By Abigail Zimmer

Loving Jesus and Students: Daniel Bourdanné at Urbana 12

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Daniel Bourdanné’s life was profoundly impacted by the ministry of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) when he was a student in Chad, his home country. Which is part of why he’s thrilled that his life’s work has been helping students know Jesus through IFES, first in Francophone Africa and now as the general secretary.

We’re excited that Daniel will be speaking to us at Urbana 12, bringing insight, truth, and wisdom from his deep love for Jesus and students and from his experience as a global ministry leader. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect.

How has involvement in God’s mission shaped you?

In my own country, Chad, the student work happens not only at the university level, but also at the high school level. I was a high school student when I was first invited to attend IFES ministry. A Norwegian missionary was coming to our school to meet with students who were interested in Bible study, and I was invited. I remember my first Bible study; it was on Revelation 1, on John, a prisoner on the island of Patmos. And that was the beginning of my involvement in student work.

I fell in love with student work. It made a significant impact in my life and I continued to be involved as a university student in Chad.

I think back to my story: a young believer coming to university, studying biology and being challenged by my studies. I remember a first-year professor challenging us, “You Christians, are you continuing to believe in those things even though they are not real, even though they are not true?” If at that time there had been no student movement on campus, I don’t think my faith would have been sustained. I don’t know if I would have remained a believer if there had been no Christian group on my campus to help me when I was exposed to different challenges, to different ideologies.

Later on, because of the war, I had to leave the country. I went to Togo to continue my university studies and I got involved in student ministry there. Then from Togo I moved to Ivory Coast, where I continued to be involved in student ministry.

During my time in Ivory Coast, I finished my studies and started to teach, and the Lord talked to me and said, “You have been blessed so much by this ministry; why not consider helping other students to be blessed like you were?” So I stepped down from my position and I joined IFES as a staff worker. It is a privilege to be called by God to be part of this strategic ministry.

And another significant thing for me is that I also met my wife in the student ministry! She was a student, a medical student. And I believe we have had a good and stable family life because of the input my wife also received from the student movement.

How does Urbana fit into IFES ministry?

Urbana is IFES! Urbana is hosted by three student ministries which are all part of the global movement called the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students: InterVarsity/USA, Inter-Varsity Canada and Groupes Bibliques Universitaires et Collégiaux du Canada.

Why are you excited to speak at Urbana?

I am excited when I think about what happens when young people hear God’s calling, when they give their lives to his global mission. When we are transformed by him, our life is completely different: it is lived out from biblical values, from the biblical worldview, and that can impact the whole world. I have seen a number of leaders who are making a difference in society, in the marketplace, in the churches, who can point to their involvement in student ministry as young people.

What benefits do you think college students and recent grads will receive at Urbana? Why would you encourage churches to send young adults to Urbana?

When we look at the life of our society, most people see universities as places of influence. Everybody wants to send their children to college. They see students as the ones who are going to make a significant impact in all sectors of life, in business, in the economy, in science, in agriculture. They are the ones who are going to be researchers, who are going to come up with new ideologies and new thinking. They are shaping the worldview of our world today.

These college students and recent graduates are in a very strategic place, so it is important to engage with them when they are asking some questions about their futures, when they are open to ideas, when we are able to bring the gospel to them and help them understand the biblical worldview and the values that the Scriptures are bringing to them.

We are investing in a very, very strategic place when we are engaging students in the gospel. We are investing in developing students so they can be of influence in all aspects of society.

After spending several years as a writer with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Abigail Zimmer is now working on her MFA in poetry at Columbia College Chicago. She likes Old English, the sassy blues of Janis Joplin, and futzing with cameras. She blogs on art and good people at

Read interviews with other Urbana 12 speakers: David Platt, Geri Rodman, Calisto Odede, Ram Sridharan, and Chai Ling.

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