Reaching international students together

I was hoping to get a prayerful roommate at college. But when I started my program God gave me the opposite. Moses was not a believer. He was into drinking and partying. So I started praying for him. 

Moses was an international student from Equatorial Guinea. He had a lot of questions about my faith. Through him I met other international students from Equatorial Guinea, and started inviting them to our events, praying for them to receive Jesus Christ. 

Last year, God answered my prayer. Moses and some other international students professed faith in Jesus Christ! They are now active in spreading the gospel on campus. 

Godfree, a student from FOCUS Zimbabwe, is at World Assembly this week. He is here to share his story, encouraging others to reach out to international students. He is also here to learn. To get ideas. To be reminded that he is part of a growing global movement of students like him who want to tell their friends the good news of Jesus. 

Join us in praying for Godfree and others at World Assembly: 

  • Thank God for the international students at Godfree’s university and pray that these new believers would walk closely with Jesus, now and when they return to Equatorial Guinea. 
  • Thank God for the 1,200 participants who have travelled from more than 170 countries to be at World Assembly. Thank God for safe travel and blessed times of fellowship and teaching so far. 
  • Pray that each participant would encounter Jesus through His Word, and would leave better equipped and more inspired to be messengers of hope in universities around the world. 

Thanks for praying with us!

Europe needs to know Jesus!

Priscilla was one of 1,700 students. She had come with her friends from GBU Italy to join students from 47 other countries. This was IFES Europe’s student evangelism conference, Presence, held at Easter 2017. Almost two years on, we asked her to reflect on the long-term impact of being at Presence. She shared her reflections:

Priscilla’s story

“I was expecting a wonderful experience. But not something that inspirational. Both for me and for my IFES group (GBU) in Milan.

It was amazing to experience a connection with other students as we prayed together in different languages. And it was amazing to see how big IFES is — to realise that we are involved in a huge international project.

IFES world

But one stand-out moment for me was hearing a man share his testimony on the last night. He had grown up in a Muslim family in the Middle East. As part of his study, he spent a few months in France as an international student. There he had met some Christian students and started reading the Bible with them. Just three weeks before he left France, he gave his life to Christ.

That man now works with IFES students in the Middle East.

After hearing his story, I felt convinced that we need to make more of the opportunities we have to reach international students. We are used to praying for missionaries all over the world, but what about the hundreds of international people around us? They need to know Jesus! And they can be a powerful testimony in their own communities when they go back. The time they spend in our country might be short, but it could be enough.

GBU Italy

A new heart

My friends and I came back from Presence spiritually charged, full of ideas and with a new heart for international students. Since then we’ve started having Bible studies in English as well as Italian. In my university we have a lot of international students — mostly from China, India, Pakistan, South America and other countries in Europe. They are from different religious backgrounds. Generally, we find that they don’t know much about Christianity, but they are more open to speaking about spiritual matters than our Italian friends. Sometimes their questions surprise me. They are curious. Talking about our souls and our sin is not weird to them.

Before Presence I was interested in international students, but I was scared because of the language barrier and I wasn’t sure what approach to take. After Presence we decided not to worry about those things. Our English is not perfect and our Bible studies are not always the best. But the important thing is to make the international students feel loved and welcome.

GBU Italy

We’ve started hosting evangelistic events each month — usually themed parties, like The 1950s, Pizza, Movie Night, The South of Italy… We’re learning to have someone there to translate everything into English, and we’re trying to think about how to manage food, games, music and a presentation of the gospel in the most effective way. Sometimes we’ve had up to 60 students! We’ve also gone out to meet students on campus. Now we’re working to create a little guide about how to survive at university here, which includes some information about GBU.

An adventure worth having

To IFES groups that haven’t yet started engaging with international students I would say to risk it because it’s really worth it. It’s a great opportunity to discover other cultures and to test your faith. Pray for your universities and let yourselves be amazed!

