“God’s done something really special this week. It just really felt like the Holy Spirit softened peoples’ hearts to the Gospel.”
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
To take the word of God to university campuses and make it understood is the lifeblood of the RZIM ministry. Over one week in February, itinerant speakers, OCCA Fellows and current OCCA students engaged in events weeks on three universities across the UK (Sussex, Surrey and Plymouth) and another one over the sea in the Netherlands (Leiden). Not to mention Professor John Lennox kicking off Oxford University’s week and Michael Ramsden an ever-present speaker at Cambridge University.
Alongside Christian Unions, our teams of evangelists – under the watchful guidance of OCCA Dean Tanya Walker and UK Director Simon Edwards – were engaged in belief-mapping, flyering, one-off events, lunch bars and seminars. As Tanya put it, “we were trying to engage at any level at all that says to a young person exploring these questions, ‘why don’t you engage with the person of Jesus Christ?’.”
And seeing the students in action on the ground was a real highlight for Tanya, “every year we go through this OCCA admissions process: interviewing; the application forms; we pray and discern over every student, ‘are they the right fit? Is the Lord bringing this person to us?’
“Often these event weeks are where all of that comes together in an incredible way, with our students making the appeal, leading people to Christ. Watching them pour themselves out on these sometimes-hostile campuses is so inspiring.”
Simon’s response to watching graduates of the OCCA programme work in harmony with the current crop down in Plymouth was simple in its message, it “was awesome, the Lord showed up, people got saved. We had six or seven folk who were led one-on-one in a prayer of commitment, about 34 who said, ‘count me in’, even last night we got a text through to say that someone had become a Christian at the CU event.”
As well as taking the Gospel on to campuses, the ministry’s involvement in event weeks is about deepening bonds of trust with the respective Christian Unions so that RZIM can continue to reach the next generation of thinkers and influencers year after year. As Simon explained, RZIM certainly left behind an impression in Plymouth, “The CU were so happy, so many of them were saying that they haven’t experienced anything like this before, God’s done something really special this week. It just really felt like the Holy Spirit softened peoples’ hearts to the Gospel.”
RZIM speaker Andy Moore joined Simon down in Plymouth but was based at MarJon, a small university on the outskirts of the city, where the ministry’s impact was immediate, “Their CU had three people when the week began, for their first lunch bar, they had 50 turn up, which was amazing, their second one had 30 turn up with a good few ‘count me ins’, so that CU is going to quadruple in size as a result of our work.”
The ministry’s impact in the Dutch university town of Leiden is potentially even greater than that felt in Plymouth. It was the first time the university had hosted a Christian mission and RZIM mission leader Julia Garschagen had no doubt of its deep-reaching consequences: “It was a mission that has surpassed anything I’ve ever seen on the continent in nine years of speaking at universities in Europe.
“I’ve never heard of so much openness on a campus and so many deep conversations about Jesus. I’ve never had so many people for the CU to follow up on. I’ve never worked with a team that was so strong and intentional in personal evangelism like the OCCA students. What has happened has also changed me forever, I am sure.”
The fruit of the ministry’s work on university campuses has a real personal resonance for Max Baker-Hytch, Senior OCCA Tutor, “When people go to university to do an undergraduate degree that often is when they’re really exploring ideas. It really is a crucial formative time for people.
“I myself became a Christian during a university events week and I think it’s just a wonderful opportunity to present the Gospel to people who may never have heard it or have heard it in a distorted form. We find that there’s just such incredible openness on these campuses that allow us to have conversations about faith.”
For RZIM, these campuses become the good soil and with God’s grace our work “indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”