The Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES, formerly IVF the Inter-Varsity Fellowship) has been the largest Christian student ministry in tertiary education for over forty years. They have Christian Unions in all the universities in Australia and are part of the International Fellowship.
The current National Director of AFES is Dr Richard Chin. Richard migrated from Singapore as a child, grew up in Fairfield and graduated in Medicine, before training at Moore College for his work as a student evangelist.
This week he is leading the AFES’ annual “National Training Event”. This is one of the most significant and important events in the Australian Christian calendar. Christian groups from all the major Australian universities from as far away as Darwin, Perth, Townsville and Hobart will travel to this event.
The first half of the event is a five-day conference at the Australian National University in Canberra. That is where I will be speaking this weekend along with David Cook, the Principal of Sydney Missionary and Bible College. The last time I spoke there were just under a thousand in attendance but this time I am told to expect something much larger. The accommodation is apparently completely booked.
The second half of the National Training Event is a seven to ten day mission. Each of the university groups that come spend the time working in a parish church or country town as missioners for the week. This gives them a great opportunity to put into practice the lessons they learnt at the conference in Canberra. It also gives to the parishes a keen and energetic workforce for a week of evangelism just at the end of the school year and in the lead up to Christmas. I do not know the numbers at the moment, but I would expect about fifty missions will take place as part of the National Training Event.
The National Training Event of 2004 has special significance for student evangelism as they prepare for a major university outreach in 2005. The year 2005 has been designated by the AFES as the “Year of Tertiary Evangelism”. Each university campus is going to have a mission. The hope is that every student in Australia will be confronted with the claims of Jesus Christ.
As you can see, this is a very strategic ministry on many levels. The teaching of God’s word is always important. The evangelistic missions that will flow out of this Event will be very important to the parishes and country towns. The training of students in evangelism is important not just for the mission but also for their student evangelism back on their campuses next year and for many years to come; the National Training Event is the gathering from which we hope to recruit and train the Christian leaders of tomorrow.
Please remember this whole National Training Event in your prayers. Pray for the student workers who minister on the various campuses under the umbrella of the AFES and for their National Director Richard Chin. Pray for David Cook and myself as we seek to teach the Bible to these students. Pray for the churches that will host their evangelistic efforts. Pray for the students that they may be kept safe in their travels (especially for the Western Australian contingent who travel by bus). Pray more urgently that these students may so be set alight by the great news of salvation in Jesus Christ that they may spend their days in his service laying down their lives for the salvation of others.