Instant Christmas, constant love

Invitations had gone well this time. Pun and Love alone, two Christian students from the same faculty, had invited ten friends between them to the TCS Thailand Christmas party, Instant Christmas, constant love. TCS students wanted to introduce their friends to the constant love of Jesus. The food was the instant part! The guests all squeezed into the small apartment, instant noodles in hand. Once inside they could add the extras – cheese, chicken, mince, mushrooms, pak choi – all provided by the TCS host. 

Between the food, the games and the singing, the TCS students shared what Christmas is all about. They watched a short Bible overview on video and then Pun shared how the gospel message is good news for us. It’s like a present, that we need to open and accept, Pun explained. What will your response be? For some, it was the first time they’d heard the big story of the Bible. 

Will you pray for these students who heard the gospel last month? 

  • Pray that they would want to find out more and that their Christian friends would be prayerful in following up on conversations started at the party. 
  • Thank God for the courage of TCS students like Pun and Love, inviting their friends to hear the gospel. Pray that they would continue to be courageous witnesses, living distinctive, attractive student lives. 
  • Pray particularly for Ling* who has been coming to church and to a TCS Bible study regularly, and has recently taken the step of faith. Pray that she would be discipled well this year, growing in her love for Jesus and for evangelism. 

*name changed 

Thanks for praying with us!

Security risks and language barriers

Naomi needs to be careful what she says to her friends. Even a text message can be intercepted by authorities and scanned for ‘Christian’ language. It adds a tension to everyday life she didn’t know before September. Naomi has recently moved to a country to East Asia as an international student to pursue language learning. She reflects:

“I don’t like the effect it has on me. It makes me less inclined to share the gospel because I’m so conscious of the sensitivity of it. But if anything, my response should be the opposite! The gospel desperately needs to be shared here, as many people – locals and internationals – have yet to hear of Christ’s redeeming love and grace.”

Despite the dangers, Naomi is loving the international experience. She explains:

“In a class of 20 there are 14 different nationalities. I’ve met students from places like Iran, Sudan, Nigeria and many more! The number of different languages and cultures represented is enriching and exciting, but can be a challenge in getting to know people deeply and moving past surface-level conversations.”

Join us in praying for Naomi this week:

  • Pray for Naomi to have linguistic fluency, sensitivity and courage to have gospel conversations with friends.
  • Pray that God would open eyes and change hearts of local and international students, so that they would know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
  • Pray for the local Christians facing persecution, that they would continue to hold fast to Jesus and trust in His ways and provision.

Thanks for praying with us!

God is the script-writer

When PhD student Tom* first arrived here with his young family, he knew it was dangerous. But now he looks back at that time as the ‘good old days’. He lives in anticipation of hearing the police knock at the door. And yet, even here, God is at work. Tom shared how he has seen God breaking through the darkness in the student world…

On your guard

It’s surprising the students still want to meet us. At university, they’re given severe warnings repeatedly against having anything to do with religious activities or even attending English clubs. Owning religious literature is a risk. There are airport-like security checks at the campus gates.

We often wonder if we should cancel our meetings with students. We often wonder what we’re doing here. But every time we feel like we’ve reached our limit, God gives us a small encouragement – a glimmer of light breaking through in the darkness. And it’s enough to keep us going for a few more months.

Glimmers of light

We met student Ryan* not long after we arrived here, eight years ago. He wasn’t interested in discussing spiritual matters at all. But last year, his girlfriend saw a Christian biography on our bookshelf and wanted to read it. She then began to read the Bible and later professed faith. Following her example, R started to read the Bible with one of us in an unwatched spot in a nearby café. He professed faith very recently as well. Seeing his willingness to count the cost has been a real encouragement to us.

Others are wary of reading the Bible but are willing to meet up to discuss a secular book. That’s opened up many opportunities to speak of the gospel.

Dreams of Jesus

Among my own PhD peers, it has been a slow and often discouraging journey. Things got off to a good start when the semester started, but then in our third week together, the whole class was warned that I was there to force them to convert to Christianity. For two years after that, my classmates barely spoke to me. But earlier this year, very unexpectedly, one of them opened up to me. She mentioned that she’d been studying the Bible with a Christian for some time. She mentioned that she’d had a dream of Jesus on the cross!

I prayed earnestly that she would have more dreams. So far, she hasn’t. And I remember that God is the script-writer, not me.

