InterVarsity staff who serve overseas with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students are serving longer. “A few years ago getting staff to think about a two year commitment was a challenge,” says Link director Becky Stephen. “In the last four years about one third of our current field staff have signed up for a minimum of five years.”
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is connected to Christian student movements in 150 countries through its membership in the Evangelical Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). InterVarsity has a direct connection to some of those movements through the more than 275 InterVarsity Link staff who have worked overseas alongside other IFES staff in 44 countries over the past 20 years.
Overseas travel can be exotic and exciting. But living overseas as an American involved in ministry is challenging. “Emotionally and psychologically it can be very hard on people,” Becky says. Yet as InterVarsity staff become aware of opportunities facing indigenous student movements in other countries those staff become more willing to use skills they’ve acquired working with U.S. students to work with students in those countries.
About five years ago, former InterVarsity staff members Tom and Nancy Lin learned that the door was open to establish a student ministry in Mongolia. A couple from Korea’s InterVarsity movement had already been there for several years. Tom and Nancy joined them. “This is not about Americans doing the work,” Becky says. “It’s about multi-national, multi-cultural teams, working with others. Tom and Nancy stepped into something that was already happening.”
This fall, after helping establish a growing student movement in Ulan Bator, Tom and Nancy Lin returned to the U.S. In the last four years, the Mongolian student movement went from one fellowship to three fellowships, with more than 120 students involved. Eight national staff are now leading the movement, and it’s officially registered with the Mongolian government. A video was produced to tell the story of Tom’s and Nancy’s Mongolian ministry.
“Increasingly, people coming back from Link service overseas continue on to work as InterVarsity field staff in the U.S.,” says Becky. “Five years ago that wasn’t the case.” Tom and Nancy have decided to continue on staff with InterVarsity. In 2007 Tom will become regional director for the Central region, based in St. Louis.