On 21 October, IFES students and supporters from across the world will gather for our annual prayer event, World Student Day. Globally, much has changed for student movements in the last few years. There is the colossal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as natural disasters, political instability, and many conflicts, of which the highest profile continues to be the war in Ukraine. Through these many difficulties, IFES movements have stood by one another in lament, in financial solidarity, and in prayer.
We believe in a God who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), who bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8), and who uses tragedies to bring triumph. And out of difficulty, struggle, and sadness, even though we don’t deserve it, God brings forth renewal.
“Renew” was chosen as the theme of our prayers for one another this World Student Day, to reflect a new refrain emerging in many different national movements. To inspire you to pray for the renewal that only God can bring to our nations, student groups, and individual lives, here are a few stories of seeds of renewal in different student movements around the world.
Namibia: Continuing where we left off
You may remember the repioneering efforts in Namibia from April’s Global Generosity Day. After being stalled for several years due to a lack of funds, Nambia’s Christian Students Fellowship (CSF) is restarting thanks to the efforts of the English and Portuguese-speaking Africa (EPSA) regional team.
Kali is a graduate and former leader of the CSF in Namibia. “It was a great experience”, he reflects. “I have become more in love with God, and more involved in his work ever since. As a former leader and CSF student, I still have that desire to pioneer the work, to continue where we left off. Our vision was to expand the movement throughout campuses around the country.”
Recently Zelalem, EPSA Regional Secretary, visited Namibia to host a stakeholder consultation with six CSF graduates, two interested individuals, a board chairperson, and a possible staff worker.
“Three outcomes were clear from the consultations”, says Zelalem. Campus work, including registering a movement on campus and mobilising students, should start immediately. Also, the Board would need to “dust off” the organisational aspects of CSF and, in that process, mobilise more graduates and partners to start building a supportive fellowship.
There has been “steady progress” since then, reports Zelalem. And Kali is still keen to continue the work; he has committed to become the revived movement’s first staff worker when the movement begins to raise its own funds.
Cape Verde: Catalysing through conversation
In this Portuguese-speaking archipelago nation off the Western coast of Africa, the EPSA regional team has also been working to bring the gospel to the universities of Cape Verde for the first time.
Initial efforts have been encouraging. In the last few months, the work has been through a connecting and catalysing phase. As part of this, Lawrence Gomez, from the regional team, visited the islands to make strategic contacts. He enjoyed the hospitality of a local pastor and another leader, both of whom pledged to become the first board members of a fledging national movement.
God also revealed an unexpected connection during a conversation between Lawrence and the IFES Secretary for Scripture Engagement, Ricardo Borges. When Lawrence asked if Ricardo knew anyone in Cape Verde, Ricardo remembered Iniza, a student with ABUB, the national movement in Brazil where he himself had been a staff worker twenty-five years earlier. When Ricardo reached out to Iniza for help in finding contacts, he learnt that she is now a university professor in Cape Verde.
She was able to meet Lawrence and help him to understand the local university context, as well as to connect him with a local church. Iniza is keen to support a campus fellowship and serve as a board member. With these initial seeds planted, the EPSA team hope to conduct governance training for the board later this year. Training will begin soon for a staff worker and students, and a gospel witness established.
Vanuatu: Twists, turns, and unexpected grace
In another island nation in a different hemisphere, the general secretary shares how the beginning of a new student group in the National University of Vanuatu Education School wonderfully overtook GNYF, the student movement in Vanuatu. “God is gracious”, affirms Joel, “in changing our ideas to bring the gospel to new places.”
GNYF had met with members of the university to discuss planting a campus ministry in the reopened education school – until a COVID lockdown forced everything to stop. But God hadn’t finished with the university yet. When lockdown lifted, the school invited GNYF to speak with students, but they had low expectations because this timing was unfortunate. Not only had many students never been to campus in-person before, but exams were also just a few short weeks away. Nonetheless, there wasn’t enough space on the sign-up sheets to collect the details of everyone who wanted to join this new group! GNYF saw God preparing unexpected people. Lineth is a Ni-Vanuatu student who was part of GNYF in 2019. Thanks to a Breaking New Ground grant, she was able to come to Refresh, GNYF’s national leadership training conference.
Again, it seemed as if it would all end there. Lineth had dropped out of her course and moved away. GNYF didn’t know, however, that she was enrolled at the Education School. As soon as she heard about the new campus group, Lineth began inviting all her classmates and organising places where they could meet. Thanks to her initiative and leadership, the group has grown in numbers every week, and Lineth has formed the core of its new student leadership team.
Now, GNYF trust in God’s unexpected provision for renewal. The disruption of lockdown has meant that just seven weeks after this new group formed, the students are currently on a teaching placement before an extended break in classes until January. “We ask God to solidify this new community”, says Joel, “and keep them united around Jesus throughout the rest of the year. We’re thanking God for the twists and turns, and we’re praying for the group to remain united, ready for their second beginning in 2023.”
Cambodia: renewed beginnings from God in Phnom Penh
In Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, two staff workers and one graduate of SONOKO, the country’s national movement, joined hands in prayer to God for the Royal University of Phnom Penh as they walked slowly through its campus.
“One week later, we saw God open the hearts of students”, says Phearak, SONOKO General Secretary.
Although the university group ended two years earlier, a small group began gathering each Wednesday to pray, listen to one another’s stories, and study the Bible. “Slowly”, says Phearak, “we set challenges for one another to consider innovative ways to invite friends to the group.” The students soon became passionate about bringing new friends, and the Bible study has expanded to include a ‘Basics of Christian Life’ course with three non-Christian student-participants.
“The door has always been closed”, explains Phearak. “But we have waited, and prayed, and God has heard. The challenge is to keep discipling students, and to remember to depend on God in every step we walk on this campus.”
Pray for renewal with us this World Student Day
Would you join us in prayer on 21 October? You can find everything you need to know about World Student Day here. Add yourself to the online interactive map to let us know you’ll be praying. Download our resources, which include prayer requests from real students all over the world, and connect online with fellow participants globally. We invite you pray with us for God to bring renewal, as he loves to do.