It’s 5.30pm on a Wednesday evening and most French students are making the journey home from a long hard day at university.
They are longing for those few minutes when they can simply sit down and chill out. Their academic day has drawn to a close and they are awaiting those few well-earned moments of blissful silence before they contemplate engaging their brain again for the evening.
Not so at the FEU in Grenoble! At 5.30pm every Wednesday evening things are just getting started! The doors are opened and a group of dedicated students are beginning the task of cooking dinner for up to 50 or so hungry students who will soon be strolling through the doors in expectation of another hearty meal. And, like clockwork, by 7.15pm the lettuce is washed, the pasta is cooked, the dessert is prepared and we are ready for action. Noise levels gradually increase throughout the meal as cutlery clinks against plates and laughter resounds throughout the living room.
It has been really exciting to see lives transformed over these past few months with some students giving their lives to Christ for the very first time
The buzz is tangible as students, who have learned that the FEU is a place where they are welcome, share stories about their week across the table with both old and new friends. Once the bellies are filled the dishes are promptly dealt with and the room is set up for stage 2 of the evening. Seats are set out in rows, couches are correctly positioned for maximum comfort and the announcements for the week are given. “Sports outreach next Thursday!”; “Food bank needs some chatty volunteers!”; “English language outreach night- bring your friends!”; “Forms are due in for the weekend away!”; “Prayer Breakfast in French on Tuesday and in English on Thursday at 7am – Be there!”; “Prayer and worship on Friday night!” Already, just from the announcements, we can all sense that the week to come is going to be a great week. As the announcements draw to a close our speaker opens up the Bible and a room full of students from all over the world soak in the truths that are presented over the next 45 minutes.
Some are Christians, some are not, but both are there of their own accord because they are eager to hear what God has to say to them. The end of the talk sets the scene for stage 3. Everyone knows the drill and every room in the building is quickly filled with small groups led by our student leaders who are ready to spend the next 45 minutes chewing over the text we have just studied. Debates arise within the groups over this issue and that issue, truths are discovered and the practicalities of life as a Christian student in France are examined. As the evening draws to a close each group is knit together through the sharing of prayer points and the privilege of praying for each other on a weekly basis. Gradually, as the night wears on, the students filter out of the FEU one by one. The floors are washed, the shutters are locked and the lights are turned off. Those who attended may have gotten home a lot later than their classmates but week after week and year after year they keep coming back. They keep coming back because they know that on Wednesday evenings at the FEU they are renewed through God’s Word and it’s worth the late night.
I hope that above I have been able to give you just a little taste of what life is like at the FEU in Grenoble. I count it a real privilege to be able to be a part of a great team of both staff and students who are committed to both discipling Christian students and reaching others with the Gospel. It has been really exciting to see lives transformed over these past few months with some students giving their lives to Christ for the very first time. As we start this new academic year we are in no doubt that it will have its challenges but we are expectantly waiting to see what God is going to do in the lives of our regulars and who He is going to bring through our doors next to have the opportunity to hear the good news that transforms lives for eternity.