GBU Italy

And to IFES students in Europe who are considering going to the next European Evangelism Conference, Revive, I would say, GO! When we came back home we realised how much Presence had joined us together as a group. It made us a real team with the same goal and the same vision, the same love for students. Presence was an adventure and gave us stories that we still tell today.”

Introducing: Revive

The impact of Presence was felt across the whole region, as students fell more in love with Jesus and caught the vision for sharing Him on campus. Many mission weeks happened in new cities as a result of Presence. But IFES Europe still longs for more. It longs to see revival. In its Christian students. In its universities. In its nations. Revive, the next European evangelism conference, is taking place in Germany, 27 December 2019–1 January 2020.

From Myanmar to Nebraska

Alee first met Sha K’ Paw on 20 June — World Refugee Day. He was one of the volunteers, helping out amidst the good-natured chaos of the face-painting, soccer tournament and fashion show. The annual event in Omaha, USA always attracted big crowds, and that year was no exception. Alee, an InterVarsity staff worker, had the responsibility of coordinating the team of volunteers.

They hadn’t had many high school student volunteers in the past, so the fact that these young people were volunteering stood out to her. She got talking to two of them — Sha and his friend, Sunkist — both Karen refugees from Myanmar. It turned out that they were planning on going to the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) that fall. Alee’s ears pricked up! She’d met Karen children before, but she’d never met Karen students going to college. They chatted away. And then she took a stab in the dark: “Are you two followers of Jesus?”

Sha K’ Paw

Sha K’ Paw was born in Myanmar, a country in South Asia marked by a long, devastating civil war. At the age of seven he moved to a refugee camp in Thailand, where he stayed for six years, without his parents. It was a simple life: every day Sha went to school, played with his friends and ate rice with mung bean soup. His dormitory was run by Christians who taught the children to read the Bible and pray every morning and evening.

by Dinis Bazgutdinov on Unsplash

At 12, Sha moved to the US with his aunt in search of a better life, and was suddenly plunged into a totally different world: the culture, the language, the people — everything was different. He writes:

“I had heard people tell stories about what ‘third countries’ (countries where the refugees settle) are like. I’d heard they have a lot of food, great education, freedom and opportunity. And when I got to the US, I found the stories were true: the country was full of great things. But there were struggles too. I no longer had to worry about my empty stomach, but I had to worry about eating too much. I no longer had to worry about war, but I couldn’t speak English, and I struggled with school and understanding the culture. I no longer had to live in fear, but I still worried about my future.

As a teenager, I looked back and I could see how God had led me safely through life. There had been moments in my life when I’d felt alone and abandoned — but God had been there with me. There had been moments when I’d wanted to quit — but God had strengthened me. Realising deeply how He had been a Father and Saviour to me all along, I accepted Him as my Lord and Saviour, without doubt or question. I was baptised on 5 March 2011, at the age of 15.”

An answer to prayer

As all staff workers know, meeting Christian high school students about to go to university is a golden opportunity. All you need to get is their number, and you can plug them straight into a fellowship group before they’ve even set foot on campus.

But Alee met Sha around the time that her InterVarsity staff team had been praying about reaching every corner of the campus. They’d been reflecting on the way that each person reached is connected to a network or people group. With those prayers in mind, Alee realised the opportunity in front of her. Release, not recruit. That was what InterVarsity student ministry was all about. These two young Christians could be added into an existing, thriving fellowship group at UNO. Or they could be empowered and equipped to start their own, reaching out to other Karen refugees. It was a no-brainer.


After meeting Alee at the World Refugee Day, Sha and a few of his friends were connected to the staff workers at UNO. They bonded over mookatah (Thai grill) and after arriving at UNO as freshers, started studying the Bible together. Sha and a few others were discipled, and it wasn’t long before they were leading the Bible studies themselves and telling their friends about Jesus: “My friends need to know that Jesus loves them; someone needs to help them know that, and I guess that person is me.”

Asian Christian Fellowship, UNO

The group grew, as more Karen students heard about the fellowship group and joined in. Sha reflects on that time of growth:

“I continued to grow little by little as I was learning and leading at the same time. A group of us also prayed about God’s mission on our campus and we saw growth over the past year. It was the investment of our staff workers in us that helped us grow, and of course the Holy Spirit who led us.”

