“For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who [or what] can turn it back?” asks Isaiah (14:27). A pandemic that prevented people from meeting up for much of two years? Global recession? Increasing hostility towards Christians in large parts of the world? Despite many challenges for student ministry worldwide, our hearts are full of gratitude that God is still at work to bring new student movements into our global fellowship.
At this year’s World Assembly in August, we will officially confirm and celebrate the affiliation of four more national movements to our existing fellowship of 160. Two mature organisations on opposite sides of the world are now ready to formalise their connection to IFES. And two younger movements in very sensitive countries can look forward to encouraging and being supported by others also on their sacrificial journeys.
As the IFES Caribbean regional team prayed for an opening in the Bahamas, little did they anticipate that a vibrant student movement had already been working in the islands for six decades, with an ethos and approach very much in line with IFES’ own! But it was only online events run by our regional team during the pandemic that brought the two organizations into significant contact.
Over the years, the Student Christian Movement (SCM) has had a major impact on the spiritual life of Bahamian youth. Active throughout all levels of the educational sector, it has sparked revival in schools and launched numerous far-reaching initiatives, including workshops, prayer campaigns – and even a national TV program. We pray that God may use their new partnership with IFES to strengthen and encourage their witness as they seek to increase their impact.
Established in 1957 – and one of only two groups permitted under martial law to run school and campus activities in Taiwan – Campus Evangelical Fellowship (CEF) grew quickly in its first two decades, birthing many future church leaders. With the lifting of martial law in the 1980s came economic prosperity and increased openness and diversity; churches began to engage in youth work and CEF saw numbers drop. Yet the ministry grew in maturity as it developed a holistic vision for mission and for greater engagement with society and culture.
Through its university ministry and high school work, CEF reaches 175 campuses. It also runs a highly regarded publishing ministry. In recent years, transparency and integrity have become a priority, and a process of restructuring and strategy evaluation has laid the foundations for renewal.
CEF has long been involved in regional IFES activities and we rejoice that they are now entering a full and formal affiliation with our global fellowship.
Two younger movements in sensitive countries
Two other movements show how extreme policies against Christians are no obstacle to our all-powerful God, working in partnership with faithful followers.
In a Francophone African country, a tiny movement was seeded when one courageous international student twenty years ago shared with four others her vision for the university fellowship she had experienced back home. Evangelism to national students here was outlawed, so work started slowly with foreign students. Soon the fledgling movement was formally established. It has a high turnover – many international students pass through this country. Yet the members are committed and resilient, responding to God-given opportunities even in the face of police vigilance. Despite slow numerical growth, members testify that the movement has helped them keep their faith and grow spiritually – some even entering full-time ministry elsewhere.
In an extremely sensitive MENA country, a small movement has found a way to exist as a registered humanitarian youth organisation. In 2007, two young people dreamed of developing student ministry – without any idea how to go about it. Answered prayer came when a “chance meeting” with the MENA regional secretary, in another country, enabled them to make a start.
War and extreme poverty have ravaged this country – one of the most restrictive in which to practice Christianity. Yet it boasts a high student population, a very young national demographic, and a rapidly growing church that in many ways resembles the New Testament model. In this difficult context, IFES is finding creative ways to equip Christian leaders and encourage them in their discipleship. It is a fragile but incredibly strategic ministry, both for the individuals impacted, as well as for the future of the church in this country.
Please pray with us for these four movements as we welcome them to the IFES global family:
- Give thanks for the ministry that has grown in the Bahamas and pray that SCM’s participation in IFES would bring new blessings both at home and for the wider global fellowship.
- Pray for the leaders of CEF Taiwan; may they be filled with the Holy Spirit as they steer the movement into a new season.
- Pray for God’s protection and encouragement for our faithful brothers and sisters in Francophone Africa and MENA as they minister in challenging environments.