Voice matters

Expectations are high: 

Tomomi will soon arrive in Thailand. She’ll join with over 500 students and staff from 17 IFES national movements in her region (plus six from other countries). The triennial IFES East Asia Regional Conference (EARC) (3-9 July 2024) will be a time to fellowship together and seek God’s guidance for the challenges they face in their university contexts. 

Taking a stand, having a voice, is reflected in the theme of this year’s event: “Voice Matters”. 

As students arrive from diverse contexts, they’ll hear each other’s voices: some will come from IFES national movements that are well-established (e.g. FES Singapore); some from those more recently affiliated (e.g. FCS Mongolia); and others from those operating in secret due to security concerns. 

Grace, part of the Thai host committee for EARC 2024, explains how important the interaction across movements will be:

That’s exactly what Jefta (student in Perkantas Indonesia) is looking for:

Throughout EARC, participants will be listening for God’s voice. Bible expositions from Zechariah will be led by “Titus” (from a sensitive movement), who clearly has a prophet’s heart: 

He asks us to pray that the Lord would speak through him as he opens the Scriptures so that students will dedicate themselves to be prophetic voices and faithful disciples, impacting society for good.  

Andrea, a student in IVCF Philippines, is ready:

To help students explore that calling, three plenary sessions and a range of workshops will facilitate reflective discussions. This includes contemporary issues (e.g., cancel culture and gender identity), ministry topics (e.g., understanding church and evangelism in the secular university), and personal development themes (e.g., emotional resilience and critical thinking). 

Anucha, General Secretary of TCS Thailand elaborates,

Today, we’ve heard seven voices. Let’s pray that these – and the voices of all attending EARC – will truly matter: 

  • Lisman, IFES Regional Secretary for East Asia, asks, “Please pray for God’s presence, peace, and protection, and that participants will discern God’s voice and return to their respective movements as the voice of their generation for the glory of God.” 
  • Pray for “Titus” – that the Lord will speak powerfully through his ministry – and pray for all those ministering in sensitive countries, for renewed strength and courageous hope. 
  • Thank the Lord for all the hard work of the Thai host committee and pray that they will know God’s blessing and strength as they serve their sisters and brothers from across the region.  

A divine connection

Naru was given contact details of three international students. They’d come to study on her campus in Japan and wanted to connect with the IFES movement (KGK). But Naru wondered what to do: she thought her English was too poor and she was anxious about using it to interact with others.  

Then she remembered the International Student Ministry (ISM) training she’d received as KGK staff earlier in the year. She’d been encouraged to take small steps. So, having made initial contact with the students – one from a secure country and two from Indonesia – she resolved to at least try and form an ISM group with the help of a translation app. And, just as God gave trembling Moses an eloquent Aaron (Exodus 4), so he also provided for her – beyond her expectations.  

As lead staff in the rural Hokuriku region (affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami), Naru first had another issue to address: the future of the Japanese Bible study group. It was small, with just one Christian and one non-Christian. When she met with them to discuss plans, the Christian student was unsure about continuing due to a busy schedule; it seemed like the group might fade away. But when Naru mentioned the international students, the non-Christian expressed interest in meeting them.  

As they were still talking, the new student from a sensitive country came along and joined the conversation. The Japanese non-Christian, confident in English, stepped forward to translate. Before long, the topic had somehow jumped from group logistics to the importance of Bible study and their need to learn directly from God as the foundation and beginning of everything. 

The next day, they gathered again and were joined by one of the students from Indonesia. They decided to have a weekly Bible study – all together. In this way, a group that was about to cease turned into a regular meeting with the presence of Christian international students. Yuya Shimada, KGK Global Mission Coordinator and Lead Staff for ISM is delighted: “This was beyond Naru’s expectations. Her desire to offer hospitality led to a revival of the local KGK group. This is a powerful testimony of partnership between local and international students.”  

This kind of fellowship is vital in Japan, says Yuya, since Japanese Christians often feel foreign in their own culture. He explains: “Christian international students are by nature foreign and stand out, so the partnership between locals and internationals strengthens and encourages them both and makes them powerful witnesses among Japan’s 2.6 million students.”     