God’s faithfulness for pilgrim people

Almost all of the Karen students are the first in their families to study in the US. Most, like Sha, grew up in refugee camps before moving to America. They arrived with little or no English. Their parents would have had even less. It was up to the children to help their parents adapt to the new culture, act as interpreters, go to the bank, read the mail. The pressures of being displaced are all-too familiar for these young people.

by Yoshua Giri on Unsplash

The group of around 25–30 refugee students at UNO have been studying the book of Exodus, learning from the story of God’s displaced people. Having seen the faithfulness of God in the Bible and in their own stories of suffering, the students want others to know Him too. Some of them have even started reaching out to other refugee communities around them. One student, Manger, said:

“I am encouraged by my experience as a former refugee and a first-generation college student. I experienced God’s love throughout my life and I want to share it with others. I want to see revival in my community — at church, at home and at school.”

It is amazing to see how a casual conversation at a community event a few years ago has grown into a thriving student ministry. But this story is as challenging as it is encouraging. Are we, like Alee, praying for opportunities to reach new corners of the campus? How many more unengaged networks could be reached this year if more of us adopted the release, not recruit mentality? Are we looking to share the faithfulness of God with those around us?

Be an international student for Jesus

Global numbers of international students are soaring. Today, over five million students are studying away from their home country. Not only are the numbers staggering, so too is the range of countries these students come from — including many closed countries in the Middle East and Central Asia where there are very few Christians. If these students could come to know Jesus, the subsequent impact around the world would be tremendous.

Arriving in Tokyo on that first day, I felt like a goldfish dropped into the ocean. I’d heard it was a big place. But it blew all my expectations out of the water. Everywhere I looked: people, cars, skyscrapers — on a scale I could never have imagined. And this was to be my home for the next three years… I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.*

Just out of reach

Numbers of international students have grown so quickly that, in almost every case, the local church has not been able to keep up. International student ministry (ISM) is vastly under-resourced globally, and therefore most international students remain unreached. The few ISM workers who are serving are usually hugely outnumbered. In China, for example, it’s been estimated that for every ISM worker there are 25,000 international students.

Many churches would like to do ISM, but just don’t have the resources to invest much into developing this growing mission field. The language and cultural barriers mean that international students usually struggle to engage with regular church ministry. Furthermore, in some countries, welcoming foreigners attracts unwanted attention from the government and can put the church in danger.

International students may be right on their doorstep, but they can still prove to be just out of reach.

by Liam Burnett-Blue on Unsplash

The obvious solution

When I first arrived from Kazakhstan I could hardly speak any of the local language. I could just say ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ and ‘I don’t understand.’ I used that last phrase a lot in the first few months. I enrolled in a year-long intensive language course: lessons all morning and private study all afternoon. As a class we got to know each other really well. There were 12 of us, and no two students were from the same country: Laos, Eritrea, Germany, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Ghana, Rwanda and New Zealand. One time we had to give presentations in class about a festival we celebrate and the guy from Ghana spoke about Easter. I’d never heard what Christians believe before. It really got me thinking. That student became a close friend.*

Culturally and linguistically, a Ghanaian and a Kazakh might have little in common. But in a country which is alien to both of them, they’re in the same boat. The student from Ghana might not be called to mission here long-term. He might not be particularly gifted at languages. But he might be the only Christian that Kazakh student knows. He has an amazing opportunity to touch the lives of his classmates and dormitory simply by living and studying wholeheartedly for Jesus.

by Tiago Rosado on Unsplash

Why not me?

