Photo by Mari Mur on Unsplash
Over the years, Agape in Estonia have invested their time in building good relationships with the university authorities, the student government, and more recently with an EU foundation.
Helari and Herman, the Estonian National Director, describe how many aspects of what they do are also priorities for others operating in a university context: “Our new ministry hub and café provide a place where students experience community. New students are being given help in adjusting to university life. Our activities give students opportunities to grow in leadership skills, teamwork, conflict resolution, and interaction with people of different backgrounds. All of these things help equip students for their future in the workplace, and life in general. They are things that are important to our partners in the university, even if some of our underlying values, and what shape us, differ.”
Herman continues: “With time, we were able to show that we were consistent in what we did, and honest in how we presented our activities. If we invited students to a Games Night, that’s what it would be. We would not have a Bible study or talk in the middle of it. Our activities focussing on spiritual questions (such as Alpha) would be advertised as such. This consistency has helped build trust. We have also learned to explain our activities in a way that connects with our partners, rather than use insider lingo that might confuse or be misunderstood. Of great help in this were students who love what we do and are very involved, but at this stage would not describe themselves as followers of Christ.”
The credibility the ministry has been able to gain both within the university and with outside bodies (like certain EU foundations) has opened many doors for them. Agape is regularly invited to participate in student weeks, their “free coffee give away flyers” have been included in an information pack for new students, and university tutors have mentioned their café and events as a good place for students to go. Funding is now being made available which will help increase opportunities for cooperation across the Baltic region.
Through investment in relationships, clear communication, and serving without agenda, Agape staff have not only benefited university authorities, but also brought great blessing to the students of Tartu.
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