July 2012 - Vol. 61

Students and Gappers at the January Koinonia weekend retreat 
Digging Deeper and Growing Stronger in Faith 
by Marie-Sophie Vanderstuyft

Five more days and my Kairos GAP year in London will be over. The year has gone so quickly!

I started this year with a lot of hope. I had seen some people leave on gap years and come back  different people, changed for the better, and I hoped something like that would happen to me, too. Back home, I had tried to live a good life, but some of those old habits seemed just too stubborn.

Being in London was very different from what I expected. I thought of it as a "sabbatical" i.e. a peaceful, restful year of course filled with service and teaching, but still peaceful and restful. It wasn’t.

In London this year we saw the start of something new for gappers – a “mission school.” It involved four mornings a week of training. In addition to that, we worked for Koinonia, the local outreach to university students, and we served the teenagers of our host community, Antioch, we lent a hand serving practically in different family homes, and we lived in household. Needless to say we did not get bored.

But in this midst of this seemingly crazy schedule, God was at work. And he worked hard. I have seen miracles happen this year. In Koinonia, in the people around me, and in myself. Looking back, I cannot but thank the Lord for this opportunity to dig deeper and build stronger foundations. 

Let me tell you a little more about those miracles. 

We started the year with fewer than 10 people in Koinonia. Fresher’s week, when new students get to meet representatives of the various student groups on campus, went very well for Koinonia. So by November there were 18 committed people in Koinonia, including  12 students.  At the end of the academic year some of the events we hosted brought together more than 30 people at a time, and we were regularly following up with around 50 students. 

We knew it wasn’t because any of us were born sales people , nor because Koinonia was offering students so much fun. It was clearly God working, in adding to our numbers. We saw this as a sign of God’s word to Antioch to be prepared to collect a harvest people hungry for God. Now we saw it happening in our midst.

I also witnessed miracles in people around me. I saw people’s attitudes change 180°, I saw people decide to choose for Christ and touched by the Holy Spirit. I saw people who had a problem with their hearing being prayed over and being able to hear clearly once again.
One of our students came to a morning meeting, not looking very happy. He said one of his teeth was causing him a lot of pain. So one of us asked if we could pray over him. The student, a very rational thinker, did not believe it would heal him, but said yes out of politeness (maybe a little bit of hope, too?). When the prayer was finished, the student looked very surprised. The pain had left completely. I can testify that he was glowing for the rest of the morning. 

And miracles in myself. 

After 5 years of studying medicine, my mind had been brainwashed. Everything that happens around me has to have a rational, logical, scientific reason. A couple of months after I started my time in London, Antioch Community organised a healing-service. About 400 people attended that evening. Many people asked prayers for healing, and people testified that they experienced God healing them. I asked some people to pray over me, but I didn’t experience any healing.  I began to think to myself, I really hope those people who claim to be healed of cancer, of hearing loss, of blindness,… are going to check this with a real doctor. I had no faith this kind of things could happen and definitely not to me. 

A few weeks later, the community organised a ‘power-weekend’ for people in the community who wanted to experience more of the Holy Spirit and his gifts and fruits. I went and asked for more faith, a little crack in that wall of logical, down to earth rationality around me. The person who prayed over me started to pray for more freedom for my mind, which was an interesting, a new thought for me. But, during that prayer I started to realise how amazingly great God is, how much more he has for us, how small this little worldview of mine was and how ‘logical’ it is for God to intervene in our world in such a transcendent way. 

It was a very freeing experience, and during the year I could see my faith grow more and more. I am very thankful for that grace and I find myself impatient to see what else it will lead to. This growth in faith had an impact on my prayer life, on my greater understanding of the importance of the charismatic gift of speaking in tongues and on trusting that God will provide and protect, and that he will do miracles. 

God really provided what I needed this year: being put in London, and in a strong community with excellent leaders and great fellow gappers, but also financially, emotionally and physically. 

This is just a fraction of what God has done with me this year, and I am certain He will continue showing me more and more things that have changed over these last months. This Kairos GAP year will be a strong foundation to build the rest of my life on. The motto “A year set apart for a life set apart” is very true. I am ready to go back now and use all these new experiences, examples, ideas and calls in order to see His kingdom grow. 

Thanks to everyone who made this happen. 
Marie-Sophie Vanderstuyft is originally from Belgium and is a member of the Jerusalem community in Brussels. She finished her 5th year of medicine at the Catholic University of Leuven and participated this past year in the Kairos GAP program in London with Koinonia, a Christian outreach to university students.

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