23 August 2018 | Novi Sad, Serbia [Victor Hulbert with Tihomir Lazić]
Some 500 students at Novi Sad University, Serbia, are discovering positive values and different aspects of themselves through UNZIP, a Public Campus Ministry initiative by Adventist students.
Local media have reported on UNZIP after students recognised that the project is a ‘positive influencer’ on the campus. That influence is now spreading to other university campuses across Serbia.
[Turn on closed captions to see subtitles in English]
Using rented facilities, the Adventist student group started by running a survey to discover what their fellow students’ interests. They then ran a series of weekly workshops on with topics ranging from psychology and philosophy to popular science.
Experts were invited to present each topic in an interactive style with the ultimate goal being to help students grow intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. “This activity exceeded our objective and expectations and we are really thankful to God for that,” student leaders exclaimed.
Other activities include a fortnightly book club. This is held in a relaxed atmosphere, sitting on bean bags and with snacks and hot chocolate to hand. The books are carefully chosen that can again lead towards students making positive changes in their everyday lives.
Games nights give students a chance to relax in a safe, friendly environment. Leaders did experiment with a movie night but that did not prove to be popular. However, analysing what works and what doesn’t has helped UNZIP develop and provide a better and much needed service on the campus.
The highlight of the week is a spiritual workshop where they only talk about God and how a relationship with God can impact life. Through these meetings they discovered that the passion for pursuing spiritual values and lifestyle was deepened. “We were really surprised by the level of knowledge of Biblical truths that most students have,” leaders reported. “They ask really deep questions concerning the relationship of the Bible and psychology and the Bible and modern science.”
Again, students call on outside assistance to answer such deep questions. Professor Marko Lukic from the Belgrade Theological Seminary is among those who help. “Students were thrilled with the answers he gave. Some of them even sent us and him messages thanking him for giving them answers to questions that had been bothering them for years.”
After attending spiritual workshops, fellow students have stated that “today God is forgotten but really needed and it is amazing that someone is finally talking about God in a relevant way.”
Such efforts come at a cost. While UNZIP has been supported financially by the Trans-European Division Campus Ministries department, and more locally within Serbia, Adventist students are investing heavily with both their time and money to help the project succeed.
“We are very pleased and thankful to God for bringing us a great group of students,” they note, some of them seeing UNZIP as almost their primary role in being at university. “After all the activities we stay, sometimes until 3 AM, talking and connecting to people with pancakes or pizza. Food is really important part of UNZIP,” they conclude.
UNZIP has attracted more than 1,000 attendees. Thirty have attended almost every workshop while a group of twenty are particularly interested in the spiritual topics. It is anticipated that numbers will grow as the university moves into a new academic year.
Due to the rapidly increasing interest in this initiative, the UNZIP leaders dedicated their summer planning new ways how to reach even more students and inspire them to be the agents of change in their community by UNZIPPING their true self.
To find out more about UNZIP follow them on Facebook.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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