Looking ahead

With the combination of slow progress in ministry, many uncertainties as well as constant stress, we often ask ourselves whether perhaps God has somewhere else in mind for us. But one message that we heard a few years ago keeps coming to mind: Jonah preached for three days and saw a whole city turning to the Lord. Noah witnessed to the people of his generation throughout the time it took him to build the ark (perhaps 100 years), but only saw seven others from his family join him in the ark. However, it is Noah who is included in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Fame”. What we need to be conscious of each day is whether we are being faithful to the Lord, not whether our environment looks favourable or our ministry appears to be effective.

*names changed

IFES East Asia

East Asia Week 2019

Jesus is doing incredible things in the lives of students in our biggest global region. Learn from students and find out how God is calling many to know him in some difficult contexts.

3 things I’ve learned from students in Malaysia

It is a privilege to walk alongside so many students who have shown great Christ-like example in their ordinary lives on campus. Here are three examples of students who have left an imprint in my life.

A passion to serve

Mark was a second-year student when I first met him. He showed me what it meant to serve the Christian Fellowship (CF) with passion. He had a humble and quiet personality. He served behind the scenes. He went the extra mile without being asked. He came to the fellowship week after week without fail and would reach out to the juniors, especially those who were left out from the group. He did not hold any leadership position in the CF. Rather he intentionally freed himself from official responsibility so that he could have time to make the juniors feel welcome. Serving is not about a position of leadership but about reaching others with Christ’s love. Mark had a passion to serve.

A passion for the Word

Sam and Edna taught me what it means to be hungry for the Word. Their campus was a long way away. Because of the distance, my wife (also a staff worker) and I could only visit their campus once a month. There were times when we questioned if it was worth it to travel all that way for just two students. After a long and tiring drive to their campus, we imagined we’d just meet over a simple meal for some fellowship. But they had other ideas! They wanted a proper Bible study! The two of them were always eager and waiting for us to do a Bible study together, even if we had to do it in McDonalds. I also remembered how they saved up the little money they had over a few months, so that they could buy a study Bible to help them dig deep into the Word.  Their passion for the Word was a wake-up call for us.

A passion to share

Then, there was a group of students from Kampar who had a passion to see their friends and nation reached with the gospel. This group were also passionate about running! They ran almost every week.  One year, they organised a run, in conjunction with the Malaysia Day Celebration. While they were running, they invited all other Christian groups on campus to pray for the nation. On another occasion, they invited their non-Christian friends to join them for a marathon around the country. Their dream was to share with their friends about who God is especially during the time spent travelling and running together.

What I find in these three groups of students is a common word: passion. Passion to serve, passion to study and passion to share. My life has been enriched by each of them.

IFES East Asia

East Asia Week 2019

Jesus is doing incredible things in the lives of students in our biggest global region. Learn from students and find out how God is calling many to know him in some difficult contexts.

Sarah’s search

Sarah* was devout. She wanted to help her Christian school friends become Muslims. They were kind people, and she didn’t want them to go to hell. So she started buying books about religion, watching debates and reading articles. She’d ask her Christian and Hindu friends clever questions to help them see their mistakes and realise the truth.

By the time Sarah was at senior high school, she was reciting prayers every morning, memorising two pages of the Quran every week, and fasting every Monday and Thursday.

Yes, Sarah was devout.

But she was also curious.

Compelled by curiosity

It was curiosity that took Sarah along to a talk held by the Christian student group, Perkantas (the IFES movement in Indonesia). The flyer had been well designed and caught Sarah’s attention. She wanted to go. She knew her boundaries – she wouldn’t join in any worshipping or praying – she was just curious. As she listened to the talk on salvation by grace, she thought again how wrong Christians were.

Curiosity took her along to a second Perkantas event, this time a seminar about the Trinity. Sarah wanted to know what was behind the concept of the Trinity. She wanted to see for herself just how weak that Christian concept was.

But she came away a bit dissatisfied… It wasn’t as ridiculous as she’d expected. She realised that winning an argument against a Christian over the Trinity might be harder than she’d thought, and probably shouldn’t be attempted.

Searching for answers

Sarah went back to concentrating on her devotion to Islam. She took it more seriously than ever. But one day, she found herself with a new question: am I just a Muslim because of my upbringing? Or is Islam objectively and universally right?

It was a question she couldn’t answer. But she wanted to know. Her Muslim friends were not much help. Sarah’s Christian friends, however, were happy to talk it over with her. One discussion got to the crux of the matter: “In my religion, Jesus was not the one on the cross”, Sarah told them. But their unnerving reply: “Which one came first? The Bible or the Quran? In history, the text written closer to the event is more likely to be true.”

Those words were dancing around her mind. She didn’t want to believe, but she needed to find out the truth.

