Fresh hopes for student ministry from national leaders
“What is your dream for your national movement?”
In July, national movement and IFES leaders from around the world gathered online to begin celebrating the 75th anniversary of the IFES fellowship. During the gathering, the national movement general secretaries were asked to answer this simple and significant question. Taken together, their answers painted a powerful picture of what thriving student ministry could look like in different situations over the coming years.
We caught up with some of these leaders and asked them to elaborate further on why they dream their dream, thinking about what it could mean for students in their context.
Could you dream with them? Do you have a dream for your life, the university, and the fruit of the gospel?
Olber Rolando, General Secretary of MUC El Salvador
“May the emerging generation love the Scriptures and be agents of reconciliation in a polarised social context.”
As Olber explains, the history of El Salvador is marked by the violent civil war that raged between 1979 and 1992. This has changed the fabric of social relations, polarising society and normalising the use of violence to settle disputes.
For the last four years social divisions have increased, fuelled by politicians. Unfortunately, the church has also been involved in this escalation. There are more contexts where everyone has the same views, and fewer contexts of real diversity. This is where Olber’s dream for MUC comes in. “I dream that the student ministry will be a place of encounter, of dialogue, and a place where differences, instead of being resolved with violence, are settled under the cross of Christ.”
How can this truly be accomplished, creating a space where the cross of Christ overcomes in real lives? Students must love and study the Bible, insists Olber. “El Salvador is an eminently Christian country, 44% Catholic and 40.6% evangelical, despite the levels of violence, polarisation, corruption and injustice. In the face of potent ideological baggage in politics and academia, only the Scriptures can give us a gospel route that is justice, peace, and reconciliation. I pray that student ministry will show signs of the kingdom of God in El Salvador, that students will be doers of the Word and not just hearers.”
Isaac Mensah-Newton, National Director for GHAFES Ghana
“GHAFES is at the zenith of discerning the next five years. Hence, we are drafting a five-year strategic plan. We hope to see this bring a great impact on the way students proclaim the gospel on the campuses, disciple fellow students, inspire scripture engagement, and raise leaders.”
Inspired by the command of Romans 12:2 not to be conformed “to the pattern of this world”, GHAFES began to seek renewal during the pandemic. They questioned what God wants GHAFES to be and do, now and in the future.
“We took time to review where we are, what the Lord is doing in other movements, and the future direction of the IFES global family”, explains Isaac. “We prayerfully thought out what our local, zonal, and national ministry should look like in the next five years.” This strategic plan is now at its final stage. Remembering Romans 12:2, the prayer of GHAFES is that the plan will help empower students to “be transformed in the renewing of their mind” by the gospel of Jesus.
Michael Kang, Associate General Secretary for FES Singapore
“God speaking and working through his effective witness in this digital native world.”
Older adults sometimes struggle to keep up with the rapid changes in technology, and even more so to comprehend and empathise with what younger generations face in their intensely online lives. But students are “digital natives”, notes Michael, and thus the “most effective witnesses to their own generation. The IFES line ‘students reaching students’ rings true. It is our responsibility in the student movements to prepare the next generation of witnesses.”
Joël Cornuz, General Secretary of GBUC Canada
“See students in Quebec discover Christ, become true disciples, and make a difference for Christ in Quebec and unto the ends of the earth.”
This statement is a rewrite of GBUC’s mission statement: we want to see students on French-speaking campuses of Canada discover Jesus Christ, develop a mature spirituality, and become spirit filled witnesses.
“It sometimes feels as though there is very little we can do”, says Joël. But while reading the Bible with a handful of students may not feel like much, it can still plant a seed in their lives. Because GBUC works with a lot of international students, the fruit can appear anywhere in the world. For example, a former student has built a water pump in an underprivileged suburb of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, providing several thousand litres of fresh water per day to people who previously couldn’t access it.
“Our dream is to see more lives impacted by the gospel,” concludes Joël, “and in turn having an impact in Québec, or anywhere in the world.”
Sumathy, General Secretary of FOCUS Sri Lanka
“Transformed by the mind of Christ to be agents of transformation of Sri Lanka.”
