IFES regional secretaries are champions of student mission around the world.
They provide orientation and supervision for national staff, and ensure there is good training for students. They connect national movements and help share ideas, expertise, challenges and encouragements across their regions.
At Senior Staff Meetings, they represent their region, to help IFES respond to the diverse and ever-changing cultures and contexts of the world’s universities.
Marc Pulvar, Regional Secretary
Marc came to faith at university in Martinique through the testimony of another student. He was involved in his local GBU group, and later at the regional level. Marc served initially as Coordinator for Francophone Ministry, and then as Associate Regional Secretary from 1997 to 2018.
As Regional Secretary, Marc’s first priority is to develop a regional team and to strengthen communication using new technologies. He wants to focus on pioneering and leadership development, equipping national movement leaders to see their visions realised. He longs to see students leave their comfort zones to tell others about Jesus.
Annette Arulrajah Regional Secretary
Annette was born and raised in Malaysia by Christian parents whose faith inspired her to trust in God.
Soon after completing her undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of Malaysia, Annette started serving on staff with FES Malaysia. During this time, she also pursued her Masters in Counselling at the University of Putra, Malaysia.
From 2011 until her appointment as Regional Secretary for East Asia in 2017, Annette worked alongside Ung-Seop Shin (former Regional Secretary for East Asia) to provide leadership training and pastoral care to the general secretaries of the 16 national movements in the region. Annette says her greatest learning curve came from pioneering the IFES movement in Timor-Leste.
With religious sensitivities, and rising political tensions in the region, Annette hopes that more students in the region will “rise up to be prophetic pilgrims, who anchor themselves in God’s Word and live out their calling to the glory of His name.”
EPSA - English- and Portuguese-speaking Africa
Zelalem Abebe, Regional Secretary
Zelalem Abebe has been involved in student ministry in Ethiopia since he was at university and served as General Secretary of EvaSUE for nine years until 2015. He is part of the team facilitating the IFES Global Leadership Initiative and is on the World Assembly 2019 program committee.
Zelalem is an enthusiastic people-person, with a passion for leadership and giving his best to God in his service of others. He has a vision and belief in his calling to take forward student ministry in EPSA.
Sergei, Regional Secretary
Since coming to faith as a student in 1998, Sergei’s journey with God has taken him on a number of personal and professional adventures, including graduating as a teacher of English and German, studying at Bible college, serving as an assistant pastor, working with East-West Ministries, becoming a freelance translator, and joining a counselling programme. Through all of this, God has impressed upon Sergei the importance of ‘forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead’ (Philippians 3:13).
Sergei has been a friend of his local IFES student ministry since 2005, and has a desire to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus and to pass on his insights to the next generation of leaders across Eurasia. He is married and has two young children.
Tor Erling Fagermoen, Regional Secretary
Tor Erling Fagermoen took on the role of Regional Secretary for Europe in the summer of 2015. He has a strong calling and significant experience in ministry to young people. After serving as National Director of Youth Ministry for the Norwegian Lutheran Mission, he went on to be lecturer and principal of Fjellhaug Bible School in Oslo. In 2011 he became General Secretary for NKSS Norway.
He says: ‘Ever since I was a student myself I have enjoyed working with young people. I still feel young at heart, and that I have so much to do to help the next generation find their true identity as created in God’s image and helping them find hope and purpose in the gospel and the kingdom of God.’
Tor has an MDiv in Theology and an MA in English and Teaching. His first job was as a military chaplain. Tor lives with his wife and three children near Oslo, Norway.
Augustin Ahoga, Regional Secretary
‘Ahoga’ means the ‘tall foreteller’ in the Mahi language. Augustin’s father and grandfather were foretellers, and he was initiated into tribal spiritualism aged 11. In the final year of high school, however, he attended an evangelistic event, and gave his life to Jesus at the end of that academic year.
