I remember receiving notice of Encounter at the Christian Union Annual Conference in March 2018. I picked up a bookmark detailing the lay out of the internship programme where my eyes came across these words: ‘Your life may never be the same’. To be honest, I chuckled a little.
“Your life may never be the same!”
We are all promised significant things at many points in life and they often underwhelm and feel like counterfeits. Initially, the programme appeared more as a false promise rather than a reality that I would encounter four months from then. All that was advertised would soon become true.
Put simply, Encounter involved discipleship, mentoring, and teaching for two weeks and then, leadership and mission for another two weeks. American and Irish university students came together to take part in all of this. Yet, beneath this Christian jargon, Encounter was about helping Christians to grow in Christ. Guiding them to dig deeper into the treasure that is God’s word, allowing them to gain a greater vision for the global church through prayer and fostering joy in sharing the gospel across this increasingly secular land. This internship sought to present Christians from all backgrounds and denominations as mature and equipped followers of Jesus. Beloved sent ones who were free to love every individual they encountered.
Encounter was a rollercoaster of craic too; endless nights of great food, chats and banter that reflected the beauty and creativity of how God created us as social creatures. Beach walks, swims, volleyball, board games, singing sessions, food and SPICE BAGS! These little things helped to gel us together in a community of encouragement, love, peace and joy. Brothers and sisters in Christ who will never forget their time with one another. The internship meant many things to the twenty–one of us who were there, for me, the experience had two profound impacts upon reflection.
The whole month helped me gain a greater perspective and view of ministering for God in this nation. Often when we serve within the Christian Union in our universities, we can become transfixed about achieving good goals, such as getting someone to profess faith in Jesus, being able to teach the Bible or encouraging people to be more fulfilled. The trouble with this is we lose sight of glorifying God and praising his name, thus, we end up working for our own agenda and temporary checklists.
Encounter emphasised the importance of seeing university students grow to be rooted and established in Christ (Col. 2:7), confident in their faith to cultivate ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control’ (Gal. 5:22–23) through the Spirit. Through Bible study and prayer, we all became more fully aware of the depth of the gospel; the length and depth God went to send his only Son to save us from our sin.
In being built up by our mentors and leaders we all matured through the weeks. From two weeks of training, we went to the four corners of Ireland. Taking part in kids camps, evangelism, helping the homeless, youth work and much more. In this we proclaimed the good news, the work of Jesus and the mercy and saving grace he offers to those who have rejected him. Constantly being reminded of expressing our faith through the love we demonstrated (Gal. 5:6b). Through all of this we could only bring glory and praise to God for who he is. Encounter helped me see the bigger picture. Life was more than a performance before the God of the universe, it was discovering that He alone deserves all the glory and praise for redeeming sinners.
Encounter impacted me more than any other training or missions’ teams I had ever taken part in. When I was prone to self–deprecate and not see my hands and feet as worthy to serve the King of all kings, God’s people assured me. They comforted me, expressing the wisdom and willingness I had to offer. Through his Word, his Spirit and people, I became more than competent to lead my outreach team. The Lord transforms us through the renewing of our minds when we offer ourselves to him wholly (Rom. 12:1–2) as we work towards the goal of advancing God’s kingdom on earth to the praise of Christ’s glorious grace and name (Eph. 1:1–14).
My life was not the same at the end – I was broken down, mended and put back together through God’s love and grace. Assurance rushed in like a waterfall, peace flowed like a river and joy enveloped a community of believers who truly understood freedom as beloved sent ones. Through the inductive studies of Galatians, I came to a realisation of the freedom we have in Christ. We are justified through faith in Christ alone and in Christ we are all one. No longer are we slaves to our old selves, rather we are free in Jesus – ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free’ (Gal. 5:1a).
Encounter helped me grasp these sweet words of C. H. Spurgeon more dearly, as for so long I thought my relationship with God ebbed and flowed based on my own performance:
“Just give up doing, give up depending upon anything that you are, or do, or ever hope to be, and depend complete on the merits, and finished work, and precious blood of Jesus Christ”.
“Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed me white as snow.”
I am free indeed because of Jesus.
To book for Encounter 2020, please visit this page and download the application form.