Seeds of lasting hope from Europe and beyond
Daniel Bourdanné (IFES General Secretary) has witnessed a decade of seeing students across the world reach their peers with the good news of Christ.
What has he been most encouraged by over the last year? Below, he shares his thoughts with Conexión.
Without hesitation, I can say I’m encouraged by the way I see students and national movements grasping both the call and the urgent need to share the good news of Jesus Christ in the university.
I could tell you about the 100 or so UCCF mission weeks held this year across Great Britain and how in one university there were more than 30 professions of faith, or about the impact of UCCF’s evangelistic Uncover publications which have been translated and used by IFES movements around the word. I could talk about the energy of the 1,350 students at IFES Europe’s Presence conference and their heart for seeing their continent transformed by the gospel. I could share news from the very secular country of Belgium, where Christian students ran a mission week in one city for the past two years with no visible result. But this year they ran it again in the same city with local churches and students praying 24/7 for the whole week and we know of four students who received Christ in that week.
And those are just a handful of stories from Europe. I haven’t started to tell you about the commitment and initiative of students in Nepal where the NBCBS’s team of eight staff support over 1,300 student groups. Or about Sierra Leone where the SLEFES has a strong emphasis on Scripture engagement and students are freely sharing the gospel of grace and peace; 10 new campus groups have been pioneered over the past year and many students are coming to faith in Christ. Or the renewed focus in InterVarsity/USA on chapter planting and growth.
So yes, I am encouraged by our movements’ energy for evangelism. Students are inviting their friends to meet Jesus. They are reaching out with the gospel in word and in deed. And God is the one to honour our work. He is continuing to bring people to faith.
Yet student ministry — in its very make-up — is always fragile. Students come and go. You may have an active group of students, full of energy for their calling to the university, but then three years later they are gone. There are new students and you must share the vision over again. In the face of such fragility, it is important for student ministry to be sustainable at the national level with good continuity that comes from a strong sense of vision and mission, and with appropriate supportive structures in place.
I see our movements as trees. Some years, the leaves and fruit will fail, but when the tree is well-rooted there is always the potential for new growth, new life and an abundant display in future years. For the national movements, such sustainability comes through good governance and a strong governing board and that is why I am also encouraged by our global governance training project. I hear of national boards grasping the importance of what they do and determining to give their movement those strong roots.
Finally, I am encouraged because I am reminded of the miraculous work of God through IFES. So often we are faced with the unexpected: there are places where once we couldn’t even dream of seeing students meeting together and sharing their faith, but now that is exactly what is happening, even in these challenging contexts. It is truly a work of God. Sometimes we face difficulties and can feel down-hearted; it is then we must remember that God is the one at work and we don’t need to be discouraged.
It is always a miracle for me to see the more than 100 movements who have chosen to affiliate to this fellowship of IFES. They choose to connect through IFES and, amid their inevitable cultural and theological differences, they continue to hold hands around Jesus and his calling to serve in the universities and colleges around the world. I do not want to take this for granted in our fragmented world. It is an expression of God’s grace. Please pray with me that we will continue to be wise, loving one another and focusing on our calling from God to bring his transforming grace to the university.