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Gideons at Exeter University

March 2017 | by Stephen Owen

We read in Judges 6-7 that God gave Gideon a vital task to fulfil with only a tiny number of men. So it was that, at the end of October 2016, an even tinier number of Gideons from local branches undertook the task of witnessing to the students of Exeter University and offering them a free copy of the Word of God.

The outreach is organised each year with the help of the university chaplaincy and the Evangelical Christian Union. We are able to book a stand in the Forum, a large building at the university which houses a library, shop, restaurants and bar. There is a constant flow of students passing in and out.

When the outreach first started, we were able to roam around the building and go outside in good weather to speak to the students and offer them New Testaments. In recent years, however, the management of the Forum has become more difficult and required us not to move away from the stand, which has restricted the number of students we can speak to.

Opposition

This year we thought we had an arrangement whereby we could stand by the road outside the Forum and speak to the students from there. However, we had not been doing this long before various atheists within the university objected loudly, accusing us of harassing the students and claiming the road was a private one belonging to the university.

So, leaving two Gideons to man the stand at the Forum, we decided to take some Testaments down onto the public highway outside the university and offer them to the young people walking to and from the halls of residence.

This proved ideal. There was a constant flow of students going past us and we were able to offer them our Testaments and speak to them about the Lord Jesus without further opposition.

Many students simply walked past us, saying, ‘I’m alright, thanks!’ or ‘No thanks, I’m not religious!’ But many others were willing to take our Scriptures, some of them doing so as they rushed to their next lecture. Others would pause long enough for us to tell them about the ‘helps’ in the front of a Gideon Testament, while a few would give us time to tell them something about the Saviour.

Overseas students

There are huge numbers of foreign students at British universities these days, especially from China and other Far Eastern countries. One Malaysian girl, wearing a Moslem headscarf, asked what the book was that we were offering.

When we told her that it was the Word of God, she thanked us and took it delightedly. Many Moslems who do not speak Arabic have never been able to read the Qu’ran for themselves, and it is strictly against Malaysian law to witness to a Moslem in any way. So we were especially delighted when four young Malaysian men began to ask us questions about Jesus and then each took a Testament.

Many Scriptures will be returning with students to China, Malaysia, Japan or Thailand. Please pray that they will be read, not only by the students themselves but by their families also.

On the second day, we found that some students, having heard that Scriptures were being offered, looked us out and asked us for them. We also found another route that students were taking into the university and covered that also.

Teamwork

At the end of the outreach, we found that we had distributed just about 1,000 Scriptures in the two days, more than double the quantity of the previous year. We are especially grateful to the Evangelical Christian Union for their help and support. One sows, another reaps, but it is God who gives the increase. Please pray that the seeds sown with these Testaments will, in God’s mercy, reap a harvest for eternity.

Stephen Owen

www.gideons.org.uk