Meet the students of 2020

IFES students the world over are living for Jesus in increasingly difficult contexts. To celebrate these students, IFES commissioned a South African artist to tell eight student stories through art.

Mbongeni Buthelezi created these portraits using a new technique of melting old plastic to create paint. Buthelezi redeemed the unwanted plastic he found on garbage sites, and fashioned it for a new purpose. His artwork is a beautiful illustration of the way Christ has redeemed each of these students and fashioned them for a new purpose of making Him known in the university.

Mbongeni Buthelezi

Kristine · KGK Japan · International postgraduate

I grew up on the tiny island of Guam in the South Pacific, so university in Tokyo was a huge change. People called me ‘gaikokujin’ – outsider.

Why am I here, Lord? I wondered.

But then I discovered the KGK Japan group. A few of us started meeting together every morning before class for a short devotional time. We grew together and became close friends.

It’s hard being viewed as an outsider. But as I’ve spent time investing in friendships and praying for Japan, I’ve grown to love its people more and more. I might never see large numbers of Japanese people turning to Christ. But I’m willing to stick it out, for as long as God calls me to stay. We need to have a ‘one-sheep mentality’ — a willingness to go all out just for one person, patiently sharing and living out the gospel, praying for the miracle of salvation.

Taty · CECE Ecuador · Undergraduate student

We were waiting for the bus. I heard Karol and another friend talking about faith. They turned to me and asked me what I thought. It occurred to me to invite them to look into it with me. I felt a little nervous that they’d reject my invitation. But it went better than I’d expected! They were very enthusiastic!

We met up regularly and read through a gospel. They came with their own questions too. Sometimes I didn’t know how to answer, but then we’d go away, find out more and discuss it again the next time.

It was a very beautiful experience because I could accompany others as they discovered Jesus. And in the end one of them made a faith decision! It fills me with joy to know that God can use you as His instrument when you least expect it – and that is only by His grace.

Poorani · UESI India · PhD student

We lived with my maternal grandparents. They followed Hindu rituals and customs devoutly. Sometimes they would beat my mother for taking us to church. Sometimes they wouldn’t give us food when we refused to put the white and red tilak on our foreheads. We couldn’t have a Bible at home, or sing or pray. Sometimes we would pray in bathrooms. If my grandfather found a Bible in the house he would tear it up and burn it immediately.

When I first joined a UESI Bible study I never opened my mouth. I was too afraid. But by the start of my second year God helped me to lead a Bible study. I moved universities for my PhD and found there was no UESI group there. So I started meeting with a few girls in my room for fellowship. Now we have regular Bible studies on campus and run evangelistic programmes.

Anna · CSC Moldova · Undergraduate student

My city had no IFES student fellowship until August last year. But there were a few Christian students who were interested in forming a group. CSC Moldova encouraged me to attend CCX Ukraine’s annual student conference, Salt, in December. I was able to meet with other student leaders passionate about sharing Jesus with their friends. I learned how to lead a Bible study. I felt challenged to invite my non-Christian friends back in Tiraspol to read the Bible with me – and they agreed!

Since coming back, I wanted to share what I’d learned with my friends. Some of us have been learning how to use the Uncover seeker Bible studies. A group of us gather together every Saturday evening in my apartment and invite our non-Christian friends to join us. We look at a Bible text and try to understand it. We’ve also decided to start an evangelistic book group.

Jean-Paul · Malta · Master’s student

I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life. As a student, it escalated to the point where I found it hard to talk to people or leave the house. But at university, God led me to the gospel and I became a Christian.

As I’ve shared the gospel with others, I’ve found that most people believe they’re going to heaven because they do more good than bad. Some of them don’t agree with everything they are taught, but they won’t contemplate changing. They say, this is the way I was raised.

I am now studying a Masters in theology and am considering going into full-time ministry. For now, I am committed to my local church, and serving there is my priority. I still struggle with anxiety but now when I worry I go to God in prayer. He comforts me and helps me get through it.

Emmanuel · NIFES Nigeria · Graduate

It was early in the evening, and we’d just finished our student fellowship leaders’ meeting. There had been trouble in the city that day. We felt the tension in the air as we walked quietly back to our dormitories, talking in low voices. The road looked deserted. But then we noticed some boys following us. We walked faster. And suddenly we were running in all directions. They were in front of us too, and they had knives. I threw off my bag and ran into the bush. The boys were hunting for us. I hid there for five hours. Eventually some security men came to rescue me. All this was because we were Christians. But after that day, we continued to meet as a fellowship.

For the Muslim students, I pray that they may see the light of the Lord Jesus and run to Him and stay in Him.

Angel · InterVarsity USA · Under-gradate

I am a foster child. When I was taken by child protection services, I was plunged into a world of complete darkness. Years of abuse, fear, brokenness.

At the age of 17, I ended up at an InterVarsity event and heard about Jesus. I was invited to take Jesus’ hand and start a new life with Him. That very night I gave my life back to Jesus. I am the prodigal that came home! I got family. I got healing. I was totally changed.

I am a witness to my own transformation and I want to witness others have their own transformations. Now I see people around me as ‘old me’s’, people whose lives have yet to be touched by God’s love, who have yet to come Home to the Father.

I’ve started a small group and am reaching out to my network of people on campus, befriending those who are searching for God’s love even if they don’t know it.

Syed · Middle East · Language student

I lived like a prince – a devout Muslim boy from a wealthy family in the Middle East. Everything was done for me; I didn’t even know how to tie my shoelaces.

As a teenager, things changed. Doubts about Islam turned to disillusionment. I stopped being a Muslim and turned my back on religion.

A year ago, I moved to Eurasia to study. I met a Christian, who invited me to go along to his Bible study group. I loved it. I found myself craving to learn more about the Christian faith. It all made sense. I came to understand that God loves me and sent His Son Jesus to die for my sins, so that I could be forgiven!

Since beginning my life with Christ, God has been changing me through His word, by the Holy Spirit who lives in me. I now care for other people – not only for myself. There’s a wonderful sense of relief in knowing that I am forgiven and secure.