The third degree – from Pod Bhogal of UCCF: Long-term vision

UCCF has a rich tradition of sending students into the world for mission.

In 1928, Howard Guinness, a student at London University, was commissioned by his fellow students to establish a CU movement in Canada. From here he travelled to Australia. In 1947, UCCF was one of ten founding members of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

UCCF’s continuing commitment to our global vision — to give every student in the world an opportunity to hear the gospel — has meant that in 2013 UCCF sent over 100 students, staff and Relay Workers on 18 short term summer mission trips and many former UCCF Staff, Relay and students have gone on to commit to long-term overseas work. Jonathan and Dawn Clark were on UCCF staff from 1999-2004. They have been planting a CU movement in Greece since 2007. I’ve been talking to Jonathan about it.

PB: How were you involved with CU as students?

JC: We look back with fondness and deep gratitude to God for our Christian Unions in the mid-90s. We arrived as Christians but it was the CU (and later, Relay) that shaped and honed our convictions and set us on our path of service ever since. Both of us found ourselves welcomed into a vibrant community of students who had been given — perhaps for the first time — a vision of the gospel that was global, biblical, Christ-centered and gripping.

We grew to love the weekly Bible teaching, the training in evangelism and the outward-looking fellowship in small groups. We had the privilege of leading for a couple of years, benefiting from regional and national Forum, and applied to do Relay to continue our training.

Beeston link

PB: Did you always want to do long-term mission?

JC: I’d been thinking seriously about long-term cross-cultural mission for a decade by the time we ended our stint on UCCF staff. We were sent by our church in Beeston, Nottingham, to IFES Greece in 2007 to help establish a student movement effective in evangelism and discipleship. We’re planning to be here as long as it takes to equip Greek believers to lead a movement that reaches all of that spiritually barren nation’s universities with the good news.

Dawn’s path was different: in her own words, she’d always thought missionaries were losers who just wanted an escape from British culture. This was challenged head-on at Relay 2, Edinburgh 97, and from then on she was able to gladly say that living for God’s glory and being shaped by his agenda meant not ruling anything out, including going overseas.

PB: How did UCCF help?

JC: Not a week goes by without a conscious recollection of things learned, enjoyed and grasped during our time with UCCF. Carrying on in long-term mission would not have been possible without the foundations that were laid by our UCCF Staff Workers and Team Leaders in the Midlands and the North East, and by our partnership with fellow students in our CUs.

It’s a privilege to work with IFES — but it’s slow, with more frustrations and obstacles (funds for staff, Christians reluctant to live in the world and a local culture immunised against Christ) than breakthroughs and visible progress. There are signs of gathering momentum. We’ve planted new groups in two northern towns, one of which saw a young man converted before Christmas. This is so rare in Greece. We have a new director, two young graduates formally starting as associate staff this term and a nucleus of undergraduates who are beginning to get the vision. We are so glad that UCCF trained us to believe in doing the right things, not the quick and easy things.

Loving the people

We miss England, we miss our home church, we miss Cheddar cheese and real ale. But there are great things and people in Greece that we love, and we know with deep conviction that in the end it’s not really about where one is but who one listens to. And the great thing is that we know that the weak-looking seed of the Word will in the end bring a great harvest, because the one who speaks it will do exactly as he intends through that weak-looking word. That’s a lesson we began to learn in CU.

Pod Bhogal writes ‘The third degree’ column for EN.He is head of Communications, UCCF: The Christian Unions —
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