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ss nucleus - May 2017,  conference report

conference report

Esther Chevassut reports on the 2017 Student Conference

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from YourMajesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.Daniel 3:17-18
Yarnfield Park saw a record 500 medical and nursing students unite to be challenged by this example of faith in the book of Daniel.
After long journeys from universities far and wide, and a hearty dinner, we gathered for our first main meeting. We were introduced to John Lennox - Oxford Mathematics professor, apologetics lecturer, author and renowned multilingual debater - our gift and main speaker for the weekend. He helpfully and honestly shared some of his experiences, recounting the pressure from his professors when he was a student to 'get rid of this God stuff - it will hold you back academically'. However, Lennox challenged and encouraged us that we, like Daniel, can stand firm in Christ despite opposition and the pressures of secular society.
Over three talks during the weekend, Lennox exposed questions Daniel raises - language, authenticity, organisation, history, values, identity and image. There are many parallels between living as a Christian today and Daniel and his friends living in exile - out of their comfort zone and out of their culture in idolatrous Babylon. We face the same challenges of asking whether God is behind global and personal history and the world that treats things of absolute value as relative. We can learn from these young students whose faith wasn't eroded under pressure; if deeply rooted in Christ it is possible to live in the world whilst not conforming to it.
Alongside digesting these big challenges in the main sessions, we were spoilt with a choice of four seminars out of 18 wide-ranging topics. Brilliant speakers shared their wisdom, insights and experience, bringing Christian perspectives to light on medical careers, mission, gender dysphoria, embryonic ethics, psychosis and evangelism, to name a few.

Free time activities included a walk, a jungle speed competition, watching rugby, playing football and the opportunity to tease out a few more of John Lennox's pearls of wisdom during a Q&A session. A Saturday evening favourite, led by some of our wonderful Scottish representatives, was a fantastic 'techno ceilidh' - organised chaos or skillful dancing, depending on where you witnessed it from!
Meeting others from the Wessex area on the Sunday was a great time to discuss ways we can further Connect & Grow, Speak & Serve together in our region and how we can pray for one another. It was a true joy and privilege being with brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the UK (and further afield) on the brink of our careers in healthcare. We finished the weekend by sharing communion before returning home, better equipped to face the challenges ahead.

Lessons from Lennox

  • Polytheistic and multicultural Babylon would have been a great change from Jerusalem when Daniel arrived. Changes in culture we experience are rarely as drastic. Yet, we can learn from the way that Daniel stood fast in his beliefs and practice, whilst the surrounding worldview and culture, and even his name, changed. We won't always stay within our own bubble, but should stay firm in our beliefs when we leave it.
  • Names are really important - for us today, it's the first thing we say when we meet someone - they are a big part of who we are. In the Bible, names are even more important, often having a significant meaning, and name changes are key - think of Abram to Abraham, or Saul to Paul. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah have just been carted off to Babylon, and a prompt name change takes place, with their new names bearing no reference to God. Their names, which previously bore witness to their religion and their God, are now sanitised and no different from anyone else.
  • In chapter two, a colossal statue is struck by a stone and crumbles to nothing. Imagine Daniel explaining to Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom will not last forever, that his rule is not without limit! No matter how strong or how powerful an empire seems, no earthly kingdom will last eternally. The messianic kingdom will not come out of a political system, but comes crashing in from outside our world.
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