Thus Far and Further Still
A Curious Case of Uncultivated and Vulnerable Ground
Then Samuel… named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Sam. 7:12, NRSV)
Just a few months ago, in Perspective March 2019, I wrote that 2019 is to be the “Fallow Year” for FES Singapore – a year of rest and celebration, replenishment and listening. One would expect then for the ministry to experience a time of relative peace and calm, a time to be able to simply rest upon the many years of labour and reflect upon the achievements of the ministry. Peculiarly, God has since put FES through a rather different experience of fallowing these six months.
These six months have been far from being uneventful by the standards of FES. We were forced to deeply examine the ways in which we minister and engage with the students of today and in response executed some strategic initiatives to prepare FES to engage with yet another generation of students to come. Most notably, numerous listening exercises with students, churches, and graduates have been implemented to sense the “nutrients” necessary for FES to continue ploughing and sowing “the land” of student ministry.
Along the way, we responded to opportunities to revive some of our struggling pioneering Christian Fellowships (CF), like SMU, NAFA, and PSB Academy. It always surprises us how God never gives up on His ministry and continually calls us to respond in steadfastness. In so doing, we have learned what it means to run in fortitude with the ever-resilient God.
From a financial standpoint, FES experienced the largest monthly deficit in May 2019. We were compelled to rely fully upon God who then surprised us with a humbling gift from an unexpected source – a man who suffered from cerebral palsy but remembered us because he was ministered to by a student from the VCF Social Concerns ministry in the 1990s.
Yes, God has undeniably helped us thus far. At the same time, this fallow period has also made FES “learn more and more how God works [so we] will learn how to do [our] work… [and we] will have the strength to stick it out over the long haul” (Colossians 1:11, The Message).
With all this in mind, we present this commemorative 60th Anniversary edition of FES Perspective as two essential halves.
The first half consists of selected Life Stories of seven graduates from the different eras of the 1950s to 2010s across the various ministry sections of FES. These stories are meant to inseminate the ground with inspiring ingenuities, ever-relevant ministry convictions, and characters of servanthood. It is impossible to illustrate all the great works of God in and through the lives of all our graduates, but we hope that this selection helps us see how God has always been in at work in FES all these years.
The second half is an array of fifteen Student Testimonies from our current student leaders reflecting upon what it means to be a Christian student today, together with a brief timeline of the history of FES and an updated map of the CFs affiliated with FES. We hope that all this helps you to keep in touch with the current state of student ministry and remain ever curious of the intricate challenges that FES faces with the next generation of students.
This issue ends with the closing charge given by Daniel Bourdanné at the IFES World Assembly held in South Africa on 3-11 July 2019. His sermon was short and unassuming but drove home the point of how IFES should strive for the long haul. I believe his message is as appropriate to FES Singapore too, especially as FES is entering its “ploughing and sowing” years ahead. Hence, let me end with these quotes from Daniel’s article:
We cannot carry the message of God from a position of strength, power, and control. If we have to be the messengers of God’s hope, we need to start from the vulnerability posture. We go out as vulnerable people and this helps us to better understand our world, who is broken.
IFES is a broken and vulnerable movement, driven by ordinary students, guided by ordinary staff workers. We should maintain that level of vulnerability, because it should be our identity. Brothers and sisters, if we start playing power game, that will be the end of IFES.
Vulnerable people, broken people, broken organisation, go and serve the broken world! Go in peace from the Lord in this vulnerable mission!
FES General Secretary