Another friend suggested she read Nabeel Qureshi’s book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, the story of a devout Muslim converting to Christianity. The writer was from a different Islamic sect to Sarah – no wonder he wavered, she thought. Though reluctant at first, Sarah finally downloaded the book and began to read it on her phone. Again, she found her perspective on the crucifixion being challenged.

Could it be true?

She wasn’t yet convinced.

Skyler Gerald – Unsplash

Dreams and doubts

But a few days later, Sarah had a dream. She saw Calvary.

She told herself it was just the result of her recent reading, nothing more. But then – another dream! In this one, she had become a Christian and her mother was furious with her.

Sarah felt scared. She was a Muslim. Why would she become a Christian in a dream?

Sarah’s long search for the truth, her unanswered questions, dreams and doubts finally drove her to prayer. She asked God to show himself to her. She turned first to the Quran, but didn’t find an answer. Then she turned to a Christian website and her eyes fell on this:

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” 

Psalm 46:10

Sarah knew that God was speaking to her directly. At that moment, she decided to open her heart and become a Christian.

Dramatic changes

Sarah’s life changed dramatically from that moment on. Moved by God’s love for her, she felt a new compassion for her family and friends who didn’t know Jesus. Now, instead of wanting her Christian friends to become Muslims, she wanted her Muslim friends to become Christians. It was a complete transformation.

When Sarah moved to Malaysia to go to university, she got involved with FES, the IFES movement there. She went to Bible study and church regularly and made friends who helped her learn more about God. She came to understand more deeply that salvation is not something to keep to yourself. It is for all people around the world. She had been greatly blessed to have heard, understood and experienced God’s love and grace in salvation. Other people needed to know too.

A new dilemma

Sarah told her family about her faith quite recently. Her mother was furious with Sarah. She wouldn’t let her go to church or go to her fellowship group. She arranged for someone to come to their house to teach Sarah about Islam. She told Sarah that she’s the reason she’s getting sicker every day.

For Sarah, it’s a new dilemma. What does it look like to love and honour her mother, while at the same time, following Jesus?

She writes:

Whatever happens, I believe God is in control. I’m grateful for the support and prayers of IFES, FES Malaysia and Perkantas. It means a lot to me.               

* name changed

IFES East Asia

East Asia Week 2019

Jesus is doing incredible things in the lives of students in our biggest global region. Learn from students and find out how God is calling many to know him in some difficult contexts.

Why I’m thankful for KGK Japan

My name is Honoka. I was raised in a non-Christian home. After graduating from a protestant middle and high school, I stopped reading the Bible. But while studying Spanish at university, I was introduced to KGK Japan by a friend, and was saved last year during a summer camp. It has been almost two years since I found KGK, and 14 months since I got saved. KGK became the most important place for me at university. I want to share three things that I am particularly thankful for:

Recharging my batteries to love my neighbour

Our KGK group met every morning at 8am for devotions. We read the Bible, shared what we had discovered and prayed for each other. I loved these times! It was so important for me to hear God’s words, dwell on His will and feel His love, before jumping into the non-Christian environment.

I have never been good at forming relationships, and in a non-Christian community it has been my biggest challenge to love my neighbour. I lose the power to love others the moment I am away from God. But because of that fellowship time with my Christian friends each morning, I could recharge my spiritual batteries to love my neighbours on campus.

We could see God answering our prayers and could feel God’s grace being poured into the smallest details of our lives. My sister showed no interest in church, and I was very desperate for her. Yet through the prayers of my friends every morning, she started to change and eventually she too gave her life to Christ!

KGK Japan

Learning from my friends 

It was a huge blessing to be able to learn from each other. There were so many times when I admired the faith of my friends. The reason I was able to know God was because I saw the beauty of the KGK members praying together. When I looked into the eyes of my friends talking about God, I really knew that God exists! It was wonderful to be in that kind of environment.

The chain reaction of salvation

I was introduced to KGK by a friend and was saved a year ago. My friend then started to participate in KGK activities too, and accepted Jesus at camp this year, exactly a year after me. I feel so overwhelmed to see God’s big, detailed plan in this chain reaction of salvation. Now I wonder how I was ever able to live without God! Before I met Him, I was easily crushed by anxiety and I always felt stressed about very small things. It was such a blessing to have been saved during my campus years, and now I wish that many other students will be saved along with me.

I am now studying as an international student in Colombia. I have joined the local UCU group (UCU is the IFES movement in Colombia). I felt God call me to start leading morning devotions here. So now we meet at 8am every morning to read our Bibles and pray. If God will use me, I want to serve Him here in Colombia, or in KGK Japan student ministry in the future.

