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The power of community

30/09/21

William arrived in Ireland from China in September 2020, just before another strict and long lockdown started.

The power of community

Joining Christian Union could be one of the most meaningful decisions I made since coming to Ireland. Due to the pandemic, seeing all the local people wearing facemasks, and doubting if we would have in–person lectures, I was really concerned about how I would communicate with and get to know my classmates. At that time, the only possible activity seemed to be playing mobile games with my Chinese friends, and I wasn’t a Christian so I didn’t join CU then.

On the first weekend of the autumn semester, my Chinese flatmate Cindy invited me to join a “walk” with CU. With the thought of meeting some local friends and going sightseeing, I first met my CU friends at the university bus stop. I was kind of nervous to chat with others because honestly there was still a gap between the English I had learnt before coming and really speaking to native speakers. Then, a cool guy with curly hair struck up a conversation with me. It was the first time someone had actively chatted with me. He was really outgoing and I got to know his names—Isaac.

We went to a lighthouse. It was a long, relaxing walk, and I got to know another person—Lycia (a CUI Relay Worker). We talked a lot about food from our countries. It was a really unforgettable experience where I not only discovered the diversity of Irish weather, but also made friends with a big crowd of CU members. It was not easy for us to make friends with foreigners, especially when I was the real foreigner here. They were so nice, friendly, and paid real attention to us.

After that, our Chinese Christian friends invited some of the CU friends to have a Chinese hotpot dinner, and we taught them how to pronounce our names with Pinyin (Chinese Alphabet). Then the Level–5 lockdown started. All of the CU activities moved online. We prayed every Thursday morning, and learned about international culture, food, and other interesting things in the International Café. Sometimes, there were even events with famous people talking about their experience. As well as these things, some of us also had a Bible study with the assistance of the local church.

At first, I just wanted to stand in a non–Christian position to learn what the Bible describes. During that time, I started to get to know Jesus, about his whole life, what his followers are like, and so on. I started to pray every evening before going to sleep. I prayed for my friends, my family, people who I know and have some problems, and also for myself. I also made some more Christian friends, including an elderly couple (– it was like having family here).

Even more, I started to feel that God was around me and helping me several times. Last Christmas when we were going to rent a car and travel around Ireland, there were some issues with the rental and so we had to plan to take public transport for the first few days. Then, the government changed the lockdown schedule, so we changed our travel plan and changed the rental days. However, others travelling with us wasted a lot of money because they had rented a car successfully under the original plan that then had to be cancelled. This was the first time I realized someone out there was helping me choose the best way.  He also helped me several times through my Christian friends or something “supernatural”, and frankly I wouldn’t have done those things on my own.

There is a verse from the Bible: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). It is Peter saying not only people who are close to God, but everyone who hears the call from God should come back and have a relationship with him. I believe as one of the ordinary people, God was using his ways to proudly show me his “superpower”. Then I thought I have no reason to ignore those signs and the existence of God. In addition, my friend Cindy is always saying that becoming a Christian is not only a choice made by someone, but also a process of God picking his people. For the past eight months studying at university, I have prayed a lot, sharing my work, my concerns, my requests, even my assignments with God. He did respond, and helped me to overcome those barriers.

Also, I want to say to the people who are not yet Christian but trying to have a connection with the Lord: What God provides us is always a choice, for everything, also for your faith. So why not come with a curious heart to explore who Christ is?

––William