Let’s pray for local and international students in Japan: 

  • Give thanks for KGK lead staff Naru, her desire to serve international students in Japan, and the way that God provided. Pray for her and the small group – that they would be mutually encouraged in their witness as they engage with Scripture together. 
  • Pray for the 200,000+ international students in Japan and the ISM of KGK Japan, including dedicated groups in Kanto and Kansai. Give thanks that ISM has been growing over the last 10 years, and pray that all student groups and staff will see and seize opportunities. 
  • Pray for the KGK national training conference, 26 February – 2 March, and a one-day conference in October to coincide with World Student Day. Ask that both will inspire and equip students in global mission.  

Perseverance in troubled times

Like most students involved in ministry in Hong Kong, Speech and Hearing Sciences student Grace juggles several ministry roles alongside her heavy study schedule. One of them is as student representative on the board of the Hong Kong Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES).

Just a few short years ago, universities here were the scene of violent clashes between student activists and political authorities. The ensuing security crackdown resulted in many thousands of young people leaving the island city, leaving others deeply demoralised. Grace tells us that a recent FES Bible camp focused on this ongoing wave of emigration, and provided a space where students could seek from God the courage to persevere. Reflecting on how the disciples must have felt at Jesus’s last supper, the young people were encouraged to rethink their position within the suffering community.   

Thanks to the generosity of those who gave to World Assembly scholarships, Grace will join 900 students, national ministry workers and IFES staff this week in Jakarta. This opportunity for our global community to unite in worship, study, learning, and fellowship has historically had a profound impact on both individuals and organisations.

Grace is excited to tell the worldwide IFES community how God is working: 

“God is preparing groups of student leaders who are willing to take up the responsibilities in their respective fellowships. Through their actions they have been witnessing to God’s grace and commending themselves to others… [At] World Assembly, I would like to see how God is making all things new in other countries. I look forward to experiencing more [of] God’s work both [in] me and [in] the board of students. Thank you!”

Please join us in praying for Grace and other student witnesses at World Assembly:

  • Pray that they will be encouraged, refreshed and strengthened by this unique and precious opportunity.
  • Pray that Grace, and others witnessing in difficult contexts, will discover practical ways to help their fellow students to grow in perseverance on their return. 
  • Pray that all those working in student ministry in Hong Kong would know God’s presence and peace.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire hope and trust in all working in student ministry in situations that seem bleak in human terms.

Wake-up calls and new perspectives

Now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted and borders re-opened, students in Singapore have spent the last few months strengthening their faith through in-person camps and retreats.

In late December, students from five universities across Singapore travelled to neighbouring Malaysia for SWAT, which stands for Studying the Word All Together. This Bible camp was jointly organised by students from the National University of Singapore Varsity Christian Fellowship (NUS VCF) and Nanyang Technological University Christian Fellowship (NTU CF). After two years of online camp, students were excited to come together in person and be challenged by this year’s theme: Preparing for the King’s Return, taken from 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13.

“The theme talks were a good reminder – and wake-up call – of whether I’m ready for Jesus’ second coming, and if I have been intentional in engaging in the Christian communities God has placed me in,” shared Tricia Khaw Jing Xuan, a first-year business administration student.

Tricia was one of 128 students who attended the six-day camp, during which participants heard from an expert speaker who unpacked 1 Thessalonians. But the highlight for many students was the richness of delving into the Scriptures with their small groups.

“What impacted me the most,” reflected Tricia, “was hearing my group sharing about the topics covered like rapture and grief, preparing for Jesus’ return, and the salience of the Christian community in today’s world. I was able to see Scripture come to life in other students’ experiences, and that level of vulnerability throughout the camp made us much closer.”

For Nathanael Lim Yeong Sng, a third-year international trade student, a workshop on lament left him with a new perspective on how faith relates to our emotions.

“We explored the story of Job in a new light, and looked at how Job’s feelings of anger, sorrow, and questioning of God were part of having a genuine relationship with Him,” said Nathanael. “This retelling of Job shifted my perspective on my relationship with God.”

