It is 20 years since I started university. I've lived for longer since starting uni than before it.
In my freshers' week I was excited, nervous and full of anticipation. I was a cocky mixture of brashness and over confidence. I had ginger curtains, massive sideburns and thick black glasses (as you can see!)
During my first night’s sleep, I was awakened by the noise of banging on the window of my ground-floor room. I was disorientated and terrified. It turned out to be drunk students from the flat next door. Over the course of the year I got to know them - they were just showing off and being idiots on that first night.
The following day was a Sunday and I went to church. I remember singing Be Thou My Vision as the tears rolled down my face. I was out of my depth and I needed God.
A bloke in his mid-twenties with spiky blonde hair came over to me and said, “Hi. My name’s Nick Light. Do you want to meet up for a cup of tea?* You seem like a good man and I’d love to encourage you in your freshers’ week.”
In that moment, I couldn’t have begun to imagine the impact that it would have on my life. Nick met up with me for a cuppa or lunch every fortnight. He prayed for me, invited me to join his small group at church, helped me set good boundaries and he encouraged me. Mainly, he was kind and made time for me. He was four years older than me but it seemed like ten!
In the twenty years that have followed, I have tried to be that guy for other students. Every year I have between 3-6 students who I am praying for and meeting up with. I try to encourage them in their walk with God and help them set good boundaries. Mainly, I want to be kind to them and make time for them. And it seems to make a huge difference.
Are there any students in your church? Could you go over to them and ask if they would like to meet up? Explain you just want to encourage them. Be normal, involve them in your life and family, give them time. They might just look back on that invitation in twenty years time and see it as one of the most important interactions of their life.
* In the nineties, people mainly drank tea in the UK! We just watched them drink coffee on Friends!