Happy Birthday

I am writing this blog on the morning of my 25th birthday, sat on a train heading for home after my first three days on The Road Trip.

I’ve opened a bunch of cards, most of which have baby animals on the front, a highlight being the micro-pig in red wellies courtesy of my sister. 

 A minute ago I sent a text message to a new friend of mine, which concluded with the following words:

 “...Just realised that I will forever remember to wish you happy (Jesus) birthday as yours is the day before mine! Happy birthday for yesterday, have a good day!”

 Yesterday in a coffee shop on Queen Mary campus in East London, outside a busy fresher’s fair, I had the privilege of sitting beside a guy as he gave his life and his story into the hands of Jesus. With all of the doubts and questions and moments of fear that catch us all off guard from time to time, he sat there and decided to choose to follow Jesus, just as he is. The story wasn’t characterised by a lightening bolt from heaven, or a heated discussion where eventually God’s existence was proven, we didn’t have a plan and we didn’t follow a formula.

Simply, as I was out and about on campus, joining a local church as they sought to serve and love their uni, I met him. We’ll call him Greg. Actually, we met three times in three days we realised afterwards. Day one he happened to be sat in a room I walked into so I greeted him and then headed back out. Day two Greg walked by me, as I stood on campus handing out invites to a welcome party the church were throwing the following evening. I skipped over to him and squeezed a flyer into his full shopping bag and we chuckled as I said something about reading it when he got home. Day three, Greg walks up to me as I stand outside Freshers Fair, still inviting and striking up conversations with people. Before we know it we were sat on a bench sharing life and the story of how Greg has ended up where he is now.

Not long into conversation we headed into a coffee shop (it looked like rain) as we continued to chew through what the bible tells us about Jesus, and asking why we don’t often seem to see his followers matching what we read is possible with God. We talked about the cost of giving up the control of your life and trusting that God knows you and your story better than you. We named the reasons that might stop Greg from accepting God loves him more than he dared imagine; how he can’t earn his way into being worthy of being loved and known by the creator of the world. 

We talked, listened, laughed and then at some point, the reasons not-to ran out. The fear didn’t seem so valid when he spoke it out loud to someone else, and Jesus we agreed was amazing, a God and man who genuinely you read about and want to meet and follow. So in the coffee shop on campus, around midday on that Wednesday in September, Greg and I spoke to Jesus together and Greg gave the control of his life, just as it is, into the hands of Jesus.

Freshers week does not have to be so busy and overwhelming that moments of stillness, an hour’s oasis of talking to just one person about their story, get over-looked. Freshers does not have to be simply a search and find mission for students who are already Christians. The first week of uni can start the first week of someone’s life, life in the fullness of God. I underestimated how much God wants to reach and meet students, I underestimated the power of stopping and talking to strangers, I underestimated the effectiveness of a local church just being out on campus and handing out flyers that start conversations. I have learnt. I pray you catch on too and don’t miss your own Fresher’s week opportunities. I will be forever grateful to God for Greg.

Happy Birthday.

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. 

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