Unprecedented changes in the university world

Students respond to the coronavirus

The Covid-19 virus has radically changed our world in recent weeks and months. Each day seems to bring news of more lives lost, more countries in lock-down, more people isolated at home.

But what’s been the impact on the university world? How are the students of IFES movements responding to the crisis? And where is God in the midst of the chaos? May these global snapshots encourage you that the Lord is still very much at work in and through the students of 2020.

East Asia’s indomitable students

With the coronavirus hitting East Asia first, students have been stuck at home for several weeks already. Most are able to continue their university studies online, but in countries where internet connections are not strong enough, classes have totally stopped. Many international students are stranded, unable to fly home to their families.

In this context, has student mission stopped? “Students are indomitable in their spirit,” said Annette Arulrajah, Regional Secretary for East Asia. “They have found a new way of meeting.”

Across the region, fellowship, training, prayer meetings and Bible studies are now happening online. In one sensitive location, 300 students have gathered online for 24-hour prayer meetings, focusing together on repentance and prayer. Students everywhere are still seeking the Lord, looking out for what He is doing in this difficult season.

There is also a growing appreciation of the value of fellowship and connection, which staff hope will long outlive the coronavirus pandemic.

Student ministry in Europe increases

With a huge number of European countries now in lock-down, it is surprising to hear that many movements, including even the IFES movement in Italy, the worst affected country, are now doing more ministry than before – albeit, all online.

GBU in Sienna recently held an online evangelistic breakfast meeting, and in another area of the country a new English-speaking Bible study group for international students has started meeting online each week. The student group in Torino has held virtual quizzes, Bible studies and even a cooking masterclass!

Throughout the region, instead of cancelling events, there is an expectation among students that they will find a way to move meetings to online platforms. Students are determined to connect with each other and to keep seeking God together. And many individuals are taking opportunities to witness to their friends, sharing posts on social media with a Christian perspective.

Unprecedented opportunities in North America

Circumstances might feel chaotic, but movements in North America are already seeing God at work among students. In the New York/New Jersey region, more students came to Christ in a week than at any other time in the past year.

Alex was one of those. According to her staff worker, Alex was “a student who just over a month ago was very hesitant about following Jesus and having him as the centre of her life. Today, she made a first-time decision to follow Jesus!”

Another InterVarsity staff member reflected:

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to have honest spiritual conversations with students and faculty, walking alongside them as they face, perhaps for the first time, deep questions of human frailty, mortality and purpose.”

InterVarsity/USA is developing resources and guides for moving meetings online. Check out resources and read more stories from the USA.

More from IFES

We’re working to support national movements as they adapt to new ways of working, from caring for International Students stuck far from home to starting up online Bible studies.


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