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During my time in India I was privileged to spend a few days at Highfield, the Union of Evangelical Students of India Study Centre in Kotagiri, India. Surrounded by tea plantations and high in the Nilgiris hills it is a beautiful place for UESI staff and others to study and to take some recreation. On my arrival I was able to spend one night with the national UESI staff team, based at Chennai, as they had come for the weekend with their families.
While I was there, there were eleven young trainees at the centre. Seven were young UESI staff from all around India, many had come to know Jesus while students themselves, most of them working in pioneering situations in the North. There were also four recent Korean graduates present who were part of an IVF/UESI mission partnership where the recent graduates spend six months in India receiving training and mission experience. The Korean graduates use English so that they can be better equipped to reach out to internationals wherever God leads them.
This training programme runs for eight weeks and covers basic theological and Christian understanding - with modules covering Learning and Leading, Old Testament, New Testament, Theology and Doctrine, Leadership and Discipleship, Worldview, Mission, Preaching and Counselling, and finally Contemporary Issues. When the eight-week course concludes some will stay on for the UESI ministry training for a further four weeks for further training on small group Bible study, large group teaching, planning and evangelism.
Comparing this staff-training opportunity to the one in New Zealand I noticed some differences and similarities with the ministry of TSCF.
6:00am bell to wake you up to have a quiet time and get ready for breakfast and a 6:15am bell in case you did not wake up with the first one!
Eating curry and rice with our hands - which is a great freedom!
The final teaching session of the day ends at 7:45pm with dinner at 8:00pm.
Singing wonderful old-school songs - many with hand actions!
Lots of tea and not much coffee (certainly not plunger coffee!)
There is a little bell rung 5 minutes from the end of the session to warn the teacher to finish on time.
There are many references to God as Master.
Monkeys, not Possums, are the local pests.
Badminton is the leisure game of choice.
One person always needs to come to the aid of the teacher in the area of data projection and technology!
Climate in the hills was similar to a normal spring in NZ - warmer during the day but still cool in the evenings.
UESI has a cross-cultural team with challenges around language, food, and contextual application.
Using the Investigative Bible Study method (which we sometimes call Manuscript Bible Study) - observation, interpretation and application.
Mafia is a game played in India, Korea and NZ!
Student workers are more often night people than morning people.
The same Bible, the same God, the same mission - to reach students for Christ!
I have been struck by people’s generosity. Even those who have so very little are still eager to share what they have with you. As well as giving money, possessions and hospitality they give generously of their time and although I have observed that they work hard every day I have never heard anyone say ‘I am busy’ in the weeks we have been here. Even though people do not have many things they are keen to make sure we have plenty - it has been very humbling.
I have been impressed by the commitment many of the UESI team have to their calling. Most student workers I have met are being trained and equipped for pioneering work in the difficult mission field of North India. They all talk about committing to the work until they are able to raise up a worker from the area they are being sent to and for many that will involve many years of committed service. It is challenge to think about what our commitment is and what our calling is to.
I have noticed that there is a real hunger for God’s Word here. Everywhere we have gone people have been asking to hear the Word of God expounded to them. Scheduling it into their time is a priority - no matter how long the sermon and they are eager to learn to read the Bible for themselves! They have enthused about Paul Windsor’s contribution with the Langham Partnership in Delhi. I wonder if we are as eager to hear the Word of God or whether our busy lives take precedence?
It was a joy to meet with our partners in India and to hear stories of young people who have come to know Jesus at college and also many of the extreme challenges of student work in more remote areas of India in the far north and in Orissa.
Val Goold, Head of Student Ministries
India has the second largest population in the world - approximately 1.7 billion.
It is the seventh largest country by area and shares borders with Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and Afghanistan.
Approximately 80% of the population are Hindu, 13.5% Muslim, 2.5% Christian, 2% Sikh and 1% Buddhist.
UESI works with students and graduates. The student group is known as Evangelical Union (EU). Graduates are those who are EU alumni or the non-students who may or may not have a University degree. The graduate group is known as Evangelical Graduates Fellowship (EGF).
Please pray for our continued partnership with UESI, that it might be a blessing to us all as we learn from one another and support one another in the ministry God calls us to.
