of wine before listening to the life changing truths that the Bible has to offer. Continuing the theme of Story from last year’s mission week, we heard personal testimonies from the hearts of people in the Canterbury community, about how God has impacted their lives. These personal stories had a big impact on many people. We then had a talk each evening around John’s Gospel truths before entering into a time of question and answer, where people had the anonymity of a phone number to text anything that was challenging their thinking. Everyone involved worked so hard to open up God’s word to the lives of their friends and peers that don’t already know his love for them.
I was involved in running the international meals throughout the week where many students came to eat with us and hear a Bible story in simple English to introduce them to the theme for the evening. Bobbie who works alongside friends international provided us with a wonderful, interactive Bible story each evening which challenged the students from across the globe. So many people got involved with the meals throughout the week, they were all amazing and we couldn’t have done it without them, so a massive thank you to everyone who helped out.
God put me in situations I never imagined and blessed me with the boldness to push through situations and conversations about His word that I would normally run away from. Personally, I grew in my faith so much throughout the week, and I’ve spoken to many students that feel the same. We now feel even more confident and equipped to continue his mission throughout Canterbury and beyond. God was clearly working in the hearts of many throughout the week and his spirit was prevalent in every situation. We have had students give their life to Christ due to God’s working through us, and so many others eager to find out more about what living as a Christian really means.
Please continue to pray for the student mission throughout Canterbury and for the four week follow up course that will be taking place at Creams Café.
Blessings - Grace
What a week it was!
I think with something like Story, you can get so caught up in making sure everything runs smoothly and that all the events are good, that you forget the real purpose of it; to tell people about God's love for them. However, what was so amazing about the week is that both CU's focusses were so clearly in the right place. It was mind-blowing to see everyone's passion and enthusiasm for seeing God work in Canterbury and I was so inspired by everyone's constant excitement in telling people about Jesus and what he has done for them.
I don't have one specific highlight for the week (mainly because everything is a bit of a blur from the tiredness and caffeine that was constantly in my system!), but I would say that the best thing about Story was hearing and engaging in so many conversations with people who have so many different backgrounds, views and stories. The amount of questions we were approached with and the interest people had was amazing to see and we were so blessed to have people from OCCA, Spain and Southampton who were so wise and knowledgeable in helping us to answer some of these big questions.
It was just so encouraging to see God plant seeds in many student's lives, especially those that seem so angry towards Christianity and towards the idea of a God who loves them despite their sins. The fact that we had around 25 people tick "count me in" on the follow up cards is incredible.
Of course, with a week like Story, there comes complications and struggles. In terms of practicality, everything went fairly smoothly and we didn't have many problems, apart from spending Saturday evening trying to save the chairs from a collapsed marquee that was blowing its way across campus! I think the main things that people, including myself, seemed to struggle with were flatness and low energy before, during and after the week. We were made so aware of the ongoing spiritual battle, especially heightened in a week like Story where we were specifically dedicating time to sharing the gospel. For me, there were definitely moments of feeling flat and unenthused about flyering in the ridiculously cold wind (shoutout to our OCCA guest Callom for bringing those handwarmers though!). However, everyone overall remained in high spirits and God really honoured our perseverance through this by showing how he can work through us despite any tiredness or bad weather.
Aside from being made aware of how little sleep I can run on before being unable to function properly (I definitely didn’t try to leave the house in slippers...), the main thing that I took from the week is to not settle for people not knowing God. I know for me, I can get so complacent in my day to day life in sharing God's truth with those around me and I so often settle for other people’s lack of knowledge of who Jesus is. Don’t get me wrong, I don't think we should be forcing Jesus upon people every single second of our lives, but equally we should aim to love everyone and treat everyone like Jesus would have. Similarly we need to pray faithfully and expectantly that God will work in people's lives. During one of the prayer meetings at Pret, we sang "Hosanna" by Hillsong and two lines that really stuck out to me were "break my heart for what breaks yours" and "show me how to love like you, have loved me". These were two things that I felt God place on my heart, for us as his people; to hurt for the broken and lost and to love them like he does. This is what a week like Story is about and it was incredible to see both CU's grasp that and go out in force to share the amazing truth of the gospel. That is what the CU's of Canterbury did last week and God really went beyond our expectations, amazing us with the work he is doing in Canterbury and on both campuses.
About the Author
Emily is a member of City Church and a current 2nd year Psychology student at the University of Kent. When she's not studying or leading one of our student small groups, you can often find Emily working hard in Sainsburys local.
Grace is a current 2nd year student at Canterbury Christ Church University studying Primary Education. Originally from Ipswich, Grace has spent time in South Africa working with Tearfund and also enjoys serving her summers away at Soul Survivor.