Christian student Sam** from the US decided to do his two-year Master’s program in East Asia. He shared his experience:

“It’s really been organic in developing honest and authentic relationships with people I’m going to school with and live with. That’s something anyone could do. There are really great opportunities to learn, and also to meet people from all over the world. My classmates are from 20 different countries, and my dorm has students from many places where the gospel is not known. And this city is a really fun and exciting place to be.”

by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

We need more students around the world to give up a year or two to go and reach a few from this vast harvest field. Arguably the best placed people to reach international students are other international students. Whether it’s to learn the language for a year, or to take part in an exchange program for a semester, or even to do further post-graduate study — there are plenty of course options in different cities around the world, and many of these come with full scholarships. Those classmates will need friends — and particularly friends who can tell them about Jesus.

Too many of us are asking ‘why me?’ Perhaps a better question would be ‘why not me?’

Talk to your national movement if you’d be interested in finding out more.

For further reading related to this subject, read Phil Jones’ article ISM in Reverse.

* based on true stories

** name changed

Exploring Mark’s gospel in three languages

Tuesdays evenings are one of the highlights of the week for many international students in one Eurasian country. 15-20 of them gather to eat together and look at the account of Jesus’ life in Mark’s gospel. Around the room there are students from all over the world. They are a mixture of atheists, Muslims and Christians. Many are from unreached countries. There’s an amazing buzz around the room as students look at the Bible together in English, Japanese and Russian. Because of the different languages spoken, the students first act out the passage, before discussing it in small groups.

There are no manuals for the leaders to follow. They try things, make mistakes and learn from them. Sometimes it’s a bit chaotic – but God keeps bringing the students back! They are hungry to learn. After reading Mark’s gospel, one student from China said, “But how did it all start? What happened before Jesus? I want to learn about what happened in the beginning!”

  • Thank God for the way He has opened up opportunities for students from unreached countries to meet Christians during their time as international students.
  • Pray that these students would come to know Jesus for themselves as they continue to look at Mark’s gospel this year.
  • Pray for the leaders to know how to effectively communicate the gospel with these international students, despite the language and cultural barriers.

Thanks for praying with us!

When the least-reached encounter Jesus

We met in the supermarket. Sahib* had come to Eastern Europe as a post-graduate from the Middle East, to study engineering. He started coming along to our club for international students. Then one day Sahib heard about our IFES national conference coming up. He wanted to come too.

“This club is for students of different backgrounds and beliefs,” I told him. “But the conference is for Christians.”

But Sahib came anyway. The only Muslim out of nearly 200 Christians. During those three days he heard the gospel preached over and over. He even came to a talk about sharing the gospel with Muslims! What on earth is he going to think? I wondered nervously. But at the end of the conference, Sahib shared his story with me:

by John Price on Unsplash

Sahib’s story

Several years ago, Sahib’s brother had died tragically in an accident. His father, who never recovered from the grief, died six months later. Sahib’s nephew (his late brother’s son) went to live with him and his family. Then last year, while working in a military camp, he and his nephew were just metres away from the explosion of two ISIS cars. Sahib miraculously survived, but tragically, his nephew didn’t. Having lost three of his closest family members, Sahib sunk into a deep depression. He wondered why he was still alive. In desperation he had decided to move overseas to study again.

But then at the conference, he told me, something had changed. He’d suddenly felt the darkness and depression lift. He felt like he’d woken up. “It’s not an accident that you’re alive today, Sahib”, I told him. “I believe God saved your life for a reason.”

Soon after that, Sahib joined his local IFES group and has started going along to Bible studies and church services. Sahib still hasn’t accepted Christ, but we believe that God is at work in him.

by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Kasim’s dilemma

The decision to become a Christian has huge implications for Muslims. It might not be possible for them to return to their family or home country. If they do return, they could face extreme persecution, a serious lack of fellowship, and limited opportunities for career and marriage, as well as painful rejection from family members. It’s not appealing — and yet, to leave the people you love behind…? This was Kasim’s* dilemma.

Kasim is from Central Asia. Every international student from his particular country is monitored closely during their time overseas, and when they return their phones and luggage will be checked. While studying overseas, Kasim met Christians, got involved in our international fellowship group and started reading the Bible privately with a local pastor. Wonderfully he turned to Christ, and soon after got baptised in secret. Despite the dangers, he started to share the gospel with his friends in his dormitory. Then came a turning point.

