Stories: Iona Bhatti

Iona is a 3rd year Classicist at Clare. She told us about how having close friendships with Christians has been an important part of her time in Cambridge.

Do you get on well with your siblings? Maybe you love them, maybe you can’t stand the sight of them, maybe you don’t have any and enjoy spending time with your friends or your dog or your favourite spot where you live instead. I love my siblings and my friends and my home, and it felt like I left them all very far behind when I came to Cambridge. Even though I come from another part of the UK, Cambridge is quite a different culture to what I was used to, and on top of that I seemed to be the only person who didn’t know any of the other freshers at all.

But what remained the same was the Lord of all the earth and the fellowship of those who worship him. I met some other Christians from my college on the CICCU freshers’ getaway just before the start of term, and knowing them from day one has transformed my Cambridge experience. It was reassuring to see them around college and know they were navigating the challenges of freshers’ week with the same priorities as I was. We also tried out churches together, and going with them as well as the discussions we had after the services helped me to assess things and settle in much more quickly than I would have otherwise.

Like my real family, I’m bound to my brothers and sisters in Christ by more than just whether we like each other or not. There’s no need to seem brainy or exciting or flawless in order to keep their friendship, because we know that our love should be unconditional just like our heavenly Father’s. I can trust them to help me practically, give me advice, and pray for me as we witness to others. And even if you’re not physically with another Christian when you speak to your friends about Jesus, just having that safety and stability in your life frees you to be braver and more gracious. That’s especially true for me personally, but I think it’s true for all humans. We’re designed for home, and though our true home is heaven God in his mercy grants us a kind of home even on this earth amongst his people the Church.

I’ve also learnt more about the familial relationship we can have with God himself. Like many at Cambridge, I’ve always thought it important not to let my parents down by the way I perform, be it academically or in other areas of life. At times this can lead to huge amounts of pressure, but this year I’ve experienced the freedom of realising that we cannot disappoint our heavenly Father. Of course we can disobey him and displease him. But we can’t disappoint him because he knows what we’re going to do even before we do ourselves – and still chose us as his people nevertheless. And we can’t let him down because nothing we do can ever affect his majesty, his plan, or his love for us.

That’s not to say that everything is plain sailing at university or in the CU. But no matter what happens, God himself will never let you down. He looks after us as both Father and Elder Brother who has gone before us in everything we do. And he calls us to help and benefit from our Christian siblings whatever walk of life we find ourselves in. That definitely involves church, and for many at university it also involves CU as we support and witness alongside the Christians we’ll live most closely with over the next few years.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” – Romans 8:29