In order to farewell me into my retirement, last Saturday 7th March, the Christian Fellowship at Jung Hsing University held a reunion of students from the last 25 years. For me it was a very happy occasion, seeing how God is using so many of them, in their churches, work, families, and even in mission. I have been reflecting on just what I have been doing so enjoyably for more than 30 years.
I have been raising children, not my own, for my husband and I do not have children. But in student work I have been trying to love each student who comes into the group with the love of the Lord. I have been building long-term friendships through teaching them to base their lives on the Bible. In the process my own knowledge has vastly increased, as I have read Christian books, commentaries, and articles.
One of the most encouraging things about working with university students is that they are considering what to do with their future. It is a great privilege to help them to ask not, “What do I want to do?” or “What do my parents want me to do?” but, “What does God want me to do?” and “How can I bring glory to his name by how I live my life?”
After they graduate many of them keep in touch and I attend their weddings, often preaching, or offering premarital counseling. I listen to their problems and encourage them to continue to follow biblical principles in their everyday lives.
Last Saturday, some were there with their teenage children, others with toddlers, two were pregnant. Two introduced me their future marriage partners. I still have four weddings to attend before leaving Taiwan on the 16th June. I feel as if they are trying to make sure I can be there.
Over the years, I have not counted how many are now pastoring Taiwan churches, certainly not a few. Five have become cross-cultural missionaries (one still in training). One is now the head of Taiwan Village Gospel Mission.
When I was first involved in student work, I saw my role as a small group leader, leading Bible studies and teaching others to do the same. But I gradually realized that, like many people, I was a bit afraid to do direct evangelism because I was afraid of being rejected. I had to learn to evangelize and to be an example to others in this. I began to look round for a method that suited me – biblically based, clear doctrinally, something that gave people freedom to discuss and think, not demanding an immediate response, but asking for reflection before making a decision. I wanted something that I could teach others easily, something that could be fitted into almost any Christian’s way of life. It also had to be adaptable to Taiwan culture, discussing the issues that people face here, and also had to assume that the person knew absolutely nothing about Christianity, because that it the way it usually is here. Over the last fifteen years, with Taiwan students and student workers, we have used and modified the Christianity Explained course. I now love initiating conversations about Christ. I feel I know clearly what I am trying to communicate, and can communicate it clearly.
Many of the students I have worked with now too feel confident in sharing their faith, and many have had been able to lead fellow students to the Lord. I have now passed on the baton, not to another missionary, but to my Taiwanese colleague, a staff worker with Campus Evangelical Fellowship.
Angela Symonds – Taichung