The long, hot Arabian summer is abating at last. University classes have resumed. For years, the ‘Middle East Student Fellowship’ (*name changed for protection) has been blessed with an unprecedented opportunity to reach thousands of university students, not only from the Middle East region, but from Africa and Asia as well. However, in the Fall 2020 semester, all the challenges of a global pandemic continue. Many of the schools are conducting classes virtually. The relational strength of their ministry has been somewhat crippled by severely limited personal interaction. The latest updates from student ministers ‘Stephen P.’ and ‘Michael N.’ acknowledge these challenges while maintaining a note of faith and hope in our wise and sovereign God. Please take note of their prayer requests and intercede for this ministry team that risks much for the sake of Christ.
“So, we want to begin our new year of ministry by recalling our Lord’s faithfulness over the past few months. We will share about challenges we have had and are currently facing, but we want to use that as a means to welcome you to pray along with us to our Faithful God.
More than 30 students from across the nation gathered weekly to work through 10 studies on the atonement of Christ. One African student came disagreeing about the necessity of Christ. “All I need is to live a good and ‘clean’ life”, he said. At our closing discussion, he commented how the summer has exposed how ‘unclean’ he really is. Pray that he wouldn’t stop seeing his sin and his need for Jesus!
I was encouraged to hear the following from a new believer when we finally met face to face for the first time in 5 months: “Honestly, COVID-19 and the lockdowns have given me the opportunity to search the Scriptures to study what a true church is! I didn’t know the Bible had so much to say about it.”
As we look ahead to the rest of the year, here are some specific ways you can be praying for us:
- We gathered with 9 key leaders to study Jonah and consider how God is sovereign, that He desires to save people, and that He is at work transforming even his messengers. One student leader spoke about his fear of sharing the Gospel and how he would never pray for opportunities. But as he studied Jonah, he realised that his heart did not fully trust God’s sovereign power to save even the hardest of people. Pray for us not to lose focus and for God to open doors for many of us to be able to read the Bible and speak of Jesus with the students here.
- Most of the classes will still take place online. All outdoor seating has been barred and the food courts are limited in seating. So we need to think innovatively about interacting with our friends, while practicing social distancing.
- Most of the churches here are still unable to meet and that does affect the growth of the believers. Pray that the truths of 1 Thess. 1:3 will be applied in the lives of our young believers.”
“At the end of August our staff team met in person for the first time in 5 months as we kicked off the academic year with a time of training. We welcomed four new interns and spent time reflecting on what it means that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and what it means to shepherd others, especially the students in our care. It was a great comfort to remember that Jesus leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake and does not lose any of His sheep.
While we face many limitations and uncertainties going into this semester, we are reminded that God is not limited and is in control of all things; we are excited to see what He will do this year. I am unable to enter the area of the country that I am responsible for without regular COVID-19 tests, so the majority of my interactions with students will be online this fall. Many of the students are still scattered across the globe, which brings additional scheduling challenges as we are coordinating five Bible discussions across four time zones. Pray that we would persist in prayer, rejoice in hope, and be patient in tribulation.
Last month my staff team and I hosted three retreats to prepare and plan for the semester. The first was with our student executive team, where we developed the vision for the student group and determined where to focus our efforts for the semester. We agreed that 1) we want to continue to be rooted in the Word and have that impact and guide all our activities as a group and 2) that we desire to grow in prioritizing corporate and individual prayer.
This fall we will host two in-person Bible discussions (one on campus here, and one in Ghana), and we will host three online Bible discussions for people in the Western hemisphere, the Middle East, and East Asia. One of the biggest challenges will be reaching out to new students, since they will all be studying from their home countries, but we’re thankful to see how God has already connected us with a handful of interested freshmen.
- That we would rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer.
- That we would be able to meet new students and have evangelistic opportunities.
- For students to take ownership of the student group and serve with joy in Christ.
- For God to save people and to grow the faith of students in these difficult times.
- That God would use our many struggles for His glory and help us trust Him.”