Student stories: Rebekah Binns and Emily Norwood
The Eden Network is a group of missionaries who set up teams in the poorest 10% of areas in the UK, to become part of the community and let the Good News be known by sharing their lives with their neighbours and friends. Just like Jesus, they choose to ‘move into the neighbourhood’ (John 1:14, MSG) of some of the toughest places in the country and live out their faith. As students, we have been volunteering with the Fir Vale team in Sheffield for the last year and a half, and have plans to become part of their team next year. We go to Fir Vale weekly to help out at their after-school club, SHOUT. Here, primary school children of many different faiths and backgrounds have the opportunity to what Jesus has done for them!
As students, it is very easy to get caught up in the ‘university bubble’ and only see other students and people your own age. Fir Vale, and other Eden areas, are such a contrast to the comfortable and quiet (most of the time) lives we have living in an area filled with other students. In areas of the highest deprivation, you see poverty and people who have been labelled as the outcasts of society, and it really highlights the inequality that exists, even just a few minutes down the road. However, as well as the seemingly negative aspects, you also get to experience many positives: there are lots of different, vibrant cultures due to the number of refugees or other migrants who have made their home here, and the streets are flooded with life and activity. The residents’ love for community shines through, and it is inspiring to see the relationships the Eden team there have formed, and how they are known throughout the area. It is a place so in need of God’s love, and to be able to get involved alongside our studies is a privilege. It is also an amazing witness to non-Christian friends; they just can’t comprehend why we would choose to go to such a deprived area, which then allows us to tell them that Jesus is the reason!
As a student, when you get to final year, you ask yourself (as does everyone else!) these two questions:
“What on earth am I going to do next year?!”
“Am I doing what God wants me to do?”
By getting involved in amazing God things such as Eden, these questions can be answered. God calls us to help the poor, heal the sick and be the light in the darkness. Even though we have many options, through volunteering with Eden and meeting the locals there, we both know that we have a calling to it. We might not have known that if we hadn’t taken the risk to get involved with it during university. There are 29 Eden teams in the UK, who are always in need of more volunteers: why not see if there is a team near you who you could use your help?
Whether it’s Eden or something else, we would really encourage you to step out of that university bubble, and into an area where many of your friends would never dare step in.
Find out more at www.eden-network.org