Sophie and Zac are two Durham students who are in the same college and on the same course. They met up with Sarah, a Durham graduate, to share the story of how Sophie came to know Jesus while at university.
Sophie, if I had asked you ‘Who is Jesus?’ when you were growing up, what would you have said?
None of my family are Christian and I didn't grow up going to church, but we heard the odd Bible story at school. I would have said that Jesus fed the 5,000. Something like that. When I started Durham I became friends with Zac and some other Christians. They stood out because I could be myself around them.
Zac, you tried to talk to Sophie about Jesus before Durham CU’s events week, Story. What was her reaction?
Once, after I had been to a prayer meeting, she asked me why I went, and, sensing an opportunity, I tried to explain the gospel. Her reaction was extremely disappointing; she clearly didn’t care. After that, I found it hard to talk to her about Jesus.
Fast-forward to February 2016, to Story. Sophie went to the first lunchbar. How did that happen?
I showed her that I was interested in what she loved, which was veganism. We made a deal that if I went to a vegan event, she would go to a Story event. She was fairly dismissive of what she heard at the lunchbar and wasn’t interested in chatting further. It was disappointing. I was frustrated that she still hadn’t grasped who Jesus is. I also knew that people often take time to get to grips with what the gospel says. I felt the inadequacy of my evangelism deeply – I couldn't seem to get through to her. But I trusted in the events to proclaim the gospel faithfully, and so I wanted to get her along to as many as possible.
Sophie, you went to the final event of the week. What was it like?
I went to the Friday-evening talk because Zac kept inviting me. There was a great, comfortable atmosphere; I didn't feel any pressure to respond in a certain way. The talk felt personal and relevant to me, because bits of the interviewee’s story were like my story. He had become a Christian at uni, and Jesus seemed to have positively, radically changed his life. I started to think that this Jesus guy might be able to have an impact on my life too. It made me want to find out more about what Christianity was and what it involved. So, no lightbulb moment! I wrote in my diary that night, ‘It was a good talk, but don't think I'll become a Christian or anything!’
It was interesting, but you weren’t convinced. Why did you keep exploring Christianity?
The next day, Zac asked me if I had any questions. I didn’t have any then, so he lent me a book called Who is Jesus?, which I read through that same night! Christianity was new to me and I wanted to find out more. I then went to church the following Sunday. It was completely not what I'd expected it to be! It felt modern and the sermon was interesting, but I was struck most by how welcoming and friendly everyone was. One girl, Katie, after knowing me for only an hour, offered to go for coffee with me. I felt valued and excited about making new friends!
What was the tipping point for you in becoming a Christian?
A talk about the cross at the follow-up course. This was the first time I'd considered what Jesus’ death on the cross meant for me, and I realised I couldn't stay sitting on the fence. I knew I didn’t deserve it, but I wanted to know and learn to love the person who gave His life for me. That night I decided to become a Christian!
What’s life been like since you decided to trust Jesus?
Jesus is my Saviour, my best friend, King and my brother, and He is the one who gives me hope. I feel a lot more at peace. I have a greater purpose, and trust that God’s plan for me is perfect. This is a big change – I was a huge worrier before. Life has also been more challenging since I decided to trust Jesus. I’ve been learning to live for Jesus at work and around non-Christian family.
If you could give one tip to Christian friends who are seeking to witness to their friends, what would it be?
My tip would be to be honest, open and vulnerable – speak from your heart! Even if they’re not interested, they will appreciate that it’s something that means a lot to you. Hearing people my age talk about their faith in such an honest and open way had a big impact on me because I wasn’t used to seeing people be so vulnerable, so I decided this whole Jesus thing must be big.
Zac, you must be thrilled?!
It’s amazing to think that Sophie had no idea who Jesus is and what He’s done before coming to uni, but now, a year or so later, she’s put her trust in Him. Amazing! Sophie’s conversion is such a clear example that it is God who convicts people’s hearts and saves them, not me. This is incredibly freeing, knowing that I can go out and speak boldly of Jesus. I don’t have to be nervous about winning arguments or looking foolish, because it’s not my words that will convince them but God working through them.
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