As she elaborates on her dream, Sumathy speaks frankly. “We are going through the worst economic crisis we have ever had, caused by corruption and a disregard for human rights. We need a system change, and that is what protestors are crying out for.” More broadly, it’s what the human heart cries out for, in a world broken by sin.
As Christians, we are citizens of a new creation. Sumathy wants FOCUS to live as ambassadors of Christ, so becoming agents of change in big and small ways. FOCUS students are going on “Word and World exposure trips”. They study God’s Word, work alongside local projects assisting marginalized and poor communities, and come to understand how, through Christ, they have a role to play.
General Secretary from a movement in the Francophone Africa region
“A multitude of students breaking through fear and cultural barriers to join the family of God the Father.”
This general secretary works in a context where it’s risky for a Christian student to share publicly the gospel of Christ. The idea behind this dream is to see a growing number of students overcoming the fear of rejection, or even torture or death, to boldly share God’s love with their fellow students. This leader longs to see non-Christian students embrace the invitation to join the Christian family, even at such a cost.
Werner Baderschneider, Coordinator for the Caucasus Sub-Region, IFES Eurasia
“To be pioneering movements with students taking the lead.”
You may remember the Eurasia project for Global Generosity Day, a pioneering trip to a sensitive country where students would lead outreach in a place with no student movement. This trip, explains Werner, is a manifestation of the dream he mentions. With the theme “You will be my Witnesses”, the students from sensitive countries are being inspired to be witnesses at their place of study. It’s a wonderful example of students reaching students. “All the students will go through an intensive time that will shape them”, says Werner. “Our dream is that there would be the first beginnings in different cities, which in the long term could be the starting point of new student movements in new countries.”
Flemlyn Ragobeer, National Director of IS/IVCF Guyana
“A healthy, thriving and resilient movement where increasing numbers of students come to faith in Christ, are properly discipled and are becoming strong witnesses. Where staff are developed, cared for, and growing in healthy relationships.”
Flemlyn’s dream covers multiple aspects of ministry. She indicates the role of quality governance, the principle of giving the students room to make mistakes and grow, thus producing resilience with strong systems and training. “We want to change Guyana one student at a time, and it’s really the students who reach other students. We don’t want to be a holy huddle, but effective witnesses in the world. We want our students to become trustworthy in their workplaces, like Joseph (Genesis 39:2-6). We want people to see something different about them, before they even say they are a Christian.”
Staff also receive opportunities through student ministry, in personal development and pastoral care. They also witness to others in their lives through strong relationships, pointing to reconciliation and peace.
Alongside her explanation, Flemlyn shares how special the online gathering was for her. “These words came after listening to everyone, soaking up the atmosphere, celebrating 75 years of IFES, and feeling a sense of unmatched privileged to be part of it all. This is what it was to me.”
Tomas Uher, General Secretary of UKH Czech Republic
“To become a movement where graduates will be able to explain the gospel and share it confidently and apply skills in one to one, small group, and proclamation contexts. ‘Lord, please may your gospel be at the heart of our lives, planning, activities. May we not build a human empire but serve your kingdom. Lord, may the glory be yours.’”
Often, we’re tempted to measure success by the numbers. Tomas, however, intends to measure the quality of the movement by the quality of its graduates. “Our vision”, says Tomas, “is to form graduates who can explain the gospel confidently and sensitively. We want them to continue to be the frontline of gospel work wherever they are.”
How can we make this happen? It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in building a “human empire” of an organisation out of the student group. The movement is good, and it’s wonderful when it grows, but it’s only an instrument of God’s kingdom, not an end in itself. At different times, he has used different human endeavours for his glory. Tomas’ dream is that the student movement would be just that, with the glory of Jesus as its goal.
The abundance to come
Whoever you are and wherever you live in the world, we invite you to become part of making these dreams happen. Visit the Get Involved page to find out more about the part you can play in this global movement of students. Whatever happens in the world, or within the IFES fellowship, we can always trust these dreams “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).