Agapé Students taking the good news to the Middle East
By Lauren Graham
Lauren Graham is a second year Intern working with the Agapé Students team in Belfast. In summer 2022, Lauren was part of a team of Agapé Students staff and students who went to the Middle East for two-and-a-half weeks to volunteer with the local Agapé team. Here’s Lauren’s report, in her own words, about her experience on that Global Project:
Last summer – the end of my first intern year with Agapé Students – the Water’s Edge Global Project was launched to bless the local ministry in the Middle East, where we already had some connections and wanted to develop a long-term partnership. I was working with the Agapé Student’s team in Belfast and was so excited to learn more about this project and how I could get involved. I was really hoping and praying I’d get put on this team, and was overjoyed when I learned I would be going.
I was rather apprehensive about the two-week trip as we were going to be working with people from an entirely different cultural background, and I’d never really travelled so far from home without my parents. However, with the prayer and support of family and friends I left home knowing that God would be going before me, and all He required of me was to be faithful to the call to go. I was often reminded of the story found in Ezekiel, where ‘God told him to speak, “whether they listen or not”’ (3:11). In other words, Ezekiel’s calling was to be faithful, not successful.‘ (‘Best of Daily Reflections: Called to Be Faithful, Not Successful‘, The High Calling, Theology of Work Project.) I was therefore trusting that God knew better than I did and would lead and guide me despite my doubts and fears.
We arrived in Water’s Edge* on 21 June, and from the get go, everything felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe God had called me to this part of the world – somewhere I never thought I’d even get the chance to visit – and I felt so excited to get stuck into ministry. We settled in for the first day and got our bearings, developed our relationship with the local team and committed the two weeks ahead to God in prayer.
The weeks that followed were nothing like I thought they would be. We’d planned down to the hour for our trip, but ended up taking things day-by-day as we navigated the culture there. We quickly learned that, in order to best bless the people we were there to serve, we’d need to be flexible and willing to change plans at the last minute.
For example, we were asked to help paint a local gym during our stay – something we hadn’t planned for. This ended up being a real blessing to the local community, and we were able to invite local students to help us paint, as well as developing relationships with students who were coming to the gym as members. We were also able to paint a Bible verse on the wall in Arabic.
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A favourite conversation of mine happened in a local café, when I was having lunch with a teammate and praying that we’d meet students there. A group of six Muslim women, around student age, came in and sat at a table near ours. I knew as soon as they came in that God had laid it on my heart to go and spark up a conversation with them – but how? I felt so afraid and unsure of how to engage them in conversation. A few moments passed and I noticed they were trying to take a group photo – I saw my opportunity! I got up (hit my knee on the corner of the table on the way – ouch!) and offered to take the photo for them. We got talking after that, and my teammate and I were able to hear about their views and beliefs about God, and, most importantly, got to share the good news about Jesus with them. The Holy Spirit was really at work in that conversation, and we left with enough contact information to point them in the direction of the local Agapé team.
Another highlight was when we went to get local SIM cards for our phones. While we were standing in the shop, a young Muslim woman and her mother came in. The local team leader urged us to talk to her, so we invited her (and she came!) to our events during that week and brought along another friend, also a Muslim. They heard the good news about Jesus multiple times that week, and I learned that there’s never a wrong time to initiate a conversation about Jesus with someone – even in the phone shop!
On our last night in Water’s Edge, we threw a British party, where we provided British-themed food and snacks, as well as iconic British party games like pass the parcel, musical chairs and a table quiz. This was such a blessed night, and again, we were able to share the reason for our trip with the students, in the form of a short presentation about the good news about Jesus. There were a mix of Christian and Muslim students there, and we’ve now formed relationships that are ongoing, even today, with some of those students. Praise God!
In other exciting news – we’re going back this Christmas! Praise God for the opportunity to go back so soon! In late December, just before Christmas, we’ll be returning to Water’s Edge. With the experience I gained from our summer Global Project, I’ll now be helping to co-lead the team there. This’ll be a super short project, so we’re praying that God’s hand would be at work as we navigate spending our time and resources well.
* For security reasons the name of the city has been changed.
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