It’s dinner time at Eden Christian Hostel and sitting around tables are dozens of university students, devouring plates of freshly-made lasagna.
Chatting amongst them are hostel managers Stuart and Dianne Turner, who put together the meal. But it’s not only the student’s bellies they are looking after - the couple are helping ease the transition from home life to university living.
For the past 55 years, Eden Christian Hostel, in Auckland, has been the home to the first year of university. The former missionary home, situated at the base of Mount Eden, consists of three adjoining properties which cater for more than 40 students a year.
Far more than just a place for students to stash their textbooks, the hostel is a community where Christian students find physical, mental and spiritual support during the transition from being at home to living independently.
Here, first-year students can learn basics like how to cook, do laundry, and eventually rent a flat, while maintaining personal foundations through ongoing worship meetings and fellowship with both peers and caring older adults.
Hostel managers Stuart and Dianne Turner say the aim of the hostel is to assist students in transition from living at home to flatting. The pair lives on site, cooking weeknight meals for the students.
“We’re possibly a little unique in the way we go about things, as a transition place,” Stuart Turner says. “It’s not just about housing and food: we see this as a family, as a community.”
The hostel runs weekly meetings with worship, student testimonies, or devotionals from guest speakers. This also includes teaching around physical and mental health.
Dianne Turner says there are a lot of reasons why young person moving away from their faith during the first year of university.
“They move away from home, from their church, and come up against a lot of ideology that may be foreign to them, but which is expressed as truth,” she says.
“Universities here are very liberal and extremely politically correct. A Christian is at the bottom of the heap, and it’s hard to be that one dissenting voice, and to stand up for what you believe.”
Stuart says he sees many students wrestle with what they believe in.
“Young people leaving home are discovering who they are …they will make decisions on what their faith in God will look like.”
He says he has seen young people who arrive at the hostel with a shallow faith.
“We see a lot of Sunday-only Christians without a real evident passion for Christ and we have seen some choose to not follow Christ.”
Part of being hostel managers is to facilitate a place of community that provides for their needs and show them Christ while doing so, Stuart says.
“We want to be a demonstration of Christ and live life as role models, to speak into their lives as we have opportunity.”
The pair invest special attention into making sure that every student becomes securely connected with a home church.
“For the first few Sundays at the start of each year, we all go as a group to some of the local churches here,” Dianne says.
“We introduce the students to people in the church, help them make connections, churches, and ensure that everyone who wants to go to church has found a place they’re comfortable with.”
But the best thing for the hostel managers is watching students with firm beliefs, influence those around them.
“We have seen those who share their faith and bring new people to faith in God.”
For more information about Eden Christian Hostel visit edenchristianhostel.nz
Applications for 2020 are now open, so if you know someone planning to study in Auckland next year share this article with them.