“Society generally tells us to sweep our pain and grief under the rug and to be positive all the time. But I learned that it’s okay to air our feelings out and care for the soul. Lament shouldn’t be seen as something negative to get over but as a great expression of hope where we can trust that God listens to us in times of brokenness.”

Please pray with us for FES Singapore:

  • As students return from camps to the busyness and burnout of their second semester, pray that they would continue to be filled with courage and commitment to make the choices that matter for the Lord.
  • Pray for student leaders that they would be equipped with the heart and skills to engage their campuses and make a lasting impact, particularly during this time when campuses are changing in the aftermath of the pandemic.
  • Pray for staff, especially as the movement’s Staff Conference approaches on 17-20 April. Pray for wisdom, insight, and courage as the movement focuses on equipping staff to meet new demands and issues in a post-pandemic world. 

Read more recent news from FES Singapore in the movement’s Impetus newsletter.

Does student ministry really make a difference?

Students may not remain students for very long. Sometimes the opportunity to shape a student’s life can feel too brief. A week at camp or on mission, an hour each week in Bible study together – does that actually add up to much? Students come and go, and it’s easy to feel like the impact of ministry is lost.

But God uses the smallest of circumstances. We never know how one conference, one conversation, or one book recommendation might change a life. However that change comes, graduates can go on to make a difference in many ways. Sometimes their impact is very quiet, very ordinary, and not noticed by many people—and sometimes it can’t be ignored.

Our vision is to see students impacting the university, the church, and society for the glory of Christ, during and after their years in school. In this blog we meet three people—from the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the USA—who reflect on how their experience in a student group shaped them to make an impact after graduation.

Bart Bierling: fighting injustice in healthcare

How could God work through your studies?

Bart Bierling was brought up Christian, but his faith never felt like his own. During his time in IFES Nederland, the student movement in the Netherlands, however, that changed. As Bart understood what Jesus meant for him personally, he “got the urge to really make a difference in this world”.

During his studies, Bart researched ways to reduce the negative impact of monitoring sensors on premature babies. These findings led him to develop a type of sensor that provided non-obtrusive monitoring of vital functions. It wasn’t long before the importance of this new method was recognised by Bart’s colleagues and the broader medical community. In developing countries, limited access to equipment challenges the ability of health workers to provide new sensors for each new patient. It is equally difficult for understaffed healthcare teams to monitor the data from these sensors regularly and easily.

Bart’s innovation addresses both concerns. Through various collaborative efforts, Bart and his team are helping bring relief to strained medical systems and more effective care to the most vulnerable patients. Currently, Bart is in Malawi, studying clinical data and interviewing healthcare professionals.

“God really brought the right people into my path”, he says. “We’re not yet where we hope to go, but the rest is in God’s hands. There’s so much injustice in the world when it comes to healthcare. I want to improve that.”

You can find out more about Bart’s project on his website https://goal3.org/nl/

Chuah Ee Chia: an agent of change in her country

At the 2005 national conference of FES, the student movement in Malaysia, fresh graduate Ee Chia made a commitment to God.

“Make me an agent of change in my country”.  

Years later, during a diving vacation, Ee Chia encountered the stateless Bajau Laut community, who live on boats and stilt houses off the shores of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. She never forgot them and in 2015, during her master’s degree, Ee Chia returned to Omadal Island to co-founded Iskul Sama DiLaut Omadal.

Initially, the school provided Bajau Laut children an opportunity to learn how to read, as taught to them on weekends by local Malaysian children. Today, Iksul includes a community water project and healthcare clinic, as well as a food aid delivery initiative started in response to the pandemic. The school continues teaching children to read and write; however, Bajau Laut youths are now assisting their younger relatives and friends in literacy. With this simple objective, Ee Chia’s project has contributed to the process of healing divisions between communities in Malaysia.

“Of all of the activism God has guided me through, the seed was planted in my undergraduate studies with FES”, Ee Chia says. “Our faith is demonstrated in action.”