IFES East Asia

East Asia Week 2019

Jesus is doing incredible things in the lives of students in our biggest global region. Learn from students and find out how God is calling many to know him in some difficult contexts.

Peacemaking in Hong Kong

Face masks hid their identity. But you could tell they were young. University students – 18, 19, 20 years old. Tear gas and petrol bombs flew over their heads as they sang for the freedom of their people, alongside hundreds of thousands of others, on the streets of Hong Kong in June.

The people were initially protesting against the proposed bill to extradite Hong Kong citizens to mainland China. They were concerned that convicted criminals would not be treated fairly under the Chinese judicial system, and took to the streets to voice their resistance.

Before long, the peaceful protests turned violent and police accountability became another reason for the demonstrations. Days of protests and strikes have since turned into weeks and months.

FES Hong Kong student Harris shared more:

“The major driving force of the movement has been young people. You see high school and university students on the frontlines, standing between the police and the protestors. Protesting has become part of their weekly routine. Many are feeling hopeless and desperate. One university student decided to take her life. She left slogans near where she took her life, as a final plea to the authorities. We are shocked to see the ever-escalating conflicts in a city we previously saw as our stable home.

Channels of peace in the chaos

FES student Eliza reflected:

“As FES students, we want to be faithful witnesses to Jesus through this difficult time. On campus it’s likely that there will be tensions between the students from Hong Kong, the students from mainland China, and the students whose parents are in the police force. We want to be channels of God’s love and peace, acting as mediators for the different groups on campus. We want to speak to our friends about Jesus and the freedom He brings. We want to share the hope that cannot be lost.

“In the darkness and chaos, we believe that the Lord is still here to rule. As students, we need His guidance in deciding what to do. Students are some of the main participants in the protests and strikes, but we also have lectures to attend and degrees to finish. What does it look like for us to be peace-makers?”

Gigi, FES Hong Kong Student

Rioters or peace-makers?

Law student Gigi is just one example of a student trying to engage with what’s going on in her society, with a biblical mindset. She explained more:

“As Christians, how should we respond? Through art, I wanted to get people thinking about what it means to be a peace-maker. Some people are criticising the protestors for their unlawful ‘rioting’. But could those ‘rioters’ be considered people who hunger and thirst for righteousness? Many of them are rushing to extinguish the tear gas. Others – often Christians and pastors – are shielding the protestors from the police, standing between the two parties. They’re putting themselves in danger to protect others. Do their actions make them rioters or peace-makers?

“For us, as humans with great limitations, there are always tensions when asking whether actions taken are justifiable. Sometimes there is no easy answer. I wanted to show those tensions in my art. I wanted to challenge the common beliefs among Christians and ask people to rethink their definitions. I wanted to help people see the importance of humbling ourselves before judging others.”

As the strikes and protests continue, pray that Gigi and other FES Hong Kong students would know how to respond to the situation as peace-makers.

Pray that IFES students all around the world would be those who care about their future, and engage with their societies with wisdom, prayerfulness and courage.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9, NIV

IFES East Asia

East Asia Week 2019

Jesus is doing incredible things in the lives of students in our biggest global region. Learn from students and find out how God is calling many to know him in some difficult contexts.

Christian graduates making a difference in the workplace

Finishing work at 10 or 11pm is fairly standard for young graduates in Singapore. Joshua, a former student leader in FES, the IFES movement in Singapore, explained more: 

“In a culture where our value is defined by our work-hours, working over-time is normal, and even celebrated. If you’re not worn out by the end of the day, you’re not pushing your limits. Being a Christian does not seem to have much bearing on what happens at work – other than being a good worker, and getting the job done. There’s no difference.” 

Joshua has been in Tokyo over the weekend, attending the IFES East Asia Graduate Conference. He and 350 other young graduates from across the region have been exploring their identity as reconciled sinners, sent out into the world of work. What does that look like on a Monday morning? What does that look like in a work-context of high pressure, or monotony, or corruption? Pray for Joshua and other Christian graduates in their workplaces this week: 

  • Pray that being a Christian would make a difference in the workplace. Pray that those who attended the conference would put into practice what they learned over the weekend. 
  • Pray that these graduates keep their identities rooted in Christ alone, rather than letting the world dictate their worth. 
  • Pray for wisdom in balancing new demands on time. Despite heavy workloads, pray that graduates would prioritise church and Christian fellowship. 

Thanks for praying with us!

