September 2007 - Vol. 11


photo illustration by Jamie Treadwell

Answering the Cries

A post-graduate American finds hungry searchers for God in London

by Hannah Gornik

Crying out for a savior
I was watching the movie Superman Returns the other night, and the hero said something which really struck me. “You say that the world doesn’t need a savior — but everywhere I go I hear people crying out for one.” In 2005, I was just finishing my studies in psychology at Notre Dame University, and I heard the same cry. I had applied for a variety of business jobs, but gradually realized that what I wanted to do was share the gospel, particularly with university students. I worked as a resident assistant in halls of Norte Dame University, and every day I saw the brokenness of lives lived without a savior. My own faith and my experience of living in Christian community had convinced me that I wanted to share the gospel in the context of a faith-filled Christian environment.  When I heard that Koinonia, a university student outreach in London, was looking for a staff worker, I jumped at the chance. It was a two year commitment, in a different culture and a new community, but I heard the cries of those students and knew this was where I had been called.

Planting a seed of faith
The idea of western Europe as a mission field might seem a bit odd to some — but after spending a summer in Dublin in 2004, I had felt a call to the particular challenges found in the “post-Christian” societies. The students I have met in London seem a long way from a living faith in Jesus Christ. Growing up in the UK and in western Europe, a majority of them have seldom, if ever, been to church. Most of their parents did not attend church, so their attitude towards religious belief is either complete apathy or slight curiosity. Some also have strong intellectual arguments against faith. Many of them have not thought about God, let alone death or sin. That is where our work begins. For most of these people, a short conversation when we give them a free cup of coffee is the only chance we get to share the gospel. In that brief window of opportunity, we try to plant a seed of faith. 

Helping searchers of the truth
This past academic year we ran a lunchtime course in which we examined some big life questions, such as why suffering exists and whether God is relevant, and we presented the Christian response. We had quite a few people come along, and our hope is that through hearing the presentations and getting to know us, they will eventually come to faith in Jesus Christ. But they are in some ways the exception, willing to engage the big questions and search until they find the truth.  Many more students here in London will not even approach the questions.

This may seem like a bleak environment in which to spread the gospel, but I see a lot of hope here. There are students who are really searching, and in some ways they are more open and curious than in other places. The difficulties people face in living and working in this city make our community life in Koinonia that much more visible.  People see our life and are drawn to it, because it shines so brightly. Non-Christians come to events like our Lord’s Day celebration because there is a sense of belonging there, and their curiosity gives us the chance to speak to them. 

One girl who had lost her faith as a teenager got to know us through social events, and accepted an invitation to come to one of our weekly prayer events. She felt welcomed and began attending regularly, but during the times of prayer she sat in the back and just watched.  She saw something in our communal prayer that answered the questions in her heart, and after a few months of just watching, she talked to me and said she was ready to commit her life to the Lord. Our willingness to love her where she was at and help her to join in our life allowed her to take that step.

A shared life in Christ among students
In addition to our evangelistic efforts, we do a lot in Koinonia to build the life of our core students. The highlights of this past year were our prayer and fasting week, our Holy Spirit night, and an all-night prayer vigil. These were all opportunities to get out of our comfort zones, to really re-dedicate our lives to God by taking another step towards him.  And those times, as well as the regular life of Koinonia, equip us to reach out to the students we meet. They give our students the opportunity to tell their friends what they do every Thursday night, or explain fasting when their friends ask — and that has an impact.  Through our prayers (and yours too!) and constant focus on drawing closer to God, we have the opportunity to answer the cries we hear around us.

[Hannah Gornik, a member of Word of Life Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, recently served for two years as a staff worker for Koinonia, an outreach ministry to university students in London.]
 

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