Hope comes by post for students on the edge of exams

High school students across New South Wales are receiving free care packages from Scripture Union to encourage them as they go through the stressful end-of-year exam season, which kicks off next week.

Any student in Years 10-12 who registers for the Hope Project will receive a red box containing a Bible, mental health tips, a copy of John Dickson’s A Sneaking Suspicion, and a promise of regular prayer and other online resources.

SU’s Sydney regional coordinator Laura Payne said the Hope Project has been extended to all high school students in the state after it was successfully trialled with Year 12s statewide last year.

As well as the care package, a key part of the project is linking up students with an adult prayer partner who will pray for the young person by name and for their specific exams during a season of life that has been particularly stressful for many students this year because of the extended Sydney lockdown.

“We just really want to connect and encourage young people with the good news and with prayer,” says Laura.

“Last year we launched the Hope Project just with Year 12s to encourage them through exams season, and then when we decided to have a crack at it again, we decided to broaden the focus area because of lockdown this year.”

“We wanted students to know they were seen and valued, and that there is hope.” – Ed Sowden

Youth pastor Ed Sowden, who directed the Hope Project as a volunteer last year, said the Hope Project started as a response to seeing the great difficulties faced by high school students. “Anxiety, isolation, despair … whether due to the pandemic or exams or just life, we wanted students to know they were seen and valued, and that there is hope. Of course, there is no better hope than that found in Jesus Christ, so this project aims to bring that good news to young people in practical and meaningful ways.”

Laura says the importance of connection is even greater this year because lunchtime groups such as SU’s Inter-School Christian Fellowship Group have been meeting.

About 80 students have signed up so far and she has sent out about 40 care packages with more being posted this week. Registrations will remain open until the end of the year.

“We hope … they will just really sense God is speaking to them and caring for them in this season.” – Laura Payne

As well as a Bible, a copy of the evangelistic book A Sneaking Suspicion, a pen, a journal, chocolates, lollies and a drink bottle, the package also contains little cards with encouraging Bible verses and affirmations, information on how to access SU devotionals online, and some tips on how to reset your mind when you’re feeling anxious. You can see what’s in the box here.

“One student contacted us through social media this week saying, ‘Oh, I received mine in the mail and it was such a lovely surprise and it brought me to tears.’ We just want them to receive it with joy and to actually understand the hope of the good news for their life. And we hope that as they read the book, as they read the Bible, that they will just really sense God is speaking to them and caring for them in this season.

A third aspect of the project is sharing messages of hope, prayers and Bible verses through social media, on a Hope Project Instagram account and this is available to students in any state, not just NSW.

“We’re noticing around the world and with young people, especially, there’s lots of bad news on social. We just wanted to create a space where we’re giving and sharing the good news of Jesus,” Laura explains.

“We’re really just wanting to support what the church is already doing and creating a space where people can engage online with us if they want to, they can receive the care pack and prayer, and hopefully grow them as a follower of Jesus. And if they don’t know God already, what a great opportunity to receive a Bible and a book that might encourage them in their decision to follow Christ.”

Registrations for the Hope Project are open until the end of the year by clicking here.