Can One Year Make A Difference? I’m Here to Tell You Yes.
Time is precious.
There are a variety of ways in which I could have spent this past year of my life. I could have done further schooling, gone straight into a career, or taken a year off to stay at home in order to “figure out my life”. But I chose to spend a year on an internship with Power to Change, pioneering campus ministries in Australia and Canada.
When I decided to do this internship, I had some different responses from family, friends and strangers:
I’m so excited for you!
You will have the time of your life.
Are you sure this is something you want to do?
Shouldn’t you get started on your career now?
You’re not going to be the same when you come back.
Bring me back a koala!
All of these questions, comments and concerns were things that danced through my own mind.
Although there were times of tension and uncertainty, I took a step of faith, trusting that God had everything in his hands, and believing that one year really could make a difference in God’s Kingdom. As I reflect on what God did during my internship, I can attest that he proved himself faithful throughout the course of the year.
An Aussie/Canadian Adventure For Three
There were actually three of us who set out on this adventure.
We had Shane, a bloke from Queensland, Australia. He’s a hands-on, DIY guy who took a year off from his teaching degree and obeyed God who was calling him to this internship. We also had Tim, our team leader, a lead-from-behind strategist who took some time off from his electrical engineering degree in Kelowna, B.C. Last, we had me, a diplomatic, charming (if I do say so myself) people-person, who had just finished a degree in chemistry and international development. Together, we got to see God work through students all over the world.
How God is Motivating Students to Change Australia: Alfred’s Story
One of the first things the team and I did when we arrived in Australia was to attend a student summer retreat on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. There we met a student named “Alfred”. He was a quiet, shy young man.
As I chatted with quiet Alfred, I discovered that this was the first retreat, or really the first anything, he had attended with Power to Change. It was clear that he enjoyed the retreat, making new friends, and learning lots, but I didn’t give much thought to how God would use this week-long retreat of prayer, training, discipleship and encouragement in his life.
After the retreat Shane, Tim and I moved to Melbourne to begin campus ministry there, and Alfred returned to his university in Queensland.
Months later I heard that Alfred had been leading a small discipleship group at his university (or “Uni”, as they say in Australia), and he had been journeying with three non-Christian students who were seeking to know Jesus.
I Will Walk 6000 Kilometers. Will You?
At the end of the year I learned that Alfred had decided to transfer his degree to a university in Perth (click to read Alfred’s story), a city on the opposite side of the country, so he could help launch a student ministry there! Perth is roughly 6000 kms from Queensland (a similar distance of Vancouver to Halifax), and a city Alfred had never visited.
When I heard these stories about Alfred, I was baffled and amazed at God’s goodness. I had to ask twice if this was the same Alfred whom I had met at the beginning of the year. It was so encouraging to see God use a quiet, shy, inexperienced guy like Alfred help people come to a place of having their eternity changed.
Furthermore, I know the fact that he was willing to transfer his credits and study in a new place where he doesn’t know anyone has greatly encouraged all of his mates in Queensland and to those he’s been meeting in Perth. His purpose is to share the gospel and build movements of evangelism, discipleship and prayer where there is currently no Power to Change student ministry.
If God can use just five days to plant the seeds that would change Alfred’s life, what could he do if we gave him a year of our lives to plant seeds? What about our whole lives?
Reflecting on Alfred’s story has helped me clarify the meaning and purpose of my own internship, and conclude that it was time well spent. I have invested in students’ lives, students who will actually change the world by helping other students discover Jesus.
Ontario: Back to the North
We spent six months in Australia establishing ministries on three campuses in Melbourne: Deakin, Monash Berwick and Monash Peninsula. In July we left for Canada to continue pioneering Power to Change ministries at the University of Windsor, and at Seneca College, Centennial College and George Brown College in Toronto.
It seemed kind of crazy for us to go from working for six months in Melbourne, to working for only seven weeks in Windsor, then another seven in Toronto. But during those frantic weeks in Windsor—filled with cries to God to use us in a lasting way—we saw God do something great: he exceeded our expectations.
We prayed that three students from the University of Windsor would step up to leadership: God raised up six.
We prayed that five Windsor students would come to Summit, our fall retreat: seven came.
After we left, Windsor students decided to start praying for each other, the campus and the world two times a week, gathering together at 8:00 a.m.
