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Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s most ‘infamous’ student cities… burning couches, wild parties, creative thinkers, and people studying medicine… So, what does day-to-day life look like for those serving in Christian ministry to students at Otago?

Rongopai Editor Sophia Sinclair caught up with Jandre Niehaus, who—along with wife Micaela—is a Team Leader for Student Life; and with Simon and Rosie Sim, who work with Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF). Both families are based in Dunedin at the University of Otago.  

In many ways sharing the gospel in a uni context is pretty similar to sharing the gospel anywhere, says Jandre. “Most students on campus have never been to church or Sunday school and don’t know much about the gospel—which is the reality most Christians face when seeking to share the good news with their neighbours.”

“Our focus is on evangelism and discipleship,” says Jandre, “we’re aiming to give students in Dunedin at least one opportunity to hear the gospel presented in an attractive way and to equip Christian students to share the gospel. “We’ve found that students are often open and curious, rather than hostile, to talk about the spiritual side of life.”

Jandre and Micaela Niehaus
Jandre and Micaela Niehaus

Semester by semester…

Life often follows the rhythms and seasons of the university
calendar, but the vision, “to reach students for Christ, and change
students for life” is at the heart of the day-to-day for Simon and Rosie

Practically, most of their work involves working together with
Christian student groups on campus to reach and disciple students; and
meeting up with students one-to-one to study the Bible together. “We
also live in an intentional Christian student community called ‘The
Quarters’, where we do life together with students, cultivating
Christian community and spiritual formation.”

For many students, moving away from home for the first time is a big
step—it’s more than just getting a degree, it’s also about discovering
who they are, and establishing their identity. “It’s a time of
exploration, gathering new experiences and forming opinions, values and
beliefs which go on to shape the rest of life.” Simon and Rosie have had
a number of first-years living in The Quarters with them over the last
year: “This has given us the opportunity to journey with them during
this formative time.”

While university students are often open and curious, they can also
be some of the most argumentative and resistant: “We’ve observed that
faith has to be more than credible, it has to be authentic,” share Simon
and Rosie,  “…and that’s one of the ongoing challenges of student
ministry; being able to engage meaningfully with students on the deep
questions of faith and life, and how the gospel speaks to them all.”

Simon and Rosie Sim
Simon and Rosie Sim

Jandre shared this story about how God is at work through evangelism, friendship and discipleship:  

“A few years ago I met up with a new student who was a Christian, and
I challenged him: ‘What would it be like to be used by God to see
someone come to faith?’ He agreed it would be something he’d be keen be
part of, so we committed to go out during O Week and see if anyone might
be keen to chat about Jesus.   

“With about 20,000 students on campus there are lots of opportunities
to chat, and soon enough we started talking with one guy about God. The
problem of pain and suffering was a big thing for him, so we encouraged
him to go along and hear a visiting Christian apologist.

“I could see he was wrestling with the idea of faith and what
following Jesus would mean. We kept meeting weekly to chat about life
and spiritual things, and over time we developed a friendship.

“Several months later he came to faith in Jesus. We’re two years down
the track now and he was recently one of the key people in organising a
two-week trip for a team to do some street evangelism in the Auckland

“The student who had initially shared the gospel with him during O
Week has also grown, and recently gave a message at a Christmas camp.
This is exciting to see people motivated to share the gospel and
realise, ‘hey—people are open, God is at work and I want to be obedient
in sharing the good news with others.’”

Jandre and the Sims describe how exciting it is to see the way God is
working as more and more students from all over the world arrive in New
Zealand to study; “The campus has become a place of rich diversity and
multiculturalism,” say Simon and Rosie, “…in our work with international
student ministry, it really has been a gift to us to have so many
cultures and nations represented in our churches and Christian
groups—especially when they share their stories and their culture with

Students are also coming from places where they have never heard the
gospel or met a Christian: “We (Simon and Rosie) have had the
opportunity to reach out to them, and through community and hospitality,
they hear the gospel and experience belonging. We’ve been blessed to
see God work through that, and some have come to faith in Jesus.”

Making the most of O Week

We’re releasing this issue of Rongopai around the time that uni is
starting for thousands of students across the country, and ‘O Week’
(orientation week) can be a significant time for many students and those
working with students. It’s a time to re-connect with returning
students and to meet new students.

“O Week is a two-week period where the feelings of ‘who am I? Who
will I become?’ are at their strongest,” says Jandre, “Please pray for
us during O Week, as students on our campus have every opportunity to be
changed by the culture, but there is also an opportunity for people to
ask questions and find the greatest answer ever: Jesus.”

“One of things that we’re excited about doing each year during O-Week
is an outreach called The Story Project”, say Simon and Rosie. “The
Story Project is where we use an art mural depicting scenes from the
gospels to start conversations with students about Jesus. It’s a great
opportunity for students to share their faith with others, and to invite
non-Christians to encounter Jesus in the stories of Scripture, what he
did and taught, and ultimately, his mission to seek and to save the lost
through his life, death and resurrection.”

How can churches support those who work with students?

Student work engages people at a significant and formative time in
their lives, say Simon and Rosie: “The gospel of Jesus needs to form and
shape who they are and the paths they choose, for the sake of God’s

“Be encouraged!” Says Jandre, “In 2019 God is at work in people’s
lives. Remember that nothing will slow down the gospel—we are talking
about God and he is at work in people’s lives. We’re so encouraged by
your prayers and support. Often just knowing people are praying is a
real boost, prayer is powerful and vital.”

“God is at work in the university through student work,” say Simon
and Rosie, “…reaching students with the good news and changing their
lives for his glorious purposes and plans. Pray with us and the work
that God is doing on campus. Partner with us and work together to reach
and disciple students across Aotearoa.”

For more info on the ministry of TSCF:

For more info on the ministry of Student Life:  


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