You can find out more about Iskul from their new YouTube channel, with videos created directly by Bajau Laut youths: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpc-k9cCFr5DTEUVZ5Gtn8Q

Almita Miranda: at the forefront of struggle

“Immigration was always part of my life”, says Almita, whose parents came to the US from Mexico in the 1970s. But it was only at university that Almita discovered how to weave together her life story, her faith in Jesus, and her research skills: God was calling her to be an advocate for undocumented immigrants and their families.

During her studies, Almita found community in the Latino Fellowship group, part of InterVarsity, the student movement in the USA. There, she explored how her identity and faith intersected. “Reading Esther at the 2004 LaFe national conference helped me realize that being a Christian means I embrace my ethnic identity,” she says. “It informs my unique experience, which God can use for his purposes.”

This helped Almita uncover her academic passions and transform her career path. Today, Dr Almita Miranda is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Chican@ and Latin@ Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on the ways Mexican mixed-status families navigate legal and social constraints.

“The families I work with teach me more about faith and la lucha (the fight) for social justice than I could ever give back,” she says. “But I try to use my position as an academic to contextualize their struggles, within a history of Mexico-U.S. migration and unjust immigration laws that maintain families in legal limbo, threatening many with deportation and family separation.

“God loves all people. He is a God of justice, who promises to defend and protect the most vulnerable. As people of faith, we should be at the forefront of these struggles for social justice.”

Do you have a story about how your student group impacted you or someone you know? We would love to hear it. Tell us your story at hello@ifesworld.org. Let’s be encouraged that God is working in the world’s universities, giving students solid foundations to impact the church, the university, and the world for the glory of Christ.

Secrets that I kept from God

Are there things in your life that you never tell anybody? Would you ever tell God? 

Students from CEF, the student movement in Taiwan, may have had all kinds of expectations when they came to camp. This one—with a theme of “Secrets that I Kept from God”—was a bit different. Each day, in keeping with the theme, the students would hear real life stories. They were encouraged to consider and even discuss the things they don’t tell anyone, spending time in prayer, worship, and Bible study. The staff workers wanted students to confront hard things in their lives, bringing their shortcomings, sins, and secrets to God. In Christ, they could come before the Father, in all circumstances. The Holy Spirit would guide them to live out their faith consistently. A community of faith – people in the same predicament – would keep them going. 

It was an intense and memorable experience for all. But, as one member of the team who organized camp put it, “with every courageous admission, every expression of empathy, and every re-examination of the God we believe in, confusion gradually became belief, anger became forgiveness, and scars became signs of growth. I didn’t expect that God would work with us in such a profound way. He has given us what we need to grow, with brothers and sisters from different universities to support one another.” 

“There are no great breakthroughs” shares another CEF team member. “Just a few simple stories. But camp showed us what God wants us to be in our years on earth – gracious, truthful, and happy. Originally, I didn’t think it would be anything special – but here I am, writing about those profound and beautiful nights. God is really working here.” 

Pray for the students of CEF Taiwan: 

  • Thank God for these significant experiences at camp. Pray that they would lead to changed lives, increased holiness, and deeper discipleship for students and team members. Pray that this growth would lead to more students in Taiwan coming to know to Christ.  
  • Pray that students and team members would continue to bring their burdens and sins before God, without hiding – in the knowledge that through Christ, God will “forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). 
  • Pray that in a world of facades, God would continue to lead students all over the world into real relationship with him. 

Make Jesus King

August 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of the official founding of IFES. Over the next year, we invite you to join us in reflecting on our past, rejoicing in our present, and turning towards our future. In this edition of Prayerline we’re looking back. There is no singular thread to trace through the years to find an origin point of IFES student ministry. Rather, it is a mosaic, a piece of which we will look at today. This piece provides a great testimony to how we can spur one another on, even from across continents. As we consider the work of a student from the distant past, let’s pray that students of the present will continue to impact one another from every corner of the world. 

