My previous post refers to those who were impacted through TAFES as students 20-30 years ago, after which they graduated and went on to have ‘shining’ lives. In campus ministry, it may be some time before we begin to see the full effects of today’s work!
What then can be done to create good conditions for such a future?
This is essentially what Mussa Kimaro addressed in his sessions with TAFES student leaders at the second national Leadership Training Seminar.
First of all, he explained, the TAFES vision is not for everyone. While TAFES student fellowships involve born again Christians, they are not ordinary Christian gatherings. Many students wish to join a Christian group at university or college, and there are various church fellowships catering to this. TAFES however has a specific transformative vision. TAFES student leaders need to present this vision so that students can freely adopt it for themselves and take it to heart, or else join another group.
If TAFES is not a ‘religious service provider,’ what is it? It is a training platform through which students can interact with others on campus. This includes non-Christians and nominal Christians. It also includes postgraduate students and international students, which is why TAFES emphasises using English language. The goal is to orient one another towards Jesus and promote reverence for God in the midst of the academic environment.
This is ‘worship’, Kimaro explained, that goes beyond praise and worship events. It is not that singing has no place, however our business is to engage the mind, and the time for that is limited. Praise and worship can be done at any time, in any church, but once you have left the campus, you have lost a unique chance for transformation. ‘God has made everything beautiful in its time,’ so we need to identify what the time is, in order that we may do the right thing at the right time. (Later on, Kimaro detailed how to go about this with a session on event planning.)
Interactions through TAFES ought to facilitate spiritual growth, said Kimaro. Providing the ability to understand and apply the Scriptures is what leads to maturity. TAFES graduates ought to be more than born again; they should possess a knowledgeable faith that can express itself. And this growth should be developed immediately: you can only grow creativity and leadership abilities if you give people the opportunity to take part in social transformation while still on campus.
All of this revolves around the higher education campus environment. This means that students’ rural mission trips are outside the vision (even if they are capable of providing good learning experiences) and so is ministering in secondary schools. ‘We don’t want to plow our neighbours’ fields,’ said Kimaro.
The on-campus interactions of TAFES will also provide a foundation for life after campus. Showing the above graph, Kimaro explained that we aim to increase both dimensions, competence as well as maturity. ‘If students are not competent, how will they impress the world?’ He applied the language used for New Testament church leaders: you must be respected by those around you; you must work like someone who will give an account.
As I noted previously, it has been difficult to maintain this vision over the last 20 years. Kimaro ended by asking how we can recover our roots in this vision. It begins with personal awareness: ‘understanding who we are not just as Christians but as strategic people in strategic positions. Do you know your role in the body of Christ for propagating the gospel?’ Then we need to understand the operation of the ministry itself. Finally, we can make a commitment, dedicating ourselves to the vision instead of waiting to follow the group.
‘Assess yourself; go and learn about the ministry; then decide to go and engage yourself in it.’
Header image: silver/aluminium pendant by Agnieszka Maksymiuk
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.