Posted by Val Goold on 04/12/2009
Engineering is a challenging context to live as a Christian. Engineering is known as the hard-drinking, fun-loving faculty of party animals. Unwittingly, the Engineering Christian Fellowship (ECF) organised their recent Dialogue Dinner to take place on the night of the 'Stein' - an annual drinking fest organised by the Engineering Society.
In spite of the clash ECF persevered and agreed to each invite five of their friends to a dinner and talk on Creation and Evolution. It was amazing to see the number of people that came along and some great conversations were had during and following the event!
How encouraging that one of the friends who was intending to head to the ’Stein’ later actually decided, after hearing the talk, to stick around and chat. Praise God that He is using these students who are living and speaking for Him in a difficult situation! We are praying that these good conversations will continue, that the students will have boldness and opportunities to further share the One they have put their trust in!
Posted by Gillian Wildgoose on 04/12/2009
Catalyst (TSCF’s graduates ministry) continues to put down solid foundations. You can read about how we are equipping graduating students; yet Catalyst isn’t just for recent graduates – it’s for every academic, postgraduate and professional who wants to see Jesus glorified and made known in their workplace.
Academics groups at Victoria, Massey, Lincoln and Canterbury
Small groups of academics met in September and October at Victoria and Massey Universities and will be meeting in December at Lincoln and Canterbury Universities to continue exploring the establishment of Catalyst Academic groups on their campuses. The groups aim to encourage the integration of Christian faith into academic life, and to support and equip all university and tertiary staff to be true witnesses and deep thinkers, and to live undivided lives with a passion for God's global mission.
First Graduates group in Wellington
The first Catalyst graduate group has been launched in Wellington. A small team of recent graduates, led by Elaine Vun (Wellington Ministry Intern) and Edwin Tan (a TSCF graduate and an accountant with Deloittes) met for the first time at the end of October. The meeting was a great success with around twenty people attending. Graduates spoke of their passion to keep living out the values of True Witness, Deep Thought, Undivided Life and Global Reach in their workplaces. One graduate who attended said, ‘I've really enjoyed meeting with others and hearing their stories of how God can be honoured in their careers’. Edwin Tan said, ‘The group will be meeting every six weeks, and in-between we hope to encourage graduates to establish their own industry-specific Catalyst groups’.
Posted by Rachel Turner on 04/12/2009
What will make a long term, significant effect on the spread and influence of the gospel in New Zealand? We believe that part of the answer is graduates who are willing and able to apply and live out their faith in their workplaces – this is why TSCF is developing its graduate ministry ‘Catalyst’.
As well as establishing networks, creating resources, and hosting events for existing graduates, we are also developing our programme for graduating students. This year we have evolved our regional events for graduating students as well as making significant developments to the Graduating Students Track at SLC.
Regional events for graduating students
Over the last two months regional staff have held events for graduating students ranging from evenings to full blown camps. Whatever the format the purpose remains the same - giving God thanks for the undergraduate years and equipping students to make the transition out of undergraduate study in a way which sees them impacting their places of work, further study or travel with the gospel.
Ben Carswell (Wellington Team Leader) said, “In Wellington soon-to-be-graduates from CU and ICF met to reflect on their time in these groups, sharing their memories and what they had learnt. It was encouraging to hear how students had, for the first time, met Christians with different perspectives on the Bible, of having the opportunity to discuss questions about Jesus, life and following him, of the fellowship and support they had found among their peers and of learning leadership skills. We spent some time thinking about how they could go on being part of TSCF – by supporting their groups, by praying, by giving, by being part of Catalyst and by getting involved with IFES, either in the countries they are returning to, or by considering if God might be leading them to serve him in another country. We spent some time looking at what the Bible has to say about giving, of hearing each other’s plans for the future and praying for each other.”
Tim Hodge (Lincoln and Nelson Team Leader) who also hosted an event for leavers, said, “It was an evening of good food, good company and good times in the Bible. We opened the Bible, looking at the issues of work, guidance and giving. We prayed with and for one another, with exams looming, and for the transition away from Lincoln for the long haul. We discussed continued involvement with TSCF post-Lincoln. It was sad to gather as a group about to leave Lincoln and leave the CF, but exciting to hear each other’s stories from the class of ’09 about the next steps God is taking each of us on, knowing that the gospel continues to work in us and through us wherever God may take us.”