Kasim had a dream to move to a western European country to do a Master’s degree. He’d even been studying the language of that country! But increasingly he felt convicted that he had a responsibility to go back to his home country and tell his people about the most important gift he had found here. If he moved overseas again then who would tell his people about Jesus?

So now Kasim is back in his home country, completing his obligatory service in the army. Praise God that, so far, he is doing well spiritually. We pray that in the future he’s able to help pioneer student ministry in his country.

by Juan ignacio Tapia on Unsplash

Unparalleled opportunities

The opportunities currently open to us across Eastern Europe are unparalleled. Students from 17 different countries attended our Christmas evangelistic event. Many of them are from desperately unreached places. Our own context is not without its challenges, but it is more open here than it is in many of these sending countries.

Each week we organise activities where international students can come and socialise together, enjoy friendships in a safe environment, learn about local culture, discuss different topics, improve their language and, if they are keen, open the Bible with us. We pray on that many more students in this generation would, like Kasim, come to know the Lord.”

Reflections from an IFES staff worker serving students in Eastern Europe

Open Doors records the persecution of Christians in its World Watch List. The ten countries where persecution is the most severe sent a total of 220,647 students to study internationally in 2016, according to UNESCO statistics. Pray with us that these international students would meet Christians, hear the gospel during their time studying overseas, and return home to share their faith with those living in darkness.

* name changed

Should I return home?

It’s wonderful when international students turn to Christ. But that is only the beginning. Many face huge challenges when they finish their studies — particularly those who come to faith from a Muslim background. It’s an agonising decision: stay here, in a foreign land, apart from their loved ones; or go back and face a life of alienation, rejection and severe persecution — or even death. There is no easy option.

Rahab Chandler, an international student worker in the UK, shares two stories of Muslim-background believers who came to faith during their PhD studies.

Hadija’s journey

Hadija* and I met through a mutual friend. She was from a Middle Eastern country, studying here for a PhD. I invited her to our home and to one of our international cafés, and introduced her to a few Christian friends. Over the course of the next few years, Hadija and I met regularly. She was only culturally Muslim but was nevertheless committed to certain Islamic beliefs. We would talk at length about her studies and I would share with her what the Bible says regarding the issues. Her interest grew, but she showed no desire to embrace the Christian faith.

by Natalie Grainger on Unsplash

Over time she began to attend church, where she heard good teaching and was drawn into the church community. Things started to change. Our weekly talks together deepened. I could see how close she was. One Sunday, on hearing a talk about the second coming of Christ, she could not hold back any longer. She professed her belief in the gospel and her desperation to be put right with God. Hadija was baptised a couple of months later, pleading with others to put their trust in Christ as she shared her moving testimony.

Where do I belong?

Hadija has grown wonderfully. But she has not yet told her family about her new faith. Her concern is more for them than for herself. She knows that if her wider family were to find out, her immediate family would be in danger. She says that she is willing to die for Christ; but what is hardest is that her family would suffer for something that they do not understand. Aside from the physical danger, there is also the issue that if she were to return, she would be obliged to marry a Muslim. Even if her life was spared, without Christian fellowship, it would be very hard to keep going.

by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

For Hadija, not returning at this stage is wise. Thankfully her parents are supportive of her remaining in the UK; they believe she will have more freedom here and are not pressurising her to return. Perhaps they have guessed about her new faith, as they know that her friends are Christians. Hadija needs a job which will keep her in the UK for a few more years so that she can then apply to live indefinitely in this country. God has provided for her so far and we trust that He will continue to do so.

But it’s very hard. She loves her family and misses them. The reality of long-term separation from them can never go away. She has struggled with depression. Hadija is afraid that her faith will become known among others from her country, so she has limited her friendship group to a few, most of whom are older than she is. She doesn’t feel that she truly belongs here, even with those of us who are very close to her.

For Hadija, there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

Omari and Sariya

For some, returning home is possible and is the right option.

