The band strike up after another amazing video.
Saviour, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save...
Jesus conquered the grave!
That is a real conviction here - Jesus is mighty to save: really SAVE men and women from all over the world. He has changed lives - talking to breothers and sisters from countries where their lives are in danger because of the work they do, the lives they live. It is a privilege beyond expression to be able to share in that. I am moved and challenged in almost every conversation: I feel like I am trading in the international gold markets - wealth is taken for granted.
Tonight we will be hearing different stories from around the world.
Now a man shares the awful details of a country who is greatly oppressing the people and the church. The IFES movement is operating underground. Students are being arrested and persecuted. In the midst of this suffering God is shaping leaders who are fully committed to their nation's transformation under the gospel; even though they have to meet for Bible Study and prayer in small groups in total secrecy. There are many hundreds of students involved. The staff, under these circumstances, arrange 3 leaders conferences - the content of which is shared back on campus by the students. The staffworker's house is the centre of the movement. The students have to be confused in coming in so they do not know where they are going, they cannot share their full names or their place of study, there is always a guard, the neighbours do not know what is happening and the students must make no noise. In leaving the same risk in taking the students in and out, the same effort in making them confused. They have a great hope that one day they will see the end of this terrible situation but not the end of the growth of the movement. Pray for the govt of this nation. Pray for the students. Pray for the staff-worker and then board. The person who is the chair of the board comes forward and is prayed for by the IFES secretary. I'm weeping, brothers and sisters in prison for work that I sometimes get frustrated by, student leaders suffering, staff in hiding... it's been an emotional day and this is hitting hard. God have mercy and give your family under pressure real joy and strength in hard days.
Now students from Brazil arise to speak of the work of the gospel in Brazil. The students of Brazil are engaging the youth of Brazil in ministry. They are actively participating in programmes for youth who are at risk, raising awareness, teaching, praying: contributing to the National Youth Council. ABUB are in dialogue with others: improbable conversations. These improbably dialogues are engaging those who are on the edge of society - not conforming to society but seeking to be a prophetic voice.
A man walks to the stage and has a bottle of wine in his hand. John Neall - spoke about how the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union fell across Europe the day after he was born. He would become an IFES pioneer behind the Iron Curtain. In 1980 he came to Katowice, Poland and met a family who would become a powerful influence in Europe. Then visits to Hungary, meeting a Nigerian who had been sent to Europe to be indoctrinated but rather he found Christ Jesus because he was loved by Christians. Also in Hungary, John was asked to buy something for the doctor (wine) to help get medicine for the child. Believers made it a principle to share bread, companions sharing bread and sharing life and hope and work. The workers multiplied and the work grew. John screws in a 'wing' wine opener and speaks of how it reminds him of Jesus - the living bread, true wine.
Desmond Rogers (IFES Secretary for the Caribbean) speaks about some who comment that he must have the best job in the world. ISCCF Antigua - est. in 1960s by Brigit Harris, who returned from overseas and wanted to establish IFES work in the islands. The story is also a story of partnership - staff and grads from over the Caribbean; also a Norwegian, a student grad from Canada, seeking to strengthen partnership in IVCF USA. Also a story of student vitality - making a difference in lives. There have been days of great growth recently. A video plays detailing the context and work of the pacific - it is predictably joyful and full of music and love and it is shows a DEEP work of God going on in Antigua and Barbada. Leon Harris, an older brother, who has served on the board of 5 different boards in the region, prays for ISCCF: "in all the joys and sorrows, we submit to you the Lord of the Universe... God we commit to you those who will lead... for a renewal of vision... for resources... thank you Lord for the answers, for the provision, lead the leaders as they follow you in close relationship"
Again another movement working and founded in a social and official persecution. Churches are suspicious of the student movement - but still the movement seeks to engage the whole of life and the taboo subjects of the society. A student is exploring Christian faith and she knows the seriousness of the call and the cost - at the moment the cost is hindering her but Christ is at work.
