August marks an exciting moment in the IFES calendar as members of our global fellowship will come together in Indonesia for World Assembly 2023.  

“World Assembly isn’t just another conference,” explains John Criswell, Director of World Assembly 2023. “It’s an opportunity to re-connect with our global fellowship, to re-engage with our vision and values, and to re-commit to our shared mission of building students into communities of disciples.” 

Occurring just once every four years, World Assembly is a rare chance for students, graduates, faculty, staff, board members, and supporters to gather from around the globe, and be inspired and equipped for our shared calling to the world’s universities. From 2 – 10 August, approximately 1,000 participants from more than 180 countries and territories will meet in Jakarta, where the conference will be hosted by Perkantas, the Indonesian national movement.  

Tabah dan Tangguh: Witnesses in the University and Beyond 

“We in East Asia are looking forward to welcoming those from across the IFES fellowship to colourful, flavourful Indonesia!” shares Annette Arulrajah, IFES Regional Secretary for East Asia. “We are very humbled and excited to be hosting the ‘world’ at our doorstep.” 

Acknowledging the difficulties of the last four years, with the pandemic and other challenges, this year’s theme is Tabah dan Tangguh: Witnesses in the University and Beyond. The Indonesian words Tabah dan Tangguh epitomize the idea of strength, perseverance, and faithfulness in the face of adversity.  

“Tabah dan tangguh is a uniting call to us as an IFES family: to be unshakeable and resilient, as witnesses in the university and beyond,” Annette exhorts. “Come, let us make this our pilgrimage together.”  

Through sermons, seminars, small groups, and the arts, participants will journey through the book of Psalms to hear what God wants to teach us about being witnesses who thrive together in ministry amidst the challenges of today’s world.  

Alejandra Ortiz, Programme Team Co-Lead for World Assembly, describes how “the Psalms provide a unique opportunity to pray, lament, celebrate, and consider what the last few years have meant for us personally and as a global fellowship.” 

“The Psalms are not only our guide in prayer. They can also teach us about wisdom and ethics in our life of faith, and open us to God, beauty, and vulnerability. At this year’s World Assembly, we want to intentionally connect the implications of reflecting on the Psalms with our missional context, which is the University, and to see how the Kingdom of God is present.” 

Throughout the conference, themed evening sessions will help participants consider the challenges and choices encountered by today’s students –explored through topics like mental health, justice, creation care and the arts. New to this year’s program is a Retreat of Silence, taking place in the middle of the conference. It will devote time to quiet reflection, during which participants can ask God to speak to and guide them.  

In-person fellowship: an irreplaceable experience 

This summer’s conference is the 21st official gathering of the global IFES family.  But at a time when online meetings have become the norm, some may wonder whether the financial cost and environmental impact of traveling to an event that only lasts a week is worth it. Those who’ve experienced previous World Assemblies report that this time of fellowship, networking, and learning in a culturally rich and diverse environment was deeply transformative, both for themselves and their national movements.  

On an individual level, the friendships and mentoring relationships developed at World Assembly far exceed the conference’s one-week duration. On a global level, movements build close links, including formal partnerships, which contribute to the development of students and student groups in many countries. 

“From the beginning, IFES has defined itself as a global fellowship – it’s part of our DNA – and World Assembly is truly catalytic for our ministry,” explains John Criswell. “If you identify an outcome of IFES ministry in previous years, the roots of it can usually be traced back to World Assembly. Online communication is great for sharing information and discussing issues, but there is no substitute for meeting in person where you can build relationships of trust that result in opportunities for ministry. You can’t hug someone through a computer monitor or phone screen.” 

Shaping the future, welcoming new movements 

World Assembly is also important for shaping IFES vision and mission, as guided by the fellowship’s strategic plan – Thriving Together.  It is there, during the conference’s quadrennial business meeting, that assembled delegates will vote on proposals to guide the future of IFES. 

At this year’s conference, we expect that four new national movements will affiliate to our global fellowship. During the week, each of these groups will have the chance to share their stories of pioneering student ministry. These inspirational moments have been cited as a highlight by past participants.  

“During the pandemic, nearly every national movement suffered losses in the number of students, staff, and supporters,” explains John. “So, to have four national movements ready to join IFES at a time like this is really quite remarkable.” 

In addition to the main conference, students and staff will have the opportunity to make stronger connections in two special meetings: the pre-World Assembly student and staff gatherings.  

Join us online, in prayer and through scholarships 

For the first time ever, those unable to travel to World Assembly this August will be able to join the conference’s plenary sessions via a livestream. Keep an eye on the World Assembly website and IFES social media channels for further details as the conference approaches.   

Please join us in prayer that the Lord of the nations will use World Assembly 2023 to strengthen faithful, persevering, resilient witnesses of Jesus Christ, in the university and beyond. 

We invite you to consider making a gift to our World Assembly scholarships fund, helping to ensure that participants from every national movement can be represented at this transformative gathering.

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