Karim* walked into the small room. It was cold. Seven students sat together on the floor. There were no chairs and no furniture. They couldn’t afford it. Any spare scholarship money had already been spent on paying the rent for the room. Some had been surviving on just bread and water. Yet it was a sacrifice these students were willing to make. This was a place where they could meet in safety to study the Bible.
Karim, an IFES staff member the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), was visiting this remote Muslim city to see Asafu*, one of the students. They had met seven months earlier, at the IFES national movement conference. There, Karim had heard Asafu’s story…
Asafu had moved from Sub-Saharan Africa to a large Muslim city in North Africa a few years earlier to study. Life was different, but not too hard. There was already a good-sized Christian student fellowship there, made up mostly of other international students. But then Asafu heard about another city on the other side of the country. It was much more remote and had no Christian presence at all. Perhaps I could go and start a student fellowship there, he thought.
So he had gone, hundreds of miles from the nearest Christian friend, to start something new. But the move had been harder than he’d expected, and discouragement was setting in. With a heavy heart he had set off for the IFES national student conference.
A turning point
It was at the conference that things started to change for Asafu. He met Karim and other brothers and sisters who listened to him, prayed for him, encouraged him. After a few days together, Asafu returned to the remote city, hope rising once more. Karim agreed to visit him later that year.
It was a huge encouragement for Karim to see Asafu now meeting each week with six other Christian students! Moved by the sacrifice and need of these students, Karim and the MENA region decided to buy them some chairs and tables, and a small bookshelf for their books.
Five months later, Karim returned again to visit Asafu. By this point the group had grown to 15. Most were international students – some from a nominally Christian background, some who had come to faith through the group. After another couple of years, the group had grown again to 30! They couldn’t all fit into the rented room and had had to rent an apartment instead!
Today there is a thriving student ministry in this remote city, with around 60 students. The group also helped initiate the re-opening of a local church building, which now has a pastor and weekly services.
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