“I have faith in you…”
Such were the words of National Director Christy Jutare. She expressed her trust to some 160 student-leaders in different parts of the country who attended the online National Leadership summit. “This is your time to reach your generation.”
On a normal setting, the nine regional units hold leadership summits at the start of the school year. The summit is usually a time of training, evaluation and planning, over a period of several days. As it was, two six-hour days could not cover much compared to a typical leadership summit. But the time on July 15 and 16 were just enough to lay down the foundation and framework for these student-leaders. Themed “The Apprentice” from the Apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy in II Tim. 2:2, the summit aimed to prepare and equip students to be servant-leaders and ministers in this new normal. Ptr. Rei Crizaldo’s tandem expositions on the verse focused on trust and train. Weaving images from Star Wars, Naruto, Samurai X, original Greek meanings, the first century culture, and his wit with words, Ptr. Rei came up with a tapestry of a powerful message: “Christianity is founded on trust and learning how to fully entrust something to someone.”
God Himself trusted Jesus who, as a human being, “was endowed with the same freedom Adam and Eve had” and could have “changed the game plan of salvation.” After Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday, he left the mission incomplete and trusted a band of disciples to continue the work. To that degree, God also trusts each staff, student, and graduate to complete His mission among the students. Charlie, a student from Bicol, was amazed and affirmed because “pinagkatiwalaan ako ng Lord sa ministry na ‘to, yung pag-share ng gospel sa ibang tao (the Lord entrusted me this ministry of sharing the gospel to others).” Education student Rowena shared a similar affirmation of her calling “to be a disciple, make disciples, and teach others to disciple.” Pastor Rei’s conclusion was unambiguous: “The point is never really if we are capable. The point is we were chosen and from the many, we get to be entrusted with the message of grace.”
With this frame in mind, National Director Designate Ate Di Fernandez further defined the students’ identity and mission: “You are the frontliners of this mission. You are the main players. The staff and volunteers are coaches.” She, too, expressed trust and belief on the students’ capacity to reach out to their fellow students. UP-Cebu student Clive was reminded that “the initiative for change rests on students, especially those who already have Christ in their hearts.”
A session on mental wellbeing found a home in the hearts of many attendees. Dr. Lou Mandalupe’s words were an honest assessment: “If you are affected [by this COVID-19 pandemic], then you are quite normal.” She stressed that the pandemic crisis has caused many sudden changes in everyone’s life. These stresses in turn brought about depression, anxiety, panic attack, and sleep problems. But she provided practical ways to cope with this crisis. “I really do have struggles emotionally,” Rae Ann from Southern Mindanao admitted. But through the session, she realized the importance of having an outlet, having someone who listens, and having her focus on God.
Another key topic in this NLS was Intentional Discipleship. Senior Staff Eumir Villamor worked on a profoundly simple premise: “Disciples are not defined by their relationship with things but with their relationship with God.” Disciples, he said, are called to be with Jesus first, and to be sent out by and with Jesus. His online-friendly approach on discipleship guidelines cut both ways. They were designed for a leader’s personal discipleship and his/her “apprentice/s.” “Natutunan ko din na kailangan kong maging creative on how I will reach out (I learned the need to be creative in reaching other students out),” Alyssa, a student from Southern Luzon shared. “A discipleship grounded in friendship, intimacy and genuine relationship will be more effective,” Aklan State University adviser and volunteer Frensie observed.
The National Leadership Summit was just the first of several steps that IVCF is taking in this new normal and new school year. As God’s trusted apprentices, the staff, students, and graduates link their virtual hands as they work together in student witness. As God trusts us, so we trust Him.
A day after the NLS, students and graduates took part in the consultation process, the results of which would be the basis for the IVCF Philippines’ strategic plan in the next three years. Key strengths – life-changing camps and conferences, strong relationships, transformative Bible study groups, clear discipleship process, supportive and generous graduates, competent staff, and high student initiative – would be the movement’s tools in dealing with its weaknesses, risks, and opportunities in these times.
KENNY D. EBO
Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship Philippines