A Word from Tim Adams
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.(Romans 12:11-12)
This exhortation became a refrain for me throughout 2021, my first year as IFES General Secretary. I continue to keep it as a screensaver.
It was a tough start to the year across the Fellowship. There were many times of frustration, pain, and tears as devastating waves of COVID-19 hit different national movements around the world. In July, we held a week of lament in hope, culminating in a global online service. We came together to grieve for the people we had lost and the ministry which had been disrupted. We were honest in our cries before our God, and we were deliberate in our decision to look to him with hope.
It was with this same deliberate hope that we set our direction for the coming years around Thriving Together: thriving in witness; thriving in whole-life discipleship; thriving on new ground and thriving into the future.
As you can read in this report, even in a difficult year there is much evidence of God’s presence with our students and movements. In recent months, it has been possible to meet in person with some national leaders and staff. While there is fragility, what stands out is how local groups and national movements have bounced back; some events are even seeing more students than ever before.
I recently sat with the national leader of student work in one Eurasian country who told me about their evangelistic events. They are seeing international students coming to faith – some from so-called closed countries. As these students move on to other countries, the movement has connected them with other IFES movements and churches so that they can continue to grow in faith.
This fellowship and expression of partnership between movements is one we see often in IFES. It is visible as movements support and equip one another in projects such as the pioneering efforts of Breaking New Ground. We have seen an outpouring of love in response to the war in Ukraine. CCX Ukraine staff have helped hundreds of international students to reach safety. Student groups in nearby countries are offering practical support and advice. Our students, staff and friends are helping refugees on their journey, opening their homes, offering practical support, and faithfully praying together.
As we look ahead, such connection is central as IFES nurtures and empowers national movements – so that students and graduates thrive as witnesses for Christ. We will continue to face challenges, and I pray that exhortation from Romans 12 remains true for us all.
Yours in Christ,
IFES General Secretary
Our vision is to see students thriving together as communities of disciples, transformed by the gospel, and impacting the university, the church, and society for the glory of Christ.
IFES shapes lives and develops student leaders all around the world. We support locally-led student movements in over 180 different countries, and we are committed to seeing a student witness established in every university in the world.
PIONEERING: THRIVING ON NEW GROUND
There are still thousands of campuses across the world with no Christian witness. IFES is striving to give every student the chance to hear about Jesus by pioneering in new campuses, cities, and countries.
After attending the IFES World Assembly in 2019, Sam, an InterVarsity USA staff worker of Tongan heritage felt moved to restart an IFES ministry in Tonga. When he was derailed by visa issues, a perfect plan seemed ruined. But God works in mysterious ways. It soon emerged that a need for student ministry existed in Guam, an island that had no history with IFES. Moreover, as Guam is a US territory, Sam didn’t need a visa.
Guam has been one of the true highlights in the South Pacific in 2021. There are now two weekly Bible studies. Sam leads the local student Bible study, itself a multicultural group, which is going well, and two students lead a Bible study with students from across Micronesia. They regularly have 20 students attend; one who recently made the decision to follow Jesus, and many others who are searching. Ministry thus far has focused on the University of Guam but is now expanding into two more institutions.David, IFES Regional Secretary for the South Pacific
In 2019, Jongho, from the East Asia regional team, visited a closed country for the first time to begin pioneering. But the pandemic made further visits impossible. Nonetheless, thanks to the move online, ministry could begin; meetings were held, and the gospel was shared despite a context in which being Christian is very challenging.
The Lord has closed one door but opened a better one. We’ve made much progress and finally we have the first local staff worker there. God’s work is mysterious yet so sure.Jongho, Associate Regional Secretary for East Asia
EVANGELISM: THRIVING IN WITNESS
I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)
We believe that the best way to reach students is through other students. IFES provides training, funding, and materials to equip students in their personal and public witness.
International Student Ministry
Before the war, CCX Ukraine shared the story of Kamia − a young woman who left her home in India to study in Lviv. When CCX volunteer Zhenya saw Kamia sitting alone on a bench between classes, she decided to say hello. The two became friends and introduced each other to the social circles from their respective countries. Inspired by the connection, CCX Lviv began a Ukrainian club for international students, with language classes, cultural exchange, and opportunities to share the gospel. God has used Zhenya’s courage to build gospel bridges with around fifty international students.
The FEUER network
This year, the Fellowship of Evangelists in the Universities of Europe held a conference for the first time since the pandemic – gathering to share, pray, encourage, and learn from one another in their vision for public evangelism throughout European universities. Joe, staff of GBU Portugal, shared the struggles of holding university mission weeks in the face of rapidly changing COVID-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, Joe saw God at work through these restrictions. He spoke of Rafaela, a student whose father hated Christianity and banned her from GBU. Despite this, she was curious enough to watch mission week and join GBU meetings online, typing on the chat so that her father wouldn’t hear her discussing the Bible. Soon afterwards, Rafaela accepted Jesus as Savior and began attending a local church.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: THRIVING IN WHOLE-LIFE COMMITMENT
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
MENA GATHERING FOR MUSLIM-BACKGROUND BELIEVERS
In the face of the pressure on Christians in some parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the regional team there brought together emerging young leaders from Muslim backgrounds for a training conference to strengthen and equip them to carry on student ministry.
