Earlier this week, we heard that one of the great women of IFES, Vivienne Stacey, had gone to be with the Lord she loved and served for so long. In her own words, 'I began as a missionary from the West. I became a missionary from the East and I ended up a world Christian.'
Born in 1928, Vivienne's connections with student ministry began even before IFES was founded. As a student in London, England, Vivienne became a Christian through the persistent friendship of a member of the Christian Union, then called Inter-Varsity Fellowship. She was a keen member of this movement which, during her student years, became one of ten founding members of IFES.
Just a few weeks after becoming a follower of Christ, Vivienne felt a strong call to 'see what the living God would do for Muslims' and in 1955 moved to Pakistan, where she worked for 20 years to help Pakistani Christian women in their witness among Muslims at the United Bible Training Centre in Gujranwala.
During her time there, Vivienne took six weeks leave to visit four Arab countries in order to 'have a clearer understanding of the situations in which Pakistani Christians were working in the oil countries'. Although she didn't realise it at the time, God was preparing her for a new role in missions and in 1975 Vivienne responded to an invitation from Ramez Atallah (then IFES Regional Secretary and now IFES Honorary President) to join his pioneer team in the Middle East and North Africa. She worked in student ministry in the region for the next 18 years and also served as a board member of the Pakistan Fellowship of Evangelical Students from 1980 to 1990.
Jim Tebbe, former Vice President of Missions for InterVarsity (the IFES movement in the United States), was born in Pakistan and knew Vivienne well. He writes: 'Her creativity in finding ways to communicate with Muslims, her infectious enthusiasm, her vision to have Pakistani Christians become a major outreach arm of the church in the oil rich states of the Gulf absolutely captivated us.'
Recently Jim and his wife Beth answered the call to mission once more and will be moving to Pakistan next year; Jim returns to the land of his birth to take the reins of leadership at an important college as it nurtures the next generation of leaders for Pakistan and Beth will serve with IFES in South Asia.
We are all called to be world Christians. Whether we are called to leave our homes or return to them, or simply to live out a costly discipleship among those whom God brings to us, we all should be testimonies, as Ramez Atallah said of Vivienne, 'that ordinary people can do extraordinary things with God's help.'
For more information on Vivienne Stacey click here. This site contains her autobiography, a compilation of fascinating reflections of friends, and some of her writings.