Redefining what it means to be a student: Joe Fenwick

We know Joe through the way he's living his student life with Jesus and in the context of the local church. We love who he is and how he is redefining what it means to be a student. He's the kind of guy we think you should meet too, so we've asked him some questions...

Where are you a student and what are you studying?

I’m a second year student in Manchester studying chemistry.

How did you get your passion for mission and evangelism?

I got settled in and stuck in at church almost immediately and, having been in Manchester for only two weeks, I was invited to do some outreach on a Wednesday night at the main accommodation campus with about 6 or 7 others.

We stood outside the main entrance to the campus giving out sweets, water, tea and coffee etc. and told students about Jesus; mainly through offering to pray with them, sharing our testimonies and sharing the gospel. It was cold, probably raining, late and I felt completely out of my depth. I was terrified yet it was so exciting. Most people would stop to grab some sweets and then ask why we were doing what we were doing. The simple answer was because we wanted to love students.

I think that having this conversation again and again, week after week, slowly changed something in me; I began to see God’s heart for these students which led me to long for the students we’d see to know that they are loved, accepted and free from guilt, shame and all the chains and patterns of university life. 

At the start of first year I wouldn’t have said I had a passion for mission; definitely not evangelism. I don’t think anything crazy happened that made me ‘get’ this passion, other than that I gave it a go. I felt completely unqualified and I didn’t really know what I was doing or how people would react to what we would tell them. It felt ridiculous but as I began to see what God could do, there was no way I didn’t want to be a part of that.

I became so aware of what I believed and why I was choosing to live differently and stepping out in mission is what grew my faith more than anything else. Seeing people really engage in conversations about Jesus, wanting to ask questions and try church is amazing and I’ve learnt that it’s so worth getting a little bit uncomfortable to see God change people’s lives.

Can you tell me a story of Jesus making a difference in your life as a student?

There are hundreds of little moments when I am so thankful that I know Jesus and I’m so thankful for my identity in Christ. Exam season is the obvious example as I see so many around me struggling under the weight of results, but there’s so much freedom in knowing that I am not defined by my academic performance.

I think my favourite story from uni so far is of one of my housemates. Around February time in first year our student leaders told a few of us they’d love to meet in halls to be able to have dinner with our flatmates and open the conversation about Jesus. I said I was up for it (mainly because I trusted them a lot so I thought it must be a good idea, despite how nervous I was) but I had no idea how to even tell my flatmates what was going to happen.

Around 20 students ended up in my kitchen in halls, we had dinner and chatted, but nothing really seemed to happen. Right at the end, just as we were washing up my flatmate quietly asked a few questions, and a few months later gave her life to Jesus! We had no idea what to do or how it would go, but God did, and not just knowing this truth but seeing it has made a huge difference in my life as a student.

How are you using your summer this year?

After all the excitement of first year, God has been teaching me so much about rest so far this year. 

The pace of student life can be so overwhelming and it’s easy to burn out. As much as I try to keep a good routine and make time to slow down and genuinely rest, I want to make the most of the time off uni. Rest is more than just sitting and watching Netflix though; being able to take time to hear God and do things that make me thankful is so important. I’ll probably spend a lot of time with my friends from home and from uni. I’d love to really invest time into those friendships, to make space for us to be honest about how we’re doing, to genuinely love each other and just enjoy hanging out.

I’ll try and take time to process the term and second year and reflect on what I’ve learnt, what I’m thankful for and look back on what God has spoken to me about. I’ll also try to pray into third year too and listen to what God is saying (about where I can serve, what opportunities to say yes to, how can I reach people etc.) as well as praying about what my life might look like once I’ve graduated.

If a student is reading this who thinks being a student is limiting and they can't really get on with 'real life' yet, what would you tell them?

I completely understand the feeling, and as much as it might not feel like ‘real life’ a lot of the time, it’s definitely not limiting. As a student, you have so much freedom and flexibility with how you invest your time, make the most of this. God wants to use you as you are, right where you are, right now - pray about how you’re spending your time and ask God to give you opportunities to serve, ask him to use you!

If we want to know more about who you are, what you're up to and what you're involved in, where can we click next?

Instagram: @joseph_fenwick, @ivychurchacademy

Read more in this redefining students series here: Abii Birkett, Iggie Clark

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

Partner with Miriam