Why pioneering student ministry matters

José* is a busy medical student in the multicultural Mexican city of San Cristobal. He loves Jesus and wants to share the good news with his friends. But it’s hard. José has a part-time job to fund his studies, on top of a busy workload at university. His faith is tested by the huge variety of ideologies and religious practices surrounding him. And José doesn’t have much support as there is not yet an established IFES ministry anywhere in the region.

Over the last two years, the IFES Breaking New Ground project has been supporting pioneering work in this region. COMPA Mexico staff worker Daniel has visited the area several times on pioneering trips and is now preparing to move there with his young family. Meeting students like José helped him to see the need for an established student ministry:

“There is a great need to disciple the new generations – those who embraced the gospel years ago but never received follow-up or training. Students like José need deep roots in the faith and the support of the body of Christ if they are to serve the university and impact society.”

Please join us in prayer for God’s work in San Cristobal:

  • Pray for the practical and financial needs of Daniel and his family as they prepare to move to San Cristobal to help pioneer a student ministry.
  • Thank God for José’s hunger to know Him more and share Him with his friends. Pray that José would have wisdom in managing his time and that he would grow strong spiritual foundations this year.
  • IFES is currently supporting the launch of 51 new student fellowships in Mexico. Pray that all of these new groups would become established and thriving.

*name changed

Miracles for student actors in Brazil

When I first considered taking part in The Mark Drama, I knew it was going to be an interesting challenge. But I never imagined it would be one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.

Immersed in Jesus’ life

On the first day of our ABUB Brazil student leadership training, we watched The Mark Drama, a 90-minute dramatic retelling of the whole of Mark’s gospel. It was presented by students from different regions. It was great to experience how The Mark Drama gives the feeling of being immersed in Jesus’ life.

After two weeks of intensive Bible studies, teaching and workshops on ‘The path of the cross’, looking at Mark’s gospel, the student leaders split up. Most students went to serve local churches or NGOs. But I was one of 15 students who joined the Mark Drama group.

Miracles first-hand

After three rehearsals we had the first presentation. It was quite an experience! 90 minutes before it began, one of the actors fell sick. We couldn’t do anything – except trust! We started to pray and worship, knowing that God does everything right in His way.

With 15 minutes to spare, the actress who was sick, stood up, prayed with us and was healed! We could start the performance, trusting God to speak through us. Despite some mistakes, we saw God acting in that place and many people were interested in knowing more.

It was a great reminder to us that Jesus calms the storms in our hearts and does miracles.

We thought it couldn’t get any better… but more was to come!

ABUB Brazil

An even better miracle

On the second day, the venue was full – people filled the corridors and had to stand. At the end of the performance, we noticed a student giving his life to Christ, declaring the same things we had just been praying. We discovered that his friends had been praying for him and sharing the gospel with him for a long time. He had gone through some very hard moments, but through the drama God revealed Himself as his Lord and Saviour. We were so grateful to God!

The whole experience of doing the Mark Drama gave us a fresh, deep and personal experience of who Jesus is. It helped us understand more about Him and renewed our faith.

All of the students at the recent ABUB Brazil student leadership training were encouraged to organise performances of The Mark Drama on their campuses this year.

Student Stephanie leaves her social bubble

What had led to these girls living in shelters? What was life like for them? Stephanie listened to their sad stories. Girls so young and already with such heavy luggage, she thought.

It was the third week of the recent ABUB Brazil student leadership training. After two weeks of intensive Bible study, teaching and workshops, the 48 students spread out across the city to serve local NGOs, churches and mission organisations. Why? To learn that to lead is to serve.

Graduate Stephanie was helping an NGO that works with teenagers from difficult backgrounds. A week of gardening, painting and talking to the young people left a deep impression on her. Familiar Bible passages struck her in new ways – the call to weep with those who weep, and the promise of the new creation.

She reflected:

The experience of leaving my social bubble and getting involved with other realities made me reflect on the role of Christianity in the face of injustices and social inequality.

Will you pray for these ABUB students and graduates this week?

  • Pray that the students’ leadership training and serving experiences would shape the way they live out their faith on campus this year. Pray that they would find ways to show compassion to those who are suffering and speak out against injustice.
  • Pray that these student leaders would serve their student groups faithfully this year. Pray that they would have courage and creativity in evangelism. Pray that through them the movement will continue to expand.

Could a city of violence be transformed by the gospel?

It was a huge decision to make, and Cecy’s head was full of questions. What would it be like to live there? What is the university context? What do students struggle with? What are the churches like? Is God calling me here?

Cecy made her first exploratory trip to La Paz, a small city in Mexico, in November last year. ‘La Paz’ means ‘peace’. But it’s far from peaceful. It’s a dangerous place, with high rates of crime, violence and homicide. COMPA, the IFES movement in Mexico, doesn’t have any student ministry happening there. So Cecy went praying that God would make the way ahead clear – and He did!

Discovering La Paz

La Paz has at least 18 universities, some public, some private. Cecy had the opportunity to meet several students and get to know their context. What are the challenges they face as Christian students? One thing they mentioned was the rejection they’re facing, being labelled as homophobic because of the negative impressions people have of the Church.

Another student, Sara, spoke about how difficult it is to do mission alone. She was very happy to hear that Cecy would be coming to support and equip her to share the gospel with her friends.

