Poland (MNN) — The 2011 International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) World Assembly can be summed up in one word: inspiration.
The IFES quadrennial conference hosted more than 650 delegates from over 150 nations. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was just one of dozens of student ministries represented.
InterVarsity staff went into the week-long conference (July 26 to August 2) hoping to gain new ideas and motivation for their U.S.-based ministry. Their prayers were more than answered.
Staff members agree that it was motivating to see how ministries in other nations jumped frightening hoops, how students were leading hundreds of others in a single ministry chapter, and how staff stepped fearlessly into harm's way when necessary for Christ. Some delegates at the Assembly had traveled miles on foo, and faced major security threats for even coming to the conference at all.
Tom Lin, InterVarsity's Vice President of Missions, says he met many ministry leaders from around the globe while attending the World Assembly in Krakow, Poland last week. He discovered that even ministries in persecuted nations have been able to make Christ's Word known.
"They figure out ways to grow student witness even in the midst of those difficult circumstances. We've learned a lot about ways to gather students, ways to reach out to students, and ways to grow student work even when not allowed on campus," says Lin.
Bob Grahman, who oversees InterVarsity Link, a mission that sends InterVarsity staff overseas, agrees. "It was really interesting to hear staff and students from secular countries in Europe which are way more secular than us, talking about how they conduct student ministry, how they share the Gospel effectively in very, very secular countries," explains Grahmann. "It was very helpful for us to go back now with some ideas in how to work in a more secular society."
Eric Rafferty was at the World Assembly as an InterVarsity on-campus staff member. Rafferty was inspired for the new InterVarsity chapter he's planting on the campus of University of Nebraska, Omaha after he met two student leaders–one from Nigeria–who were each leading over 1,000 students on their respective campuses.
"After seeing that picture, that's really what I want for my students: to carry leadership like that on their campus and have a bigger vision for the whole world," notes Rafferty.
After connecting with staff from around the world, InterVarsity personnel are not only motivated to work harder and with more determination, but they are now more keenly aware of the Lord's work not just on American campuses, but in universities around the globe. InterVarsity president Alec Hill says he was able to see Jesus as Lord in a broader context. The reaffirmation of God's global presence was enough encouragement in itself.
"I think it's our interconnectedness with the global Christian community," reflects Hill, "that there are student workers in Mozambique, in Peru, in Singapore, who, though they look different and they have different languages, we are one in sharing the Gospel and building Christian community among students and faculty."
InterVarsity has been building this community throughout American campuses for decades. Pray that their ministry will stretch even further and will be even more effective now. To learn more about InterVarsity's work, visit www.intervarsity.org.