Six of us were huddled over a blank canvas. One of us had stayed up late the night before to sketch a basic calendar for the year ahead. Every little box for every day of the year represented an opportunity – an opportunity to do our job and to reach the campus for Christ.

In the weeks preceding, we had poured over different potential strategies for the months ahead. What is our vision? Who are we seeking to share with? How can we best serve them?

After our many deliberations, we felt that we had come to a better appreciation of the steps needed to put our new vision into place. Box by box, we filled out our year – every strategic development point, every weekly event, every teaching series.

As we put down our sharpies and took a step back to admire our morning’s task, each of us was filled with a sense of excitement. The renewed emphasis on evangelism, at the root of everything we had put into ink, would surely help equip and motivate the Christian student community to be a light in the darkness God has placed them in.

The next step seemed obvious – share the good news with our partner churches and regular Christian students. Christian students would be fed by their local churches and then come to us and learn to share what they had been given with others. The churches were enthusiastic, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the reaction from our long-term French students.

They left us. And the vast majority never came back. It hurt. It hurt to realise that in the past few years we had been considered by many to be a gathering place for Christians, not the beacon on campus we wanted to be.

It hurt to hear that even though we had taught the amazing truths of the gospel for past terms, so that our students could share it; when the opportunity came, they retreated. It hurt to be told from people we had invested in that they just weren’t interested in what we were trying to do.

One year on, we are thankful that a few have come back and the Lord is slowly but surely bringing new ones with a desire to reach the lost with the gospel. We are thankful for a staff team with God-given gifts which has allowed us to continue to preach the gospel and train those prepared to get their hands dirty alongside us.

Looking back at our artistic calendar, I wonder, would we have been as eager, had we known the difficulties to come? Would we have chosen to maintain the status quo? I can’t answer that, but I’m glad I didn’t know. We may have been discouraged by our Christian students, but the Lord is doing an amazing work in the lives of others who have had the chance to hear about him this year. For that, we praise him.

Ruth McGarvey works in student ministry in France