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OPINION

In London, students plow 'hard ground'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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LONDON (BP)--Hudson Smith wasn't too bothered by the paint that had splattered on his nicest pair of jeans, saying, "I was up for whatever was needed."

Smith, one of 70 students who traveled to London the first week of June for outreach through International World Changers, didn't know he'd be painting a fence in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of London's Kingston area.

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Just like he didn't know he'd end up sitting next to Tadeusz on the bus ride home.

"I struck up a conversation with him about God, and he said he had been praying to the universe to show him the truth," said Smith, a student at Louisiana Tech University. "I told him I thought that I was the first answer to his prayer, because I could show him the truth."

For more than an hour, with his Bible open on his paint-stained jeans, Smith shared the Gospel with Tadeusz, a Polish immigrant to England. Tadeusz was so engaged in the conversation that he purposefully missed his bus stop just so he could keep talking with Smith.

"I gave him my email address and asked if we could keep the conversation going. It reminded me of why I'm here -- no matter what it feels like, God is always moving around us, working in people's lives," Smith said.

The 70 students traveled to London as part of the International World Changers overseas student missions experience sponsored by the International Mission Board. Some were from Smith's church -- Calvary Baptist in Rustin, La. -- and others were from churches in Virginia, South Carolina and Florida.

All of them spread out to spread the Gospel in London.

"On the surface, the city is dark, but God is stirring hearts," said Donielle Yancey, a college leader with Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. "People are open to having conversations. We feel like a lot of our conversations were tilling the hard ground to get the rock out so the Gospel can be planted in it."

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Yancey's team spent time on college campuses, striking up conversations with students about their spiritual state.

"It was definitely challenging, but they were more open than I thought they'd be -- and very honest," said Jessi Tomlinson, a student at the University of South Carolina and a member of Shandon Baptist. "It definitely challenged me to know the Word better and know answers to questions that people of other faiths have."

With less than 2 percent of London's university students claiming faith in Christ, the student populace is considered an unreached people group, said Susan Goodman, a Southern Baptist missionary who ministers to students in London with her husband Michael.

"Go to any campus, and you'll quickly see Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindu -- you can share with any faith you'd like to there," Susan Goodman said.

In addition to campus ministry, the World Changers group held barbecues in impoverished neighborhoods, helped with homeless ministry and did sports camps for kids. They also performed street drama and handed out water and bacon rolls at a weekend party.

"The conversations were amazing during the course of the evening," Michael Goodman said. "We shared the Gospel about 250 times during that outreach. Some of these students we met that night then came to our outreach events during the week."

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Those connections will be followed up, Goodman said. He and Susan host a weekly Bible study for students seeking to understand more about God.

"The volunteer team ... really gave our work a boost," Susan Goodman said.

Jay Mudd, student pastor at First Baptist Church in Leesburg, Fla., said the harvest sometimes came in unexpected ways.

"Two boys about 12 years old were sitting in a tree, watching us build a porch, and they asked why we were there," Mudd said. "I told them I didn't come to build a porch, and if they'd come back to talk to me about it later, I'd buy them a drink."

They came, bringing eight more kids with them.

"The others weren't interested in hearing what I had to say, but these two -- Luca and Dan -- didn't break their gaze when I was telling them about what it means to be a friend of God," Mudd said. "I asked them what kept them from being a friend of God, and they begin pouring out all their sins -- graffiti and a whole host of other things I could've done without hearing."

Mudd shared the Gospel with them, and Luca said, "I want that relationship."

Mudd was able to connect the boys with a local pastor, who is following up with discipleship.

"It was a good day and a great week," Mudd said. "God did amazing things."

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Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe. International World Changers offers student teams and individuals the opportunity for a hands-on missions experience. For more information, visit www.thetask.org/iwc.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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