It was 1889. Students in Japan were hosting their first ever national student conference, having been inspired by stories of gatherings elsewhere in the world. Participants included a wide range of students from Japan’s educational institutions and, significant for the period, 96 women among them. Their focus included more than gospel student work in their own country. Also in attendance was the American staff worker Luther Wishard, who informed the Japanese students that such a conference was taking place at the same time the United States. In response to this news, the Japanese students cabled a greeting: 

‘Kyoto, July 5, 1889. Make Jesus King. Signed, five hundred students.’ 

When American leaders saw this message, they were deeply moved. Richard Morse, General Secretary of the YMCA, which was at that time working with students, promptly shared it with his colleague Karl Fries in Stockholm. When Fries received the letter, he was at the Stockholm Scandinavian Missionary Conference with a group of students from Denmark, Sweden and Norway. When those students heard the message from Japan, they asked: ‘if students can gather round Jesus Christ as their King over there in the Far East, why not also here in the north?’ 

Scandinavian students followed through on the challenge. The following summer, 170 assembled in Denmark for the first Scandinavian student conference. They were inspired and stimulated to continue sharing the gospel, living for Jesus, and committing their whole lives to God, building a vision for evangelism and discipleship in the university. The call from Japan to ‘Make Jesus King’ resonated around the world, and its power has not been diminished by the decades. As then, so it is now: God continues to build his church and bring his kingdom. So too, the progress of our own IFES story continues to unfold. 

Let’s pray for similar moves of God through global connections today: 

  • Pray for students around the world to connect with the opportunities we have today: through social media, IFES regional initiatives and global ministries, and events like World Student Day
  • Pray for students in today’s KGK Japan, InterVarsity USA, KFS Denmark, NKSS Norway, and Credo Sweden, as well as all other IFES national movements. Pray for a continued and renewed sense of worship, faith, and obedience to the call to make disciples of all nations. 
  • Pray with us that every student really would make Jesus King in the fullest, deepest, truest sense, becoming a wonderful force for good in whatever journey God has for them. 

Political Turmoil and the Anchor of God’s Word

Students in Hong Kong are reeling from the political upheaval of the past few years. There has been violent protest, the establishment of the National Security Law in 2020, and a crisis caused by a fifth COVID-19 wave. FES, the student movement in Hong Kong, believe in an anchor, nonetheless. God’s Word gives stability to the lost, and strength to the powerless.

For three days over the end of 2021, FES students came together to study the book of Ecclesiastes. The theme was ‘Lying Flat under the Sun’ – a saying that expresses despondency, lack of motivation and lack of faith in change. It was an opportunity for students to process the sense of powerlessness they had in the changing political and social environment.

As well Bible study, students also did workshops where they could process their frustrations in the light of God’s Word through dramas, literature and puzzles. There was even a ‘feast of tabernacles’ on the last night – as Ecclesiastes was traditionally read during the Feast of Tabernacles, students experienced Scripture in a new way by decorating their own tents.

What was it about Ecclesiastes that could give the students hope? In the book, the author resolves to enjoy what God has given, even while he recognises his powerlessness to control the injustices around him. There is ‘a time for everything’, he declares, and this enables him to wait for God’s timing. Students had permission to bring their struggles to a sovereign God. Billy, a student who attended camp, explains that ‘some disappointing news was waiting for us on the second day – a pro-democracy media company had been shut down. As Hongkongers, what should we feel? Could we even identify our thoughts and feelings after everything that has happened? The ‘Lying Flat under the Sun’ concept gave us an ironic response to this absurd world. It challenged us to put down our anxieties and worries, believing that God is in control, and allowing ourselves to enjoy the simple things in our lives.’

Students relished the opportunity to study Scripture in depth with space to share their struggles. It gave them a chance to exercise and refresh their faith, that in God’s timing, their efforts and prayers will have an impact. Knowing that his purposes will be accomplished gave them freedom to rest in him and enjoy what he has already given. ‘When we acknowledge life is a precious gift from God, we trust that he guides us’, explains Billy.