Join us in giving thanks for the students who have been part of our group these past few years. Pray for them as they take exams and make the transition into the workplace, further study, or as they head off overseas. Pray for those who are returning home, having studied in New Zealand as an international student. Please pray too that some will continue to partner with TSCF.
Graduating Student Track at TSCF's Student Leadership Conference
Each year TSCF incrementally improves the Graduating Student Track at SLC. This year’s no different. We want to see all of our students go on to be part of Catalyst and make a gospel shaped difference in their professional and personal lives. Equipping them to make the transition to work or further study successfully is one of the key ways this happens.
The track is centered around four themes. God’s work and ours, God’s sovereignty and our suffering, God’s sovereignty and our guidance, God’s provision and our generosity. Framed by these themes the teams are helping students develop the personal skills and practical workplace wisdom they’ll need to thrive. Gillian Wildgoose (Auckland Staff Worker) said, “It's my hope that students’ confidence in God will really grow. We’ve organised for them to go on site in central Wellington and interview leaders in their professions. We want them to hear first hand how God’s faithfulness can shape their working lives. The team are hoping to see students more prepared for all that life will throw at them so we've planned a range of interviews with young graduates facing the effects of recession and redundancy.” Tim Hodge (Lincoln and Nelson Team Leader) said “We’ll also be having a range of conversations with young graduates on how they are applying the gospel to fields such as fashion design and graphic design.”
Please pray for Tim, Erin, Gillian and I. It’s our hope that students will, through this Graduating Students Track, catch the Catalyst vision to see their workplaces shaped by the gospel and go away better equipped to make it happen.
Posted by Mark Grace on 04/12/2009
‘You’ll LOVE it!’ they said.
‘It’s jam-packed, you’ll learn heaps. It’s really challenging, and it’s even better than Mid-Year,’ they said.
‘It’s short for Student Leadership Conference, but it’s not just for leaders-with-a-title but anyone ‘cos as Christians we’re all called to be leaders anyway,’ they said.
‘Actually, it’s really short for Summer Love Camp,’ one grad chuckled!
Having immersed myself quite thoroughly in TSCF by jumping in the deep end as a leader in my first year at uni, I was quite looking forward to this conference that had obviously made a huge impression on other student leaders. I was very much feeling the need to get as much TSCF leadership training as I could, as well as networking with other student leaders with more experience than me. SLC did not disappoint! In the words of Josh Irving, another Welly TSCF newbie and first-time committee member like myself:
‘SLC was an eye-opening experience - seeing TSCF in action on a national level. It was an amazing opportunity to network with and be inspired by student leaders from all over New Zealand. Together we tackled 1 Peter both in small group Bible studies and with Andy Shudall (Head of Training) in the main session as he taught from the book. I also took part in a stream, which ran throughout the week, where we learnt about community, friendship, the importance of spending quiet time with God, and living an undivided life. Additionally, we developed a better understanding of inductive Bible study and, over four jam-packed sessions, the Bible as a narrative whole. Throughout the week, I especially noticed the level of student involvement, from reading Scripture to sharing testimonies and leading worship. It was such an encouragement to know that we were all returning to our different campuses with the same passion: to bring Christ to the students in our universities.’
1 Peter is not an easy book to get one’s head around, and the depth of discussion within our mixed-stream small groups was challenging and very rewarding. The manuscript study technique that we learnt is hugely beneficial in encouraging a deeper engagement with the text and this really fosters growth in the participants. It was so refreshing to experience this depth within my group, having been part of more than one Bible study in the past that hadn’t really progressed further than a cursory understanding.
It was also really encouraging to see students taking the initiative to encourage each other and arranging prayer meetings during free time to share needs and support each other. I’m so proud to have met these stellar young Christians who will be the future leaders in our churches and the wider society. I’m thoroughly looking forward to doing Stream 2 next year. From the feedback I’ve heard, the teaching on worldviews, apologetics and other religions combined with opportunities to put this understanding into practise werevery rewarding for the students. Overall, I think this is what stands out to me most about the teaching style – sit-and-listen teaching was combined with practical time to learn to ‘do’ it. For Stream 3 students, this involved preparation for integrating into the workplace while living out their faith in an undivided life – work is worship.