A complete training on the whole Bible. Now I have more confidence in what I believe, and it has strengthened my faith.MENA gathering attendee
Students gathered in person for eight national conferences during the day, and joined together as a whole region for online evening sessions. These conferences saw 176 participants – more than ever before. Despite the screens between them, God’s transforming power was at work, and prayer meetings and the exchange of personal testimonies proved to be absolute highlights. One staff worker shared that they “never saw the work of the Holy Spirit so clearly.” Now students are freshly equipped to reach out with the gospel message on their campuses.
On my way here I didn’t know what to expect. I only read the Bible occasionally and I don’t pray much. But I had a desire to meet God. Here, I made the decision to seek God every day. I also decided to speak to my father, who has a lot of problems, about Christ.Eurasia Formación attendee
FRANCOPHONE AFRICA CACC TRAINING INSTITUTE
During June and July 2021, 34 leaders from local student movements, including 11 first-time participants, took part in the region’s online leadership training. The strategic value of these sessions with the Centre Africain du Christianisme Contemporain (CACC) in creating leaders is demonstrated by the fact that 12 of the 19 movements in Francophone Africa currently have general secretaries who participated in this training.
In just one session, CACC has intensely transformed the way I see problems. I no longer endure situations; I work to transform them. I’ve learnt to sharpen my critical spirit.Christophe, Democratic Republic of Congo
IFES invests in students who will grow into lifelong leaders of integrity and vision. For that reason, our work does not stop with the university; we also support graduates. In 2021, IFES Graduate Impact published research into the difficulties young people face as they strive to live for Jesus in the workplace. They found that young Christian professionals are uniquely placed at the intersection of Christian and professional communities, requiring dedicated supports to bridge the gap and bring an insightful Christian contribution to society. Graduate Impact also launched 24 new Cross-Current learning communities for graduates, totaling 45 groups with more than 700 participants in 20 countries—including the first group in Francophone Africa. Fresh initiatives in graduate ministry are also underway in Latin America and South Asia.
Some regions and national movements were able to resume in-person events in 2021. FOCUS Kenya’s triennial Commission conference also serves as a key regional meeting point in the English and Portuguese-speaking Africa region, including delegates from Sudan and Nigeria, amongst other countries further afield such as the USA and Brazil. The purpose of the conference is to equip and enthuse students for world mission. This year’s Commission served over 10,000 in-person and virtual participants.
After Commission I have gone on two missions organized by my student group, and I’m trusting God for more such opportunities. I’m trusting God to provide an income source so that I can faithfully support the FOCUS Kenya Ministry Fund.
– Gladwel, student
ENGAGING THE UNIVERSITY: THRIVING IN WHOLE-LIFE COMMITMENT
Since Engaging the University e-courses began, over 1200 people have journeyed through questions concerning how the gospel relates to academia – a learning experience that nurtures discussions between participants from across the world.
My perspective towards students has changed; now I have a broader picture. I need to focus and engage. I will pray and plan to help students engage with their campus and become torchbearers themselves.University faculty member, India
Logos and Cosmos Initiative
We want Christians in academia to integrate their faith with their work. To that end, 2021 saw the launch of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI), funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The LCI will support five cohorts of “catalysts” in Francophone Africa and Latin America in their university settings as they foster dialogue between theology and the sciences. Through regional consultations, resources, grants, e-learning, mentoring, and research, LCI catalyst projects will equip national movements with tools to help students and academics to think biblically, and live distinctively, missionally, and incarnationally. Eighteen catalysts have progressed onto the second year of the program and are undertaking their projects; 23 new catalysts have been welcomed onto the first year of the program. The catalysts represent 19 different countries in total.
I can already see the benefits of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Our catalyst has been able to motivate and involve students and other professionals in issues of science and theology, and has proven to be a useful resource for the national movement.General Secretary of a national movement in Latin America
STRENGTHENING NATIONAL MOVEMENTS: THRIVING INTO THE FUTURE
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)
Student ministry is most powerful in the hands of locally led national movements. IFES regional teams give these movements the support, training, and resources they need to see their ministries thrive. Our global resource ministries work alongside regional teams to help movements build local ownership of the ministry.
For example, networks of Scripture Engagement Multipliers work globally to equip national movements to engage with Scripture, training and mentoring staff and students. The South Asia network began in July 2021, holding monthly online gatherings and coordinating events in their movements, including FOCUS Sri Lanka’s Raising our Cry Initiative and the BSFB Bangladesh Gospel Film Festival.
Before, reading Scripture was just a ritual or a routine. But I fell in love with God’s Word again.Testimony from the first South Asia Scripture Engagement meeting
Global Giving Day 2021: Student to Student
With our first Global Giving Day, we invited the whole fellowship—particularly students—to empower and equip students worldwide by donating to eight specific projects. Ninety-two generous donors gave more than USD $36,000 in support of these projects. As one example of how God used these gifts, the organizers of the Francophone Africa project reported remarkable results for their student leadership training in UGBB Burkina Faso and GBUR Rwanda.