‘The social atmosphere in Hong Kong remains low and depressing. Yet, God has promised us that he will return in glory. Thus, we will not worry about Hong Kong – but wait patiently for redemption in God’s time. We don’t know when that will be – so during this time, let’s live in the moment God has given, and put our faith in him.

‘Christians in Hong Kong are sometimes too scared to step forward. We need to start discussing how and when, and to what extent we should speak out. Nonetheless, recent events have inspired and enlightened Hongkongers no longer to only care about their individual needs. More citizens are aware of injustice and poverty, and are willing to provide a helping hand and take action.

‘We pray for courage and wisdom. Taking a stance may sometimes be difficult in Hong Kong. We pray that we will have the courage to speak for the Lord when we encounter things that are contradictory to his will.’

Please pray with us for the students of FES Hong Kong:

  • Pray that they will trust that God has a time for everything, whatever the circumstances.
  • Pray that they will remember that God is sovereign, that they will enjoy his gifts to them.
  • Pray that they will continue to have a hunger to study God’s Word, drawing from it strength and comfort.
  • Pray for God to be glorified and his kingdom to come, even amidst a still-changing political context, and the challenges caused by COVID-19.

Cake, KFC, and King Jesus

Christmas. Respun and reinterpreted through so many global and ideological perspectives, it’s a funny thing. There are some who venerate church tradition, viewing it as a time of ritual and contemplation. Some let its celebration pass them by, as an extra-Biblical carnival of human origin, removed from the historical detail of Jesus’ life. Some wholly embrace the light-hearted appeal of lights, gifts, food, and not much else. Christmas is characterised by a curious mixture of deity and human culture, fittingly enough for the celebration which specifically invites us to ‘veiled in flesh the Godhead see’.  

The celebration of Christmas in December is a cultural tradition originating in the West (and, indeed, Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate on an entirely different date). The popular explanation for marking 25 December is the Christianising of a Roman celebration of December winter solstice; the early term ‘yule’ also derives from Germanic and Anglo-Saxon terms referring to winter solstice. Other evidence suggests that the celebration of Jesus’ birth on 25 December derives from the dating of his miraculous conception to 25 March, also the perceived date of the beginning of creation, and incidentally the Spring Equinox, which also connotes new life. Whichever is the true explanation, the association with the ‘spring’ equinox and the ‘winter’ solstice emphasise that the celebration of Christmas on 25 December has decidedly Northern Hemisphere origins.  

For the students of the IFES fellowship around the world, the nuances surrounding Christmas abound. It may not be an easy time of year for many, and in some ways Christmas illustrates the challenges faced in student ministry. An interesting Christmas case study is the dynamic culture of Japan. Developed and prosperous, it has little historic Christianised cultural influence, unlike many parts of the IFES fellowship. In fact, Japanese culture does not recognise the same linear boundaries between different religious beliefs and none as many other parts of the world do. The majority of people self-identify as nonreligious, in the sense that they reject religious belief that appears to be abnormal or excessive, without meaning that they don’t participate in religious activities.  

For a holiday so deeply rooted in Western tradition and identity, and yet ever deeper rooted in the infinite mysteries of Emmanuel, God with us, a reality for all nations, what is it like to be a Christian student in Japan at Christmas time? We hear from Arisa, a student with KGK, the IFES-affiliated student movement in Japan, her reflections on navigating the cultural complexities surrounding Christmas in Japan. 

‘I feel like people are using Christmas wrong’ 

Arisa admits that she struggles with the lack of reference to Jesus in Christmas imagery in Japan. While Santa, reindeer and snowmen are abundant, there is nothing else.  Rather than referencing the light that was coming into the world, the Word become flesh, Christmas is seen as a time to simply spread happiness – and indulge in traditions that may seem unconventional elsewhere. A wildly successful 1970s advertising campaign, for instance, ensured that eating KFC fried chicken has become a popular tradition.  

Arisa tells us that ‘some people use the Christmas season as a sexual opportunity’. Indeed, Christmas Eve is seen as a time for couples in many ways, much as Valentine’s Day might be elsewhere. And Arisa sees a general self-absorption fall over people at Christmas, which ‘should be a time of humility. I’m sad that people are using Christmas to crown themselves’.  

