Uruguay: Taking tea into the backyard

“Yes, we must! I know loads of students on campus; we must start something there!” 

Emanuel gave his heartfelt response to a question he’d just been asked: could student ministry be launched on his campus in Paysandú, Uruguay? 

The IFES movement in Uruguay, Comunidad Bíblica Universitaria (CBU), has worked for many years in the capital Montevideo, where most students attend university. Traditionally, the country’s economy, politics, and education have centred on the city – so much so that one lecturer has described the country as “the port (Montevideo) and its backyard”.  

In the last decade, however, new institutions have been established in the “backyard”, including satellite campuses of the state university. So, staff and students in CBU began praying for a student witness there, seeking the Lord for a way in. 

Then, three years ago, CBU General Secretary Jorge Bermúdez received a message. He didn’t know the sender, Santiago, an academic coordinator at a technical college (UTEC) in the western interior city of Fray Bentos. Apparently, he’d heard Jorge speak at a church a few years ago and was inspired about the need for student ministry. Could CBU come to UTEC? 

Then, more good news: Antonella, a social worker Jorge knew, arranged a meeting for him with her church pastor in Paysandú, about 125km north of Fray Bentos. On hearing about CBU, the pastor (a former high school teacher) was keen to see ministry start at institutions there and reached out to two other churches. 

Through these Spirit-led connections, CBU staff and students visited Fray Bentos and Paysandú in recent months to lead two workshops: “Building bridges” (relational evangelism) and “Bible detectives” (inductive Bible studies). Local students are now equipped – including enthusiastic Emanuel. He was able to attend the CBU national camp in March, when he declared his “yes, we must!”.   

To see this passion spread further among students, the CBU team hopes to collaborate with local churches on a two-day retreat in the area in May. They also plan to engage students in running The Mark Drama in September. In the meantime, the newly equipped students will take their first steps in launching small groups on campus. 

In CBU, such groups have a special name: Mateada Biblica. It conveys the friendly atmosphere of sitting around to drink mate (a traditional South American herbal tea) and chat together – in this case, about the Bible. 

So, let’s thank God for these opportunities in Uruguay and pray for CBU students as they share tea (and Jesus) in their backyard: 

  • Give thanks for the way God worked through Santiago and Antonella to enable CBU to train up students in Fray Bentos and Paysandú – and for the good relations with local churches. Ask that these will continue and deepen.  
  • Pray for Emanuel and the other students who received CBU training – that they will step out in faith, start groups, and see God at work. And ask that the planned retreat and Mark Drama outreach will inspire and engage more students. 
  • Pray that God will stir up many supporters, staff, and students to take part in this year’s IFES Global Giving Day: Into all the World (17 April), raising funds for initiatives like this to plant new groups around the world. 
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