Canvas | Issue 89: Faces of Hope

TSCF students share their experiences of what it was like to be a student in Aotearoa during lockdown



“I knew living in Harbour Light [TSCF’s residential community in Dunedin] would make the first semester different for me – that was far from the only thing that would be. Lockdown brought many challenges. The flexibility in time meant I struggled to attend lectures even more than usual, as well as struggling with the stress that comes with being ‘stuck’ on the other side of the world.

However, there were many encouragements too. Previously, in the flat we struggled to find regular times each week for spiritual practices and meals together. Being in lockdown gave us the freedom to have both a meal and a spiritual practice every single day. This was a blessing on multiple fronts. Firstly, I’m aware that many struggled with loneliness during lockdown, and having times together as a bubble allowed us to care for one another by intentionally sharing our journeys.

Secondly, it encouraged me to spend much more of my free time with God. Both the quantity and quality of time I spent reading books, listening to sermons, reading my Bible, and praying, all increased. I’m confident this wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging me.

Community was refreshing during lockdown. A global pandemic is daunting; I know many are lonely. But the fellowship I had with the five others in my bubble was a relief. Knowing we were centred on Christ and his love truly was a light shining through the darkness.”

~ Jamie Payton, International Student, Otago


“Lockdown has been challenging, both personally from a convenience standpoint, and internally trying to grasp at the scale of loss and suffering resulting from this virus. I’ve been very thankful for my flatmates, and the Veritas and church communities which continued through lockdown.

But mostly, I’m grateful for Christ. He’s shone through as I’ve reflected on the things that could cause despair during lockdown – things which I think are summed up well by Solomon’s confronting words in Ecclesiastes 2:10–11:
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

I believe that the things we’ve lost or missed out on due to this virus and lockdown are incapable of providing the true riches Christ offers (1 Peter 1:3–4):
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.

It is through Christ that God provided hope for me.”

~ Andrew Fermor, Law Student, Auckland


“I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of this year. I was hoping for community and a supportive flat environment, and that I would grow as a follower of Jesus. I think I’ve got all these things in different ways. What I didn’t expect was a country-wide lockdown that made ‘community’ quite different.

For me, lockdown involved establishing new routines. Our flat established new rhythms of prayer, dinner, and exercise (everyone needed a bit of motivation to get out of bed at 7:30 in the morning). There was lots of jamming on guitars, pianos and my flute, and creating a spoof cooking show. We had great conversations about theology, family, church, and lots of stupid jokes. We became a family of sorts.

In the lockdown, I missed. We all did. I missed my friends, my family, the routines of church, the kids I volunteer with, and studying in labs. I even missed work. I missed tramping and the freedom to move, having a life that extends beyond a small radius.

I grieve for the deaths and exacerbation of inequality here and around the world, because of COVID-19 or because of our response to it. We’re lucky to have a safe place to live, enough food, entertainment and lots of green space around. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard, and it hasn’t stopped me asking God ‘Why, why, why?’ But I’m grateful for the opportunities lockdown gave us.”

~ Shar Mathias, Ecology Student, Otago