PhD student Omari* and his wife Sariya* came to the UK from a Middle Eastern country. Omari had long-since moved from Muslim belief to atheism, disillusioned by his Islamic upbringing. He is a confident man and was quick to engage with his work colleagues. He also started coming along regularly to one of our international cafés, looking for friendship. Articulate and convinced in his atheism, Omari was not over-keen to hear about the Christian faith but was always ready for a discussion.

by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

Sariya was still a practising Muslim but on a gentle level. We met her when she came along to an activity for the wives of international students. Through that group, Sariya’s friendships with other Christian ladies started to grow. After a number of months without showing spiritual interest, she mentioned one day that her husband was now keen to study the Bible with Christians. They began to meet with a local couple to go through the Al Massira course — Bible overview studies specifically for seekers from a Muslim background.

In time, both came to clear faith and were baptised discreetly. They were well discipled by a local Christian couple and started to prepare to return home. Those close to him helped them to think through how they could express their new faith wisely, and what it would look like to be loving and faithful family members. They also talked about suffering for their faith.

No turning back

Omari and Sariya are now back home in the Middle East. So far, they are doing well. For the first year, they were very cautious with their family, but they behaved wisely: while they were not explicit, it became clear that their faith had changed. At first, they were wary of meeting with local believers, and only attended an international church run by ex-pats. God provided them with a local ex-pat couple who came alongside them, meeting regularly with them for Bible study. After a couple of years, they began to engage with a small fellowship of local believers and seekers. They are now very involved in this, and Omari preaches there regularly.

by rawpixel on Unsplash

The couple who were their main disciplers in the UK continue to support them, as do some others. Some members of their family know the whole story and have even expressed interest themselves. Others remain safely ‘ignorant’ of Sariya and Omari’s change of faith. Returning home has not been easy, but at the moment it seems to be working well enough: they continue to stand firm, growing in their faith and service.

Surrogate family

These stories are a source of deep encouragement. Let us rejoice that international students are coming to faith from a Muslim background! Let us thank God that they consider Jesus worth giving up everything for.

At the same time, these stories are sobering. Hadija, Omari and Sariya do not have the support of their own families. All of them are, to a degree, isolated. They face huge challenges in their daily lives and need great wisdom in navigating the path of bold witness and wise caution. For them, support from church family is indispensable. Are there believers from a Muslim background in your church or student group? What’s their story? How could you support them and be their surrogate family? They will need your friendship, love and prayers very much indeed.

*name changed

Clinging to God’s Word

In some countries it is illegal for local students to join Christian activities, so the movement is made up entirely of international students. Yacoub is a staff-worker in one such country in Francophone Africa. He’s been encouraged to see students built up in their faith here then returning to their home countries – often other sensitive locations – to pass on the good news:

“The mission of the GBU begins with international students who will finish it elsewhere. During their time here, students discover the love of our Lord and cling to His Word.”

One such student is Haady*, a friend of Yacoub, who came to know Christ more deeply while studying overseas. He has recently returned to his home country and has got involved in the local GBU group. Living and speaking for Christ in such a hostile environment will be hugely challenging.

Yacoub asked us to pray for student ministry in his country:

  • Pray that the Lord would raise up more faithful workers for the harvest field.
  • Pray that the Lord would give us effective strategies for getting to know international students and creating new cell groups, so that the work can advance.
  • Pray for those like Haady returning to sensitive locations. Pray that they would find fellowship and support in their home countries and pray that they would stand firm in the face of suffering and persecution, clinging to God’s Word.

*name changed

Thanks for praying with us!

From Angola to China

Frederico was doing what he could. But he was 10,000km away from the Angolan students living in China. Frederico’s focus had always been on the universities in his own country. But he realised that there was a huge number of Angolans studying in China, and he wanted to do more to support them. Encouraging them through social media was better than nothing, but he longed to meet with them in person!

So with support from the IFES Breaking New Ground project, Frederico and another GBECA staff worker, Mariano, started planning a trip to visit a small group of Angolan students in China.

