Geneva College
The American Academy at Nicosiaspacer.gif

With matching white collared shirts, sweaters and khakis, they look much like any other private school body of students yet, the students of Nicosia’s American Academy are much different from any body of students one would normally see within the United States.  Many of the students that are attending this school have dealt with civil unrest, having grown up within a nation that is split in two, and from extreme prejudice formed with events that occurred before they were even born.  As Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus, many nationalities are represented within the classrooms.  Perhaps the most outstanding feature of this Academy is that three of the major people groups present are the Armenians, Greek Cypriots, and the Turkish Cypriots.  This is so fascinating because there is such hatred from the Armenian Holocaust and the Turkish occupation of part of Cyprus.  Yet, within the sphere of this school setting, many of these students are able to see each other not for their hated race but rather as human beings.

As members of New Song, we had the privilege to partner with the faculty of the American Academy in Nicosia to minister to this group of students.  Having toured with the group now for two years, I found myself looking at our program from a new light.  “Prayer of the Children”,  a song about children affected by war that surrounds them became more real as we toured the bombed out boundary between the Turkish occupied territory and the Greek part of the city where everyday children must present their passports and cross over in order to attend the school.  Our “Superhero” skit, a dramatic retelling of the Good Samaritan, also seemed more real as we looked on the faces in the audience and could see that they know the prejudice that Jesus was preaching against first hand. 

However, for me the most moving part of the whole trip was entering into the Bible classroom.  Cyprus is a country where one can go to jail for evangelizing to someone under eighteen without permission.  Yet within the Bible classes, students come from all sorts of religious backgrounds with permission from their parents and ever so slowly lives are being changed, from atheists praying to enemies joking around.  One of the things that New Song did within the classroom was that we taught the traditional New Song piece “Freedom” in both English and Greek.  Using interaction with the students, the message of the song was conveyed, and with exuberance both the younger and older students sang about Jesus coming and bringing freedom from the sin of the world.  Admittedly, many of us had sung the song so much within the past week that we had begun to forget the message of the song.  As American citizens we have so much freedom that we often fail to fully appreciate it.  To me it was a wakeup call working within those classrooms.  I pray that God will take our time there and that seeds will have been planted in the hearts of the students.  I know that some were planted in mine, and it has strengthened my own calling to young people in the mission field.

- by Stephanie Ishler, Senior Christian Ministries and Music Major


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