How it all began

They stood together on the stage: the pioneers of new movements alongside those who had supported them. It was a beautiful picture of gospel partnership. How had it all begun? We listened to our brothers and sisters tell their stories of struggle and sacrifice. We listened to their triumphs and tragedies. We listened to them speak of the faithfulness of a God who had used them in their weakness. We listened as tears ran down our faces. 

13 movements affiliated to IFES at World Assembly 2019. Read on to find out how student work began in three of them. 

SONOKO Cambodia 


Two former students of KGK Japan arrived in Cambodia. The country and its people still wore the scars of the devastating civil war years of the 1970s. The two graduates were praying that God would start a student movement in this beautiful, broken land. Through setbacks and trials, the movement slowly began to grow. In 2012, the first full-time local staff worker was appointed, Chamroeun. He was a young man with a deep love for His people and a passion to see Jesus known in the university. He was preparing to become the first general secretary of the movement. 

But it was not to be. Chamroeun died in a tragic accident, going home to glory in 2017. The movement was, once more, on its knees. Why, God? Must we endure even more pain and heartache? For the staff and students, these were dark days. 

Though the pain of Chamroeun’s death is still raw, those involved with SONOKO Cambodia testify to God’s comfort and faithfulness through this tragedy. They have not stopped speaking of the hope they have in Jesus. A hope that goes beyond the grave. 

There are currently around 40 students involved in the movement, with groups in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep, and plans to pioneer a group in a third city. 

IS/IVCF Cayman Islands 

There was no student work at all happening when Tomy and Brianna arrived back in Brianna’s homeland, the Cayman Islands. But God was at work. Tomy was welcomed warmly by the local churches. They were more than willing to work together to see Christian fellowships established in schools and universities across the country. Tomy spent time meeting up with local Christians, sharing his plans to pioneer. An evangelical student movement? Yes, that sounds familiar! Time after time he found himself meeting with graduates who had been involved themselves with other IFES movements while studying overseas – in Jamaica, the Philippines, Barbados, Guyana, the US! 

Seeds which had been planted years before, many miles away, were now bearing fruit in this unexpected way. Thanks to the support of these IFES graduates and local churches, the movement grew quickly. Today it is working in one university and six secondary schools. 

MFES Myanmar 

MFES Myanmar affiliated to IFES at World Assembly in 2019. But it was not an easy journey to get to that point. Former IFES South Asia Regional Secretary KP, had been looking for opportunities to start a student movement in Myanmar for some time. He planned to meet a local Christian worker, Sawm Thang, at World Assembly 2015 in Mexico, to discuss starting a new ministry. Sadly, KP passed away just before World Assembly. Sawm travelled to Mexico anyway hoping that he would find somebody else to talk with regarding the pioneering plans. But he was denied entry at immigration and was detained for two weeks, without any way of contacting his family. 

Remarkably, Sawm did not lose his vision for student ministry. On his return, he met regularly with students to pray for their country and to study the Bible. Momentum grew. Howard Spencer, one of the IFES governance development trainers, provided training for potential board members. The movement was formally established in October 2016. 

Today there are around 120 students involved in MFES in three regions. 

The challenges of campus evangelism

How can we pray for students in Thailand? What is the spiritual climate in the university today? Michelle, a staff-worker for TCS, the IFES movement in Thailand, explained more: 

“Students today struggle with broken families, relationships, academic stress and isolation. We haven’t seen much change in the spiritual openness of students. Today, it’s easier for a Thai student who is curious about Christianity to go on the internet and explore the Christian faith. But the easier internet access also means it’s easier for them to get wrong information (sometimes from cults). Many Thai students today are more open to listening to a gospel presentation, but they are not open to taking the next step. Many still think that to be Thai is to be Buddhist, and they identify Christianity as a Western religion. 

In this context, evangelism is essential, but far from easyNext month 100 students will attend the TCS national camp. Pray that through it, students would be equipped to share Jesus with their friends with confidence, pastoral sensitivity and prayerfulness. 

Pray with us for the work of TCS Thailand: 

  • Pray for Christian students to put God first in their lives rather than getting swept away by pursuing success and becoming too busy for God. 
  • Pray that many Thai students this year would come to see that Jesus alone offers the love, identity, peace and wholeness they need, and would put their faith in Him.
  • TCS will be hosting the East Asia Regional Conference in July 2020 for 700 delegates. Pray for their planning and preparation.
  • Pray for two new TCS ministries: a Christian Teacher Fellowship, and a digital ministry currently creating on an online discipleship platform. 

Thanks for praying with us!