Japan: Make Jesus King

August 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of the official founding of IFES. Over the next year, we invite you to join us in reflecting on our past, rejoicing in our present, and turning towards our future. In this edition of Prayerline we’re looking back. There is no singular thread to trace through the years to find an origin point of IFES student ministry. Rather, it is a mosaic, a piece of which we will look at today. This piece provides a great testimony to how we can spur one another on, even from across continents. As we consider the work of a student from the distant past, let’s pray that students of the present will continue to impact one another from every corner of the world. 

It was 1889. Students in Japan were hosting their first ever national student conference, having been inspired by stories of gatherings elsewhere in the world. Participants included a wide range of students from Japan’s educational institutions and, significant for the period, 96 women among them. Their focus included more than gospel student work in their own country. Also in attendance was the American staff worker Luther Wishard, who informed the Japanese students that such a conference was taking place at the same time the United States. In response to this news, the Japanese students cabled a greeting: 

‘Kyoto, July 5, 1889. Make Jesus King. Signed, five hundred students.’ 

When American leaders saw this message, they were deeply moved. Richard Morse, General Secretary of the YMCA, which was at that time working with students, promptly shared it with his colleague Karl Fries in Stockholm. When Fries received the letter, he was at the Stockholm Scandinavian Missionary Conference with a group of students from Denmark, Sweden and Norway. When those students heard the message from Japan, they asked: ‘if students can gather round Jesus Christ as their King over there in the Far East, why not also here in the north?’ 

Scandinavian students followed through on the challenge. The following summer, 170 assembled in Denmark for the first Scandinavian student conference. They were inspired and stimulated to continue sharing the gospel, living for Jesus, and committing their whole lives to God, building a vision for evangelism and discipleship in the university. The call from Japan to ‘Make Jesus King’ resonated around the world, and its power has not been diminished by the decades. As then, so it is now: God continues to build his church and bring his kingdom. So too, the progress of our own IFES story continues to unfold. 

Let’s pray for similar moves of God through global connections today: 

  • Pray for students around the world to connect with the opportunities we have today: through social media, IFES regional initiatives and global ministries, and events like World Student Day
  • Pray for students in today’s KGK Japan, InterVarsity USA, KFS Denmark, NKSS Norway, and Credo Sweden, as well as all other IFES national movements. Pray for a continued and renewed sense of worship, faith, and obedience to the call to make disciples of all nations. 
  • Pray with us that every student really would make Jesus King in the fullest, deepest, truest sense, becoming a wonderful force for good in whatever journey God has for them. 
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