Urenna Ebillah tells us her experience as a young Christian Student in England
The very first time I heard someone say that they didn’t believe in God was when I was studying for my A-levels in England. And it was a 14-year old speaking. The thought had never even crossed my mind, having been brought up in a country (Nigeria) where everyone believes in God to an extent, or is at least spiritual in some way. For my studies, I attended a Catholic college and most of the teachers there were atheists or agnostics! Needless to say, most of the students shared the same view. It was very hard for me as a teenager in a foreign country to be amongst so many people that didn’t share the same views that I did, and who would think me very odd if I ever said anything about my beliefs. This made it difficult to make friends and socialise freely.
I longed very much for fellowship; my host parents were Catholics and attended mass regularly. I went with them a couple of times but soon couldn’t bear it any longer, no offense to my Catholic brothers and sisters! So I didn’t go to church for a whole year. I did visit a few places but just couldn’t find somewhere that I felt comfortable enough to settle down in. It was hard, to say the least. But God was good to me. The following year, I heard about a Pentecostal-like church not too far from where I lived, and I was soon amongst young people that were passionate about their Christian faith. It was so refreshing!
I went on to University, and even though I had the same feelings of nervousness that most first year students had, it wasn’t so bad because at least we were all in the same boat. The good thing about University is that you’re bound to meet all sorts of people, which means you’re more than likely to meet people that are similar to you in some way. I will never forget the day I stepped into the Christian Union hall at my University and saw over a hundred students praising God unashamedly. It was like Heaven! It was so encouraging for me to know that there were a good number of people around that I could relate to, and most of them were quite normal! I got involved straight away and quickly found a church where I served throughout my University days and beyond.
It can be difficult being a young Christian in a foreign country, especially if you don’t know anyone. You might be dealing not just with language barriers but also with loneliness. My advice to young people that find themselves in this position is this;
Firstly, do your best to locate a church you can settle down in as soon as possible, and when you find one, get involved! This is an easy way to make friends not just with people of the same age, but also with older folk who not only have a well of knowledge and wisdom but are also usually quite good at looking after young people!
Secondly, try to make friends with people of different backgrounds; Christian and non-Christian. This way, you get the chance to have fellowship, but you also have the opportunity to witness.
Lastly, stay close to God. It can be very easy to go with the flow, because everyone is doing it, and no one is watching. But the truth is that if you make a decision to stand for God, He’ll give you the grace to keep standing, no matter the temptations that you might face. And you’d be surprised who is actually watching you when you start noticing some of your non-Christian friends responding positively to your faith and lifestyle!