But the conference wasn’t just about the teaching. There was also plenty of free time to build friendships with people and to network, and awesome long worship times in the evening with opportunity for musical ones to participate in the band. Oh, and who could forget the amazing bookstall with heaps of titles aimed at a variety of study areas from a deep-thinking Christian perspective. Ah, bliss!
Thanks TSCF for a wonderful conference! Students, do not miss SLC next year! Look forward to seeing you there!
Now, I would close with that, but one word from the sports field of SLC continues to echo in my brain and must be committed to paper… ‘Niiiiiiiinjashka!!’
[Ed: for those not at SLC, Ninjashka was the new craze at SLC. Brought to us by two US students travelling in NZ, this mix of musical-statues and marshal arts was a big hit!]
Posted by Charlotte Kirby on 01/12/2009
The Christian Union and International Christian Fellowship just had an amazing weekend away on the topic of Global Reach. We heard teaching from the book of Acts, seminars on cross-cultural mission, Bible translation, social action, early New Zealand missionary endeavour, as well as a cross-cultural missions experience. It was a great highlight having a long-serving Wycliffe missionary with us for the weekend, as well as Saudi Arabian believers from a local Arabic-speaking church. The weekend was deeply challenging to consider how God might use us in his global purposes.
Posted by Scott Mackay on 01/12/2009
In July, Simon Bond and his wife Suzanne arrived in Auckland. Coming from Belfast in Northern Ireland, they’re here for a year as part of Suzanne’s ongoing training as a Paediatric Surgeon. Suzanne is working in the Starship Children's Hospital and Simon is an Optometrist working part-time in a practice as well as getting some clinical training at the Auckland Eye Institute. Simon has also joined the Auckland team as an Associate Staff Worker.
'Though I have a number of links with UCCF in the UK, TSCF is my first hands on experience within IFES. I will be meeting with Massey Albany Christian Fellowship who meet weekly for Bible study and prayer, and hopefully we’ll get to hang out off campus as well. My hope is that we grow in our passion and understanding of God's Word so that we live gospel centered lives and that we will have a real desire to tell people about Jesus and see lives transformed for God's glory. I'm passionate about Ulster and Irish Rugby, I support the only Red's (Liverpool FC) I just love watching and playing sport.'
Posted by Rachel Turner on 01/12/2009
This year CF and ICF worked together to plan a week of activities and outreach. We started each day with a prayer meeting and held various events during the day, all building up to a meal and an evangelistic talk on the Thursday night.
One of the daytime events was a BBQ outside the library where we handed out approximately 600 invitations to the dinner. On the back of the flyers were testimonies of students in CF and ICF about what God is doing in their lives. People seemed to receive the invitations well and were generally interested in what we were about and why we were doing it.
We also ran a squash tournament that attracted the more competitive students on campus and provided an opportunity to invite non-Christian friends along. Every week CF provides toasted sandwiches for students coming back from the pub, but this week we made it more evangelistic by encouraging students to ask questions about Jesus in exchange for a free toastie. The questions were mostly about evolution and the Trinity and we were surprised and encouraged by how deep and well thought-out some of the questions were.
The meal attracted a mix of international and domestic students both Christian and non-Christian. The night flowed well and the speaker spoke clearly about the work of God in his life, challenging us to consider God’s will in our lives. The evening created many opportunities for further conversations with the friends who had come along.
Kate Shewan (LUCF) and Sarah Chrin (Lincoln Staff Worker)
Posted by Kate Shewan on 01/12/2009
Newswatch is a program that is geared at helping international students with their English comprehension, listening, speaking skills. Both students and volunteer helpers watch and listen to two recorded news items as a group. In the first screening of the news, students listen while the helpers write down phrases or words that the students might possibly find difficult to understand. During second screening, the students write down the words and phrases that they do not understand. After, both students and helpers would get into smaller groups to discuss the things that have been written down before watching the news a third time. Newswatch is a really great opportunity to connect, meet and build friendships with International students at Massey Wellington. From friendships that have been fostered at Newswatch, several students have accepted invitations to study the Bible with us.
Posted by Elaine Vun on 01/12/2009