This is Emma’s latest newsletter in April 2017
Our church has been supporting Emma Keown who is working with Agape locally in Belfast in the University area.
Our vision is big. We dream of a day when everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus. This vision extends beyond our national borders and beyond what we could ever hope to accomplish on our own.
Our strategy is simple. We believe that in order to see the growth of spiritual movements like Jesus did, we need to do what Jesus did: introduce people to his message, help them grow in their understanding of how to follow him with their whole lives, and challenge them to go out and do the same with others.
In this way, Agapé helps people to model their lives on Jesus’ words and witness in their universities, families, workplaces, communities and beyond.
Agapé launched a new student movement in Belfast in Autumn 2015. The team are from the US. Here team member Alana Scarborough reflects on what God’s done in the last year.
Launching a new movement in Belfast has been learning experience, to say the least. We entered having somewhat of an idea about the religious climate of the city and Queen’s University, the political and social history of Northern Ireland and the general demographics of the area. But what we didn’t know was how all of these “general ideas” would hold up against real life in Belfast. We knew that there was a division between Catholics and Protestants and we knew the students were hungry for the gospel. But this wasn’t the full story.
What we didn’t know was that this division between Catholics and Protestants has actually little to no relevance to their religion, what they think to be true about God and how to worship Him. Sure, that might have been true hundreds of years ago, maybe even 50 years ago. But today, these labels of “Catholic” and “Protestant” have really become stamps of what culture you belong to. Whatever label you identify with will determine what flag you fly, what sports you play, where you live, where you go on holiday, what school you went to, etc.
What else we didn’t know was what hoops we would have to jump through to communicate the gospel clearly to students in Belfast. You see, the students in Northern Ireland all attend Religious Education classes their entire school career. They are told what to believe, what is right and wrong, according to their either Protestant or Catholic school teachers. Uni, for them, is the first time in life they get to choose for themselves. They don’t want to hear an impersonal argument about why they have bad theology. They want to hear why your religion actually matters to you, why the Jesus you’re selling is different than what they grew up hearing about.
That being said, a lot of our year was spent meeting with students and sharing our lives with them, sharing the Jesus we knew to be real, alive and active. With the sensitivity of religiosity within the culture, we weren’t absolutely sure how to share the Gospel in an appropriate way. So we took it slow to be cautious.
This past month we’ve had 16 students from the US on a Summer Project join us. This gave us the opportunity to try a different approach. The boldness of these students allowed them to share the gospel 50 times over their five weeks in Belfast. One of these times, two of the girls met a student named Finnoula. They talked with her for hours about life, spiritual things and for the last hour of their conversation, the gospel. She was super receptive but just had a lot of questions and doubts.
A few days later, one of our student leaders, Molly, tells us that her friend, Finnoula, had met with the Summer Project students and proceeded to ask Molly about her faith, even asking her to teach her how to pray. This is just a testament to how much the Lord is pursuing His children in this city. It is a wonder to behold His works.