My World Assembly experience was rich and varied. Through four brief vignettes, I want to convey a flavor of my fellowship with other IFES leaders.
Over lunch, Willie, a delegate from Liberia, described the chaos in his country. I could scarcely comprehend engaging in student ministry in the midst of a 12-year civil war. Yet I was challenged by how staff and student leaders persevere in such an overwhelming task.
Citing the United States’ historic involvement in his nation — former slaves returned to create Liberia in the 1840s — Willie asked if InterVarsity® might partner with his national movement once peace is restored.
Tears welled up in Eva’s eyes as she described the burden of leading the Polish movement: “A decade ago, we were on the frontier of missionary activity. People and resources flooded in. Now it is much more difficult.”
As Eva shared, I felt the pain of a national movement in its second phase of development. No longer an infant, but not yet an adult, the Polish fellowship is struggling to move ahead. Since staff raise only a small portion of their support, funddevelopment is primarily her responsibility.
The conversation ended with Eva asking whether a Region or Area in the USA might be interested in a long-term “twinning” relationship.
Despite my poor Spanish and Freddy’s limited English, a warm relationship developed between us. An affable leader in his late 20s, he asked if we could have a meal together. He showed me a photo of his fiancée and later, through an interpreter, we discussed our families and student ministries.
As the conversation wrapped up, I presumed that he would make inquiries into a possible partnership with InterVarsity/USA. Rather, he simply asked if he could bless me. As he laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed, I was humbled by his piety and a bit repentant for misreading his motives. The Lord touched me in a special way through this simple act of love.
On the final morning, I enjoyed a quick breakfast with Tom Lin. Tom and his wife, Nancy, are Americans serving as pioneer Link staff in Mongolia. As he shared their experiences of the past two years, I empathized with their isolation, language challenges and unpredictable power outages.
Despite such obstacles, the work has matured to the point that the ministry has spawned a second team. As I boarded the bus for the airport, reflected on the multiplication of student ministry in what, to me, is a distant land and remembered Jesus’ words that his disciples would be his witnesses to “the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
During my two weeks in the Netherlands, I caught a glimpse of how powerful a global witness it is for us to bear testimony to Christ together. Over half a century ago, IFES was formed as a federation of national student movements. At that time, who could have envisioned that such a vast network would emerge? We are truly blessed to be part of the IFES family.
How can we help these brothers and sisters in difficult places? How can we learn from them? I am eager to partner with them as we jointly declare God’s glory among the students of the nations. Special acknowledgment is due to our own Barney Ford who has been the Chair of the IFES International Executive Committee (IEC) for the past 12 years. In this role Barney has not only served IFES well, but also built invaluable international bridges for the U.S. movement.