Cecy was encouraged to find that the local churches were interested to hear about COMPA’s vision and were positive about collaborating.

Cecy plans to move there in May to begin the pioneering work. She is now praying for God to provide a team to work together, a suitable home for the ministry and the necessary finances.

IFES is currently supporting the pioneering of 51 new groups in Mexico through the Breaking New Ground project. Find out more about this project and read more stories of pioneering work around the world.

Give today to support IFES pioneering initiatives on unreached campuses in Latin America and around the world.

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Aisha goes back to her roots

The love story of Cecilia and Franco began while they were university students in Chile. Both of them were student leaders in GBUCh, the local IFES movement, where Cecilia had recently come to Christ. Before Franco graduated, his parents moved with him to the United States to start a new life, and the two students pursued their own paths. But a few years later, their paths crossed again. They got married and Cecilia moved to the US where they had a daughter, Aisha.

Growing up in the US, Aisha was familiar with the struggles facing migrant families – the language barrier, loneliness and cultural differences. It was tough.

But today Aisha is thankful for her migrant background. A recent graduate, she’s now preparing to move back to Chile for a couple of years to help serve the IFES movement there. Aisha particularly wants to help GBUCh reach out to the many immigrant students, recently arrived in Chile from Venezuela, Haiti and other neighbouring countries. She’ll be working in four different cities, some of the poorest in Chile, and three of which have no other GBUCh staff at all.

Will you pray for her?

  • Thank God for the way he has prepared Aisha for this role and for her willingness to go. Pray for her final preparations, support-raising and move to Chile in February 2020.
  • Pray that Aisha would be able to help GBUCh students effectively reach out to students from all different backgrounds. Pray that many would come to faith in 2020.
  • The protests in Chile are on-going and sometimes violent. Pray for peace to be restored.

Aisha will be serving in GBUCh Chile as part of the InterVarsity Link program.

Thanks for praying with us!

How IFES Governance Development is making a difference

Nico met Jesus through Toto while they were colleagues, and the two became friends. Some time after that, Toto quit his job and accepted a role as the General Secretary of the IFES movement in Uruguay, CBUU. Nico was still a young Christian, but he had expertise in administrative and management issues, so he volunteered to be part of the CBUU board.

He knew it could get awkward. His friend had now become his employee. How would he maintain impartiality in the face of decision making? How could he say yes or no freely while preserving their friendship?

This is where the IFES Governance Development training came in. It helped them clarify crucial questions: what is the relationship between the board and the general secretary? How should they deal with conflict? How are their roles different? How could they work together to advance student ministry in Uruguay?

These questions are crucial for every IFES movement board and general secretary to work through. Healthy boards lead to healthy student movements. It’s that important.

Will you pray for the work of the Governance Development team?

  • Pray for CBUU board members this weekend during their Governance Coaching Program, led by Carmen, one of the Governance Development team members. Pray that they would be helped to govern well, making wise decisions and strengthening the national movement.
  • Pray for recent and upcoming Governance training for the movements in Niger, Lithuania, Colombia, Gabon, the DRC, Antigua & Barbuda, Ghana, Burundi and Guatemala.
  • Pray for the boards and individual board members now taking Governance Development e-learning courses.

Thanks for praying with us!

Engaging the university as Christ’s ambassadors

Vega Baja, a small coastal town in northern Puerto Rico, sees thousands of locals and tourists flock to its beautiful beaches every year. Some go to enjoy the wildlife and scenery, others the water sports and swimming. But last weekend, 20 ABU Puerto Rico students arrived in Vega Baja for a very different reason: they were there to look at the Bible.

During their annual retreat, in a rented beach house by the sea, the students used the IFES resource The Word Among Us to dig into Scripture. They wanted to trace God’s big story through the Bible and see how it fits with our story today, and particularly how it relates to our involvement in society.

Many of the group members are activists. They’re involved with other university societies and causes – political, environmental and human rights-related. During the retreat the students spent time wrestling with big questions, asking themselves what it looks like to engage with the reality of their society with a biblical worldview.

Join us in praying for them:

  • Thank God for the fellowship, teaching and good discussions the students enjoyed. Pray that they would continue to dig into Scripture throughout the year.
  • Pray that the students would be actively involved in campus life and societies with a Christian mind, as Christ’s ambassadors.

Julio’s dream

Five years ago, Koinonia, the student movement in Cuba, had just two student groups. Today there are 12, in several different provinces, with more than 400 students involved. There is much to praise God for! 

But there are challenges too. Many young people leave the country after graduating to find better opportunities and higher salaries abroad. Some, however, decide to stay. General Secretary, Julio, shares more: 

“It is very exciting when you find young professional Christians who decide to stay in Cuba and share the same struggles with our people as they serve the Lord in their professions. This is part of our mission in Koinonia: to make students aware of the Lord’s calling to serve Him as professionals wherever they are, being lights for Jesus.” 

Koinonia wants to support its graduates well and equip them to keep living for Jesus beyond university. But they don’t yet have the resources to invest in graduate ministry: 

“We dream of being able to have a camp for professionals. But we need a lot of resources and work to get it.” 

Pray with us that God would make this dream a reality: 

  • Pray for the staffing and funding needed to develop a graduate ministry in Cuba. 
  • Pray that many Christian graduates would decide to stay in Cuba and live wholeheartedly as Jesus’ disciples and agents of change in the workplace and in society. 

 Thanks for praying with us!