“Renew” was our theme for World Student Day last October, when we asked that God would bring fresh life to student ministry around the fellowship. One place we are seeing those prayers answered is in South Africa, where efforts to rebuild Christian student groups that died out during the pandemic have yielded signs of life and growth in the last few months.
“The revival of student ministry in many universities and schools is going well,” shares Motseki Sosibo, National Director of Students’ Christian Organisation (SCO), the IFES national movement in South Africa. “Seeing the hunger of students to know and follow Jesus Christ is an encouragement. We continue to see God’s faithfulness.”
The ministry at the University of Johannesburg was hit hard by the pandemic: all the SCO groups closed. Restarting them was complicated by the fact that to be registered with the university, student organizations must recruit a minimum number of participants, often 150 – 200 students. Praise God that in February, SCO ran a recruitment drive and signed up enough students to become officially registered.
“This is a tremendous blessing as it will enable the Christian Union to have access to more university resources as they seek to spread the gospel on campus,” says Motseki. In a second recruitment drive, which took place on 27 May, SCO was able to re-introduce their ministry to more students and share the gospel with those who hadn’t heard about Jesus.
At another university, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), the Christian student group has been steadily growing in numbers. But campus life was disrupted in May when student protests, which were initially peaceful, ended in violent clashes with the police. All campuses were closed, and students were sent home – they were only allowed to return to campus on 5 June. “Please pray for peace to prevail on all CPUT campuses,” asks Motseki.
He says that South African campus ministry is complex with lots of opportunities and challenges.
“In general, students are open to hearing the gospel. The reception on most campuses is warm and welcoming. But the atmosphere on some campuses can also be very political. One of SCO’s aims is to empower students to be salt and light and bring a Christian voice into student politics. We need prayer in this space so that we can help Christian students bring meaning, hope, and a positive impact in the student politics arena.”
Another challenge that the movement faces is lack of staff. There are only six staff members for a ministry that spans South Africa’s university and colleges and some high schools. But SCO has responded creatively and strategically, investing in student leaders, and starting a one-year staff internship program to provide an on-ramp for prospective staff members.
The two current interns, Thapelo and Sam, saw several fruitful ministry developments in April. Thapelo worked with the Tshwane University of Technology (Mbombela branch) to host their first outreach event since COVID-19. The students in attendance responded to the gospel with open hearts and the venue was completely filled. Meanwhile, Sam and students at Walter Sisulu University hosted an evangelistic event that saw more than 20 students come to Christ.
Please pray with us for students in South Africa:
- Thank God for the student groups that have been revived and for the positive response to outreach efforts.
- Pray for the staff internship program, for program funding and for more graduates to get involved.
- Pray for the National Conference, being held from 30 September – 3 October: for the logistics and finances of the conference, for transformation in the lives of attendees, and that God would provide for students as they fundraise for the conference fee and transport costs.
- Pray for the fundraising efforts of SCO delegates attending IFES World Assembly in August, especially that student delegates would raise the full funds needed for their flights and registration fee.