We were surprised by a large number of student leaders in Burkina Faso who registered for the training. Another surprise was to see a large number of graduates committed to training student leaders; more than 200 registered for three training seminars and we organised four days of onsite training for those in Rwanda. These beginnings are a great encouragement for other movements, and we expect the same faith, commitment, and resilience as we call them to serve as student leaders.Emmanuel, Francophone Africa Regional Team
World Student Day 2021: This Moment
In 2021, World Student Day broke records when over 30,000 people in 148 countries joined together in prayer. With our theme of ‘This Moment’, we prayed for prayer requests sent by students from around the world, asking that students would know God’s presence with them in every moment and that in every moment, they would choose to submit to Him. Visit ifesworld.org/wsd to learn how you can join in this year’s World Student Day, ‘Renew’, on 21 October 2022.
SERVING IN LEADERSHIP
The General Secretary is appointed to serve students and staff at all levels by overseeing IFES ministry. IFES senior leaders develop strategic partnerships across regions, leading our international teams in developing and sharing ministry priorities and resources. Having begun his tenure as General Secretary at the start of 2021, Tim Adams created a new core team with the appointment of David Bahena as Associate General Secretary, Olena Welch as Head of Global Ministries, and George Ogalo as Chief Operating Officer.
Appointed by the General Committee, the IFES Board is composed of a chair, a treasurer, and thirteen other voting members from around the world, two of whom are student representatives. It is responsible for the creation of policy and for ensuring doctrinal integrity within the fellowship.
IFES REGIONAL LEADERSHIP
IFES regional secretaries serve as our regional ambassadors, helping us understand how best to respond to the diverse and dynamic cultures of the world’s universities. They provide mentoring, supervision, and training for staff and students, while also connecting movements within their region to share ideas, expertise, and encouragement. Regional Secretaries appointed within the last year are Carmen Castillo (Latin America), and David Montgomery (Europe).
GENERAL SECRETARY’S CORE TEAM
GLOBAL RESOURCE MINISTRIES
IFES invests in regional teams and global ministry programs to support national movements as they carry out our shared vision of thriving student ministry across the globe. These investments provide the training and resources for national movements to equip strong leaders, grow local financial support, expand into new cities and campuses, develop critical organizational infrastructure, and bring hope to students through the gospel.
From 2019-2020 we saw a COVID-related reduction in income, and reduced expenditure accordingly. During 2021 IFES began to see a return of in-person programs as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lessened in some areas. Special grants were given to help 18 national movements adversely impacted by the pandemic. In addition, our leadership invested in new structures to better support all national movements. 2021 income includes the accrual of the $2.7M 5-year grant from a foundation in the United States for our Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Overall our program funding has positioned us to increase impact in 2022 and beyond, especially as COVID-related limitations ease.
This financial report reflects our combined operations based on the audited financial statements for IFES-UK and IFES/USA, as well as the independently-examined financial statements for IFES-Switzerland. The Ministry Expenditure analysis presented here is categorized with our international audience in mind. The financial statements for IFES entities – based in the UK, USA, and Switzerland – are available upon request.
IFES/USA is an accredited member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a Valued Partner with GuideStar Exchange and has a ‘Give with Confidence’ designation from Charity Navigator. In the UK, IFES is registered with the Fundraising Regulator.
IFES would like to express our deepest gratitude for every gift received in 2021. We are thankful for all who supported IFES ministry with prayer, volunteering, or financial giving during an exceptionally difficult year.
Partner with us
When you partner with us, you support students and graduates in MENA who need encouragement to keep living out the gospel. You provide training and mentorship to individuals like Isabela, an architecture student from Ecuador, who is working on a project with the Logos and Cosmos Initiative to transform her national movement and her society. You join Gladwel and his friends, gathering at conferences to consider how the gospel might transform a dynamic world – and what it could mean for them.
There are so many ways to empower and equip students through the provision of training, resources, and leadership. With your help, we can do more to ensure that student ministry thrives around the world.
Prayer is the fuel that keeps us mission-centred and obedient to God. Without it, our ministry will be ineffective. Please pray with us that God will move in the hearts of students around the world and guide everything we do.
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IFES is a rich fellowship, with so many ways to be involved and so many chances to witness God’s work in the lives of students worldwide. We would love to see you on IFES Connect, our new online community, built to unite, encourage, and equip our staff, students, and supporters. Visit connect.ifesworld.org to get started.
Without generous partners like you, our reach would be far less extensive. Regular gifts are especially helpful, as they enable us to plan well for the future. You can set up or increase your monthly gift at ifesworld.org/give.
With you, we will keep moving towards our vision of seeing a thriving student witness on every campus in the world. We are driven by the gospel and sustained by a Savior who brings hope to the university. Thank you for praying, connecting, and giving with us as we continue this mission.