Coming to you today from the Rosen Center in Orlando. The entire InterVarsity staff team is together this week meeting, eating, gathering, worshiping, praying, searching scripture and hearing stories of God’s work among university students and faculty. As I mentioned in my last post, today is fasting day. We’re seeking God to bring a new work among us and through us on campus. Would you take a few minutes somewhere in your day to pray for us?
Last night in our plenary we heard from Robel Chemeda, General Secretary of the Ethiopian IFES student movement known as EvaSUE. Some of our leadership spent time with Robel in Addis Abbas in 2019 seeking to learn from a truly remarkable student movement.
James Choung, one of our national leaders interviewed Robel. It went something like this:
James: So you lead a movement of 50,000 students with a staff team of 70 people. There are about 1,400 InterVarsity staff workers in this room who are dying to know how you do it?
Robel: We actually can’t do staff work the way you do here – our students aren’t given permission to meet on campus. They have to meet where they can off-campus. Staff members are there for support, but most things are led by students. Small groups are a very big deal. And we experience quite a bit of persecution. Many students have rocks thrown at them. Students and staff have actually been sent to jail!
James: Jail? Who sends them to jail?
Robel: Christians. Many churches are infected with legalism and don’t like the student movements.
James: God is obviously blessing their faithfulness. It doesn’t seem to slow the growth of your movement. What impact does the persecution have on them personally?
Robel: They are actually happy about the persecution – they count themselves blessed to share in Christ’s suffering. It builds their faith instead of tearing it down.
James: What is the secret to their resiliency? How can they stay so strong in the face of persecution?
Robel: It’s their discipline of prayer and fasting.
James: Could you describe that for us?
Robel: When our students call a prayer and fasting gathering they will decide to skip breakfast and lunch. They will meet up at about 9:00am and pray without stopping till 3 or 4 in the afternoon. They pray in “one voice”. One Voice is when everyone is praying out loud at the same time.
James: You mean, students pray for 6 hours? Do they like that? Do they take breaks? Why do you do it that way?
Robel: They are so encouraged to be together. They sometimes have to find creative places to meet so they aren’t harassed. Students who are new find it a challenge at first. But they long to be together. It’s scriptural to gather – that’s what they see the early Church doing in Acts. They don’t take breaks!
James: We’re here this week to cultivate our longing for revival. Your movement has grown incredibly in the last several years, but that’s not what you’d call revival?
Robel: The growth we’re seeing in our movement now was actually rooted in much more severe testing Christians experienced in the past. EvaSUE was born out of the spiritual climate of the 1960s. It totally went underground for a period of about 8 years. People much more fervently sought God in daily sustained fasting and prayer (eating just one meal a day and praying multiple hours a day). In our experience revival is when the kingdom grows though intensity of trails and results in extensive growth every where!
That was last night’s set up for our day of fasting today. As I write this the InterVarsity staff family has spent this whole day (following breakfast by the way) in prayer and scripture. We’ve begun with an extended season of prayer of lament. Lament over the needs we see in our nation’s universities and colleges. The mood is pretty heavy. I’ll have to give you an update in my next post. Please keep us in your prayers!