But it was not to be a straightforward journey…

by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

Unexpected hurdles

Frederico and Mariano missed their first flight because their visas hadn’t come through in time. On their second attempt, they had to first drive from Angola to Windhoek in Namibia to catch the flight. But their car broke down on the journey and had to be towed all the way — almost 600km — all through the night. They missed the flight again.

They returned to Angola, determined to try a third time. It would have been tempting to give up the dream, but Frederico reflected:

“There were many missionaries who gave their lives so that we could be saved by Christ. Even if God wants to save only one student using us, it would be worth going through all this.”

Their third attempt was successful, and soon they were face to face with the students, telling the story of their eventful journey to be there. The students were moved by the effort they’d gone to — and by the love of God for them. The group of around 30 students spent five days with Frederico and Mariano, looking at the Bible, praying and enjoying fellowship over meals. Some professed faith for the first time; for others it was a significant time of discipleship and growth. The group was encouraged to hear about the worldwide IFES fellowship and know that they are part of something much bigger.

by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Investing in the future

Since that trip, the Angolan students have continued to meet together and the group has grown as they’ve drawn in others from the pool of 100 or so Angolan students on their campus. The students are hungry for good Bible teaching and are eager to learn how to tell their friends about Jesus. Frederico is still discipling them from afar and hopes to return to see them again soon.

Two of the student leaders reflected on the impact of the visit:

“It helped to strengthen us all. We experienced many amazing transformations in our walk with God — in our perspective of life here, purpose, relationships. Some have even seen God transform and restore family members back in Angola through our testimonies.

It is a particularly strategic group of students to be investing in. Several of them will return to key leadership positions in the church, in education and in Angolan society. Not only that, but there are more than 500,000 Chinese people living and working in Angola today. God-willing, these international students will return equipped and envisioned to reach out to them.

by Rohan Reddy on Unsplash


Are there students from your national movement studying overseas? Are they thriving spiritually, or just surviving? How could you encourage them this year?

The trip to visit these Angolan students in China was supported by the IFES Breaking New Ground project. This was one of 67 grants awarded in 2018 to help pioneer new groups in unreached campuses, cities and countries around the world. Read more stories from Breaking New Ground here.

Give today to help us support more projects like this to reach more students with the gospel.

IFES is now accepting applications for Round 5 of funding, which will close on Thursday 28 February. Email to apply or visit our website to find out more.

Increasing opportunities to reach the least-reached with the gospel

One of the biggest changes in university education over the last twenty years has been the unprecedented rise in the number of students choosing to study overseas. From 2 million in 2000 to 5 million in 2018, the growth has been phenomenal, and looks set to continue. It has opened up opportunities for students from some of the least reached countries in the world to hear the gospel.

Open Doors records the persecution of Christians in its World Watch List. The ten countries where persecution is the most severe sent a total of 220,647 students to study internationally in 2016, according to UNESCO statistics. 2,317 from North Korea. 24,008 from Yemen. 28,515 from Afghanistan. 30,591 from Iraq. And thousands from other unreached countries.

Nadim* is one just example. Originally from the Middle East, he came to faith last year through international student ministry in Eurasia.

“There is a wonderful sense of relief in knowing that I am forgiven and secure. I’d never felt this way before,” he shared.

By God’s grace, students like Nadim have a small window of opportunity to encounter Christians and hear about Jesus while they’re studying overseas. Pray with us that these opportunities would not be wasted, but that thousands of international students would come to faith this year.

  • Pray for Nadim and other international student Christians to stand firm in their faith and to have opportunities to share the gospel with their family and friends back home.
  • Pray for national movements involved in international student ministry to be prayerful and fruitful in their work. Pray that they’d know how to reach students of different languages, religions and cultures.
  • Pray for the 220,647+ international students from these most dangerous countries to encounter Christians during their time overseas and turn to Christ.

Throughout February, Prayerline will focus on international student ministry in a variety of contexts. You can read more stories on the IFES blog and see the stats on Instagram.

Statistics from and UNESCO

*name changed

Thanks for praying with us!