Upon completing his MA in Economics, Augustin felt called to serve God in the GBU (Groupes Bibliques Universitaires), the IFES student movement in Benin. Since then, his knowledge and understanding of theology has deepened through various periods of study. In 1993 he completed his MA in Theology in Paris. Returning to Benin, he served as General Secretary for the IFES movement there, before moving to the UK in 1999 to do an MA in Old Testament Biblical Studies.
Since 2002, Augustin has been working with IFES in Francophone Africa, teaching his favourite subjects – African Traditional Religion, Old Testament, Biblical Foundations for Family Life – in various faculties including the African Center for Contemporary Christianity (CACC) in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Augustin has also written commentaries on the books of Jonah and Nahum for the African Bible Commentary.
Since December 2007, Augustin has served as IFES Regional Secretary for Francophone Africa. He is married to Jocelyn, and together they have three daughters and one son.
David Bahena, Regional Secretary
After graduating in Chemical Engineering, David served on staff with Compa Mexico at his university for three years. During this time he also gained experience in the world of business, and specifically microenterprise.
David served as General Secretary for Compa Mexico for nine years, before working as IFES sub-regional coordinator for Panama, Central America and Mexico, and in 2012 was appointed as Regional Secretary for Latin America.
David has a clear vision for his role. ‘I would love to see communities of learners who are not ashamed of their faith, who do not keep it only as part of their private lives, who know and live in the word, who share their love for Jesus, who are serving the needs of the most vulnerable, and who enter academic and ideological discussions with a mature and complete faith.
'Crucial to this ministry are staff who understand the leading role that students must take and who support them in that. So my challenge is also to accompany and equip this generation of staff workers and general secretaries whom God is calling to walk alongside students, by coordinating training spaces for each new generation, and creating collaborative communities throughout Latin America.'
David is married to Claudia and they have three children – Valeria, Hector and Lia. Claudia serves in a non-governmental organisation working with children and youth at risk.
MENA - MIDDLE EAST AND NORTHERN AFRICA
Jamil, Regional Secretary
As well as overseeing the coordination, training, and encouragement of existing IFES movements in the region, Jamil is also helping to pioneer movements in countries where there is no official Christian student witness.
Jamil was born in North Africa into a Muslim family, and in 1984 went to Paris to study Architecture. There he encountered Christians for the first time when he met students who were part of a summer team with GBU France, and later made the decision to follow Christ. He encountered huge resistance from his family and had to leave his home country.
After his theological studies (1987-1992) he worked with GBU France for 10 years, after which he joined the MENA regional team, where he has been serving as Regional Secretary since 2003. Jamil is married and has three children.
Kurt Thiel, regional representative
Kurt is currently the InterVarsity USA Link Director, connecting InterVarsity with other IFES movements, especially by sending staff where requested. He and his wife Laura, plus children Matthew and Heather, also served for five years with VBH, the IFES movement in Slovakia.
Kurt has worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for 31 years as a campus staff, supervisor, planter and evangelist. Laura and Kurt have been married for 32 years and their two children are both married. Please pray for Kurt as he takes on this new responsibility with IFES, alongside his role with InterVarsity.
Savithri Sumanthiran, Regional Secretary
Savithri was born in a Christian family, but she says her journey to faith started when she was prayed for after having fallen ill.
At the age of 15 she became a Christian in a Methodist youth fellowship. She came to know about FOCUS Sri Lanka when one of her friends invited her to a graduate camp, and some years later she became the general secretary of the movement. Savithri used this opportunity to build a sense of community in FOCUS between the first generation of graduates, the younger graduates and current students.
Savithri is married with three children; two at university and one in school.
David Walter, Regional Secretary
David has been part of the organising team for the South Pacific Regional Conference (SPaRC) over the past few years and, through this and other IFES connections has a deep understanding and love for our global fellowship in its breadth and diversity.
David came to know Jesus as a child after his parents shared the gospel with him, and his faith grew rapidly through university when he got involved with student ministry. He has since worked as an industrial chemist, an environmental scientist and a hotel manager, as well as on AFES staff for the past 20 years. David is currently a regional director for Queensland, and FOCUS worker at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, working alongside his wife Cathy.