On the few occasions I have been to watch my football team play live, I have been struck by the strong sense of hope and community in the crowd of fans. At the start of the match, we sing and chant our support with great enthusiasm. But when the opposition scores, there is disappointment and pain. The opposition fans point and jeer: “You’re not singing anymore!”
2020 felt a bit like that. Plans and possibilities collapsed around us: university campuses shut, students not allowed to meet, church doors closed, travel stopped. Here in the UK, the government restricted singing together, even when churches have been able to meet in person.
Indeed, as at those football games, many of us lost our desire to sing. Our joy became buried beneath layers of frustration, frantic activity, loneliness or stress. In IFES, it looked like student ministry would come to a complete standstill.
But students were the first to adapt. As digital natives, the students became our teachers as we adjusted to new ways of connection and fellowship. Bible studies and prayer groups migrated online, and even national conferences and training sessions were redesigned to become virtual events. Students and staff walked together in their fragility, inviting others to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence. And in his grace, God heard our cries and helped us move from a place of disorientation to a new orientation. Our mission continues.
Right in the middle of our Bibles, in a book of songs, we find that encouragement to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1). Indeed, we often see in the Psalms and throughout Scripture how songs can help reorient us, reminding us anew of God’s love and the calling we have received from him.
At the start of this new year, we are reminded that we have a God who makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). Hallelujah! Please pray with me that whatever lies ahead in 2021 Christian students, staff workers, and IFES staff will be singing a new song to the LORD this year.
- Pray for national movements around the world who are striving to keep connected to their students despite the ongoing limitations to normal patterns of ministry.
- Pray for the IFES community as we move into a new chapter: new leadership and the need to define our next season of ministry, as the period of our ‘Living Stones’ vision has come to an end. Pray we will be able to discern God’s voice, learning lessons from the experiences of 2020 that can shape and enhance the way that we go about our ministry in the future.
- Pray that all of us will never stop being amazed at the goodness of our God and his enduring love. May we continue to sing his praise to the ends of the earth.
Your brother in Christ,