Now Nick from the USA takes the stage. Opposites attract - a Polish American working among Latin students right on the Southern Border of the USA. On his first day he prayed in the University chapel - there was a student there and he chatted to that student, that gave the opening to the work. 10 students within the week. 20-25 students by the end of the first semester. The work is hard and rocky - it feels like the work has had to be restarted and regrown. Rick has struggled with frustration and wanting to be successful over faithful. The work sees God's work in the face of these circumstances and the work grows - God reigns and rules. All the Universities belong to God - and God's work is growing and developing. Rick's energy and warmth is amazingly refreshing. We prayed together earlier this week - I knew he was cool then, I think he's even more cool now.
Sem Thomas stands and tells the story of the Mark drama He looks very cool - my camera isn't here but I'll try and post pics later - a 90 minute drama by 15 actors. The drama took Sem by suprise when he saw it, worshipping in tears of joy and sorrow as he watched. The students in Belgium put it on - they only expected 50 students but 250 came. At least 100 non-Christian students came, some read the gospel and came back asking for information. One student was invited to share a part of the drama in a lecture and he performed the parable of the sower and it had a powerful effect.
Sem ends by saying Praise God - so the band come and we sing an African song expressing thanks.
Ricardo Borges comes and speaks of the work in Uruguay. The student response was at first negative. The work is growing through international partnerships, feeding and growing the work on campuses. 14 students recently applied for training as Bible study leaders after a GBU France visit. There has been progress but only 1 conversion. However that is not discouraging because the seeds have been sound and the work is growing and there are now many students of vision in Uruguay and the work has been reborn.
A man stands and speaks of 65 students attending a meeting in a totally closed nation, seven years ago. Seven years, on the student who helped to lead the conference is now pastoring a church. Seven years on 75 students gathered, even from opposed ethnic groups. Do not lose heart - invest in students lives, they are student leaders. Next week there will be 85 students at a conference. In another country in the same region - 3 women prayed for three years. One believing man was left in the university. A church leader heard and offered his church hall very close to the university. After an outreach a meetign started - 12 of the 30 attending the group have come to faith in the ministry of the group. Do not lose hope - God is never out of business.
Yando from TSCF Papua New Guinea, speaks of the invite to the 2008 climate change consultation. The issues of climate change are LIVE for the South Pacific. TSCF PNG is trying to take it on board and to engage graduates in the issues. The graduate network has just formed a political party, TSCF PNG is seeing to have Christian education to be part of the Uni and Colleges curriculum. We need to go back to God, they are thankful for AFES and TSCFNZ too. TSCF PNG are seeking to be faithful in the context of difficult days of climate change. A video plays and begins with the words - 'the see is like a mother to my people... we know one day our island will sink... most of our culture will have to live on in memory... if we have to move, I will be the last man to have my feet on this island.
Timothee Joset (French Swiss) French was once the language of Kings and Queens so I will switch to French so please put on your headsets... now you are all Kings and Queens. He reads the story of the the calming of the storm. The boat is rocked - by secularism, atheism - Jesus is on the boat though, the boat may sink. Jesus is asleep??? How often do we risk, even in IFES. We think this is really urgent, that the Lord should intervene NOW in our lives, movements, circumstances. BUT let us not forget that Jesus is on board, in our lives, in our ministries, in the Church, in History. Daniel reminded us this morning that we are often afraid. Do not misunderstand me - I feel very small as I hear stories from the countries under pressure - I am small. Maybe fear has entered into our lives? Where will we start. Jesus asks 'why are you so afraid'. The disciples witness his silencing. He then asks them if they have any faith. The stories tonight are stories which show that we are fragile, vulnerable, weak, and under pressure. Yet, without many answers, the answer to the question 'who is this that the winds and waves obey him' We must bne encouraged that Jesus is Lord of the universe and Lord of the university and Lord of our hearts.
The prayer: "it is not about us it is about your glory"
Nigel Pollock walks on the stage and there is a buzz around the room. He has become a World Assembly celebrity. Nigel does not begin with humour tonight, he invites us to talk to our neighbour and to pray. Nigel calls us back together and makes us laugh about things I won't blog about but he is suggesting that Vinoth Ramachandra, the IFES Secretary for Dialogue and Engagement, might want to take romantic status of unmarried staff into his remit. Nigel encourages us look after each other under God's care and closes with a Bon Nuit!