God did more than I could imagine in seven weeks. When I look back at all the prayers that our heavenly Father answered, I am reminded of what he tells us in his Word in Matthew 7:9-11:
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
We have an amazing Father!
Through this time God taught me that he is our heavenly Father, and we are his children! That means he wants us to ask him for things and if they’re according to his will, he will give us the things we ask for. Just as a young boy will ask his father for food when he’s hungry. The father knows and loves his son, and knows that food is good for him. Likewise, our heavenly Father, who knows and loves us, his children, will give us what we need when we ask him.
God Keeps Working, Was There Ever Any Doubt?
Since returning home to Canada, I’ve heard that ten students from the new ministries in Melbourne took huge steps of faith to participate in a national mission trip with another dozen students from around the country. Because they stepped out in faith, God used them to bring nine precious people into his family.
There have also been students from the Ontario campuses who have taken their own steps of faith to do summer mission trips in Halifax as well as Africa. God is using students to make disciples of all nations! How good is our God? How incredible is our heavenly Father?
A Tougher And Greater Year Than I Anticipated
This one year internship was also much tougher than I had ever expected.
What is meaningful? What is my purpose? There are times when the answers are crystal clear: to know God more each day, to love him, love people, and make disciples of all nations. There are also times when these answers seem clear as mud.
At one point in the year, I was so bombarded and inundated with challenging questions and discouragements that my faith was challenged to its core. I truly struggled and had to fight to continue believing the truths of the gospel.
Is a relationship with God actually meaningful?
Does God really want to know me personally?
Does he truly love me? Is God even there?
Why do thousands of university students around the world truly believe there is no God, that Jesus was just a good guy, that Mormonism is truth, that Jehovah’s Witnesses is truth, that Islam is truth, that anything but Christianity is truth?
The words of Pontius Pilate ran through my mind… “What is truth?” At this point, I was reminded of Paul’s call to the Philippians to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
This year shook and challenged my faith, and ultimately showed me that through whatever situation, Jesus is on the throne, he is good, he loves people, answers prayer, and he is worthy to be trusted, praised and obeyed.
There are so many stories I could tell you from this past year, but I want you to know that God has used this year in an incredible way.
I’ve seen things I’ve always hoped to see, like the breath-taking landscapes of Australia and New Zealand. I’ve experienced things I’ve never dreamed of experiencing, like praying with a student as he decided to follow Christ, and watching students I’ve discipled grow and begin to disciple others. I’ve met people that I never thought I’d meet, like a role model of mine, Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot. I’ve built meaningful relationships with people around the world, and now have close friends in Australia, Windsor, and Toronto. I’ve grown deeper in my faith.
I had no idea how much God would do in and through me as I took this step of faith to explicitly serve him for a year. One precious year of my life. What an incredible year it was…
(And in case you’re wondering: sadly, I wasn’t able to bring back a koala.)
A Postscript From Nader
Time is precious. How will you spend it?
I want to challenge you to ask your Heavenly Father for things, according to his will. Ask him to save your family members, friends, classmates, professors. God desires that all come to know him and receive his unending love and forgiveness. Ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit, who gives us courage, counsel, power, love, a sound mind, joy, peace, patience, the fruits of the Spirit, and even the words to say when we don’t have any.
I also want to challenge you to take big steps of faith, knowing that your heavenly Father is with you always. Trust the Lord. Share Christ with that friend who you know needs him. Serve where there’s a need in your church, in your community. Go on a mission trip, do an internship, step out of your comfort zone and trust God as you serve him.
As I have learned and continue to learn to take big steps of faith, I’m realizing that my heavenly Father is right there with me, the whole time, guiding me and helping me get back up when I fall.
He’s so good, so worthy of our trust, and I want to take big steps of faith for him. I challenge you to trust in him and take steps of faith, and praise him as he guides you, just like he’s guided me and used me for his glory in Australia and Canada.
By Nader Soliman
My name is Nader Soliman. I’m an Egyptian-born Canadian. I’m a diplomatic, enthusiastic yet dry kind of guy who loves all things Lord of the Rings and Toronto Raptors. I’m currently interning with the Atlantic Expansion Team, working at Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s and Memorial University of Newfoundland.