In Serbia, ‘UNZIP Your True Self’ initiative is making inroads in a public university.
Published on: 08-28-2019
Some 500 students at Novi Sad University in Serbia are discovering God through “UNZIP Your True Self,” a public campus ministries initiative operated by Seventh-day Adventist students.
After attending workshops, book clubs, and even a games night, 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.” Local media have reported on UNZIP after students recognized that the project is a “positive influencer” on campus. That influence is now spreading to other university campuses across Serbia, student leaders shared.
Using rented facilities, the Adventist student group started by running a survey to discover what their fellow students’ interests were. They then ran a series of weekly workshops on topics ranging from psychology and philosophy to popular science.
Experts were invited to present each topic in an interactive style with the ultimate goal of introducing God and talking about spirituality naturally. “This activity exceeded our objectives and expectations, and we are really thankful to God for that,” student leaders said.
Other activities include a book club that meets twice a month. Meetings are held in a relaxed atmosphere, sitting on bean bags and with snacks and hot chocolate on hand. Books are carefully chosen to help students make positive changes in their lives.
Games nights give students a chance to relax in a safe, friendly environment. Leaders also experimented with a movie night, something that did not prove to be popular. However, they said analyzing 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, the attendees discovered a deeper passion for pursuing spiritual values and lifestyle.
“We were surprised by the level of knowledge of biblical truths that most students have,” leaders reported. “They ask profound questions concerning the relationship of the Bible and psychology and the Bible and modern science.”
Students called on outside assistance to answer questions. Marko Lukic, from the Adventist seminary in Serbia, is one who accepted the call to help.
“Students were thrilled with the answers he gave,” organizers shared. “Some of them even sent us and him messages thanking him for providing answers to questions that had been bothering them for years.”
Such efforts come at a cost. While UNZIP has been supported financially by the Trans-European Division (TED) 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 noted. Some of them said UNZIP is almost their primary role for being on campus. “After the activities we stay, sometimes until 3:00 a.m., talking and connecting to people with pancakes or pizza. Food is a significant part of UNZIP,” they said.
So far, UNZIP has attracted more than 1,000 attendees. One group of thirty students has attended almost every workshop, while a group of twenty are particularly interested in spiritual topics. Student leaders said they anticipate those numbers will grow as the university moves into a new academic year.