Let them eat cake  

Arisa can see the goodness in a Japanese Christmas, too. It lifts her spirits to see people who aren’t Christians celebrating. People enjoy eating cake, which is a big part of the Christmas celebration in Japan, and spending time with family and friends. Although they are in some ways ‘crowning themselves’, and not acknowledging Christmas as the celebration of Jesus’ birth, they are joyful. Arisa identifies this as God’s mercy and common grace – that even though people are not celebrating Jesus, God gives them blessings to enjoy at the Christmas season.  

This does not simply apply in Japan. These traditions that have developed in this place, from cultural influences removed from the deeply-rooted Christian past heritage of Europe, may seem at first glance a little more removed from Biblical realities, from the Christmas imperative ‘come, let us adore him’. But are they really? Around the world, isn’t Christmas always mixed with human cultural rituals? Even in the hearts of individual Christians, there will always be a Romans 7 tension between worship and more worldly concerns. And we will never be able to escape the powerful influence of the cultural ideas with which we have been nurtured. 

Oh come, let us adore him 

Arisa astutely resolves this tension. She shows that the differences that matter aren’t the ones between different cultural perspectives on Christmas, even between cultures that have more religious traditions, and those where Christ is almost entirely absent from Christmas. She points out that everywhere, regardless of cultural context, Christmas isn’t really the point – Jesus is. Cutting through the complexities of culture, the dichotomy that really matters is between using Christmas to seek after Jesus for yourself, beholding, seeing, adoring, trusting, and hoping, or passing him by to seek after your happiness your own way, without reference to him.  

It’s a choice we all must make, a choice irrelevant to cultural context. Choosing to either crown yourself, or crown King Jesus, is not a Japanese issue, but a human issue. And Arisa goes on to point out that while Christmas demands this choice of us, it also marks the same threshold in a different way. Christmas bridges the darkness, which speaks loud and clear of the sinfulness of humanity and the need for salvation, ‘and the bright side is that God sent his Son to save us, because he loves us.’  

Wherever we come from, and whatever the world around us wants to spend their Christmas doing, let’s come to Bethlehem again, ‘joyful and triumphant’. 

It started with two

Jonathan and Soen knelt in the corner of a little room. Their heads were bowed. Their hands were folded. Tears wet their eyes as they passionately prayed to God.

Both were Indonesian students studying in Australia. They had met at the Overseas Christian Fellowship Convention at the Melbourne Bible Institute. There they experienced student ministry like never before. It made them realize Indonesia’s great need for something similar.

Now it was time to return home. The two prayed that God would use them for Indonesia in whatever way he wanted – maybe even to start a student ministry. The year was 1963.

8 years later, in 1971, Perkantas was officially registered as a movement. But it is important to remember that their story began much earlier, with the faith of two young men who offered themselves to God’s service.

In July, Perkantas celebrated their 50th anniversary. A movement that began with two people was celebrated by a combined 1400 people over Zoom or livestreaming the event. A special webinar was included in this multi-day celebration of speeches, prayers, TikTok competitions, original songs from students, and encouragements from the nearby movements in South Korea and Australia. The webinar covered the tendency for Christian movements to decline after their first 50 years. Perkantas knows that now is not the time to become complacent. In fact, leading up to the celebration, they spent fifty days in prayer. They gave God credit for how far they had come and asked for his guidance over the next 50 years.

Now they ask for your prayers. Join us this week in praying for this movement which seeks to be a blessing to the nations.

  • Thank God for the growth of Perkantas over the past 50 years. Pray that they stay faithful to the vision on which they were founded.  
  • Pray that this movement would be protected from the common factors that lead many Christian organizations to decline after the first 50 years. Pray that they would continue growing, learning, and serving God for many more years to come. 
  • Pray for Perkantas as they prepare to host World Assembly in 2023. 
  • Pray for the pioneers around the world who are currently breaking ground on new movements. Pray that 50 years from now they will be able to look back with thankfulness just like Perkantas.