190604 Liberia_USA

Lessons from Liberia inspire students 4,700 miles away

How a new student group in Africa led to a new student group in the USA

Andrew had been dragging his feet. In theory, he was on board with the idea to plant a new InterVarsity/USA ministry at Penn State York campus. It was just around the corner from a campus with a thriving fellowship. They should go and plant. But they hadn’t. It seemed too big a task.

An even bigger task

Then Andrew and his wife Liz were invited to Liberia, to spend a week visiting LIFES, the IFES movement there. It wasn’t a holiday. They were going to serve, to listen, to learn. On their second day, Moses – one of only two LIFES staff in the whole of the country – announced:

“Bong County Technical College is just down the road from here and it doesn’t have any campus ministry. Let’s go plant a new fellowship there this week!”

Plant a new fellowship? In just one week? They had their doubts. But they squeezed into the five-seater car (13 students, staff and volunteers), and set off along the dusty, pot-holed roads to Bong County Technical College.

I want to be transformed

Andrew was in for a big surprise.

The dean of students enthusiastically allowed them on to campus and the small team paired up. They started asking students if they would be interested in joining a Christian group.

Liz was paired up with Becky. They got chatting to a student, Emmanuel. “What do you want God to do for you?” Becky asked him. He replied:

“I want to be transformed. I want to be like you two – going around and talking with my friends about Jesus.”

Within minutes, Emmanuel was walking around with Liz and Becky, sharing the vision of LIFES and inviting his peers into this new fellowship.

The next day at the launch meeting, Emmanuel and another 100 students showed up. After an introduction to LIFES by the General Secretary, the students broke into small groups and experienced a student-led inductive Bible study. The following day, students like Emmanuel who had expressed an interest in serving as leaders, gathered for the first of many leadership trainings.

One year on, the new fellowship meets regularly. Five of their leaders recently attended the LIFES Easter conference.

No excuses

The trip left a lasting impression on Andrew. God had used his time on the dusty roads of Liberia, to breathe new life into his heart and ministry. He returned to the US re-envisioned. He resolved to act when he saw a need; to release students with leadership gifts to lead, like Emmanuel; to step out in faith, even when he had doubts. But more than that, the trip had given Andrew the encouragement he needed to move ahead with planting a new fellowship at Penn State York. Just like Bong County Technical College, there were students at Penn State York campus who had never heard about Jesus; there were Christian students craving fellowship and support. The two campuses looked very different, but their spiritual needs were essentially the same: new life.

There were no excuses now. If it could be done in Liberia, with less funding, and far fewer people and resources, there was no reason it couldn’t be done here too. With God’s help.

A harvest field five minutes away

Andrew spoke to a group of enthusiastic Christian students from the neighbouring campus, five minutes away. They caught the vision. They started by prayer-walking around Penn State York, inviting the people they met to get involved. It was a slower start than it had been in Bong County Technical College in Liberia, but they persevered. Weekly student-led Bible study meetings are now up and running, with a number of students involved.

Recently a Hindu international student came along – not only had he never read the Bible before, but this was his first time reading any religious text in a language he could understand! He signed up to come to future events. The group is also organising outreach events, keen to see others come to know the God of the Bible, the God who brings new life.

Captured by the vision

What were the big take-aways for Andrew?

Partnership. Learning from other IFES movements. Learning from people like Moses, the unsung heroes on the other side of the world, stepping out in faith, with nothing and no-one to depend on but God. Moses’ commitment to pioneering impacted students 4,700 miles away in the US, who caught the vision and have now started a fellowship group on an unreached campus.

Have you caught the vision? Are there students around you who haven’t yet heard about Jesus? Or a whole campus, perhaps? Where is God calling you to step out in faith?

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