THE HISTORY OF EGF
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that You have done, Ps. 143:5a.
The Evangelical Graduates Fellowship (EGF) is a fellowship of graduates who are associated with the ministry of UESI. The EGF members fall into two main categories.
The believers who were the members of EU during their student days, i.e., ex-EU members.
The believers who acquired the burden for the UESI ministry either through the ministry of EGF members or through association with EU & EGF as a resource person or as a partner who felt the need to support the ministry of EGF after their student days.
All such believers, irrespective of their categories and educational qualifications, are known as GRADUATES. These evangelical Graduates have a definite commitment to the EU ministry and hence support the ministry in the following ways:
- By prayers
- By training and teaching EU students
- By being Senior Advisers to EU /ICEU.
- By being financial supporters
- By helping to organize the regional and State teaching and training programmes, along with UESI staff workers.
The reasons for the formation of EGFs
EGFs were formed in the early 1960s, and later, at a local level (local EGF) in different parts of our country for the following purposes:
After their studies, most of the graduates (ex-EU members) got scattered across the country and reached the unreached institutions, universities, and educational centers. They chose employment and /or planned higher studies in pioneering areas. They took up the challenge of being ambassadors to UESI ministry. There they felt the need for fellowship with graduates or other like-minded believers in their early days of loneliness and also to initiate the EU ministry. The graduates were quite eager to form fellowships, no matter how long they had to travel and whatever the number of persons who could come together. Two-member EGFs are still common in quite a few places. However, whenever and wherever they met, they have had Bible study, sharing, and prayer.
Since EGF is primarily to support the EU ministry in the locality and concerned about the total person, the students whom we reach with the gospel will have to be taught a lot of different topics such as Doctrines, Personal Bible Study, Study of Scripture itself and to be trained in a host of personal skills such as Personal Evangelism, Counseling, Witnessing, Group Bible Study, etc.. Therefore, a single person cannot manage the student ministry of UESI even in a local situation though it may be required most often. Consequently, support of a fellowship, i.e., an EGF is necessary for an effective student ministry. Local EGFs are formed for group support and to organize new student groups. Initiatives are to be entrusted to the students themselves and the graduates may help in the State and Regional EU ministry.
Hallmarks of the Graduates in the Ministry
1. Equipping students
The concern of graduates is not just to initiate or form a group in an educational institution or in a locality. They should equip the believing students to take up leadership in the campus and to pioneer Christian ministry wherever they would be placed later in their vocation. Students have their own (personal) problems – anxieties about their future, spiritual struggles, peer pressure, relationship problems and problems arising from their different family backgrounds. These shows how complex are the responsibilities of a graduate who is involved in discipling the students.
2. Graduate – the Model
The graduate should be a model for the students. In fact, in the history of UESI, it has been the lives of the graduates and staff workers that have influenced the students more than the teachings given by them. Their simplicity, humility, openness, open homes, accepting others as they are, able to teach, hospitality, sacrificial giving, practicing faith in daily life, punctuality, care giving, hard work, integrity, willingness to change, no expectation of any rewards or appreciation, good family life, knowledge of the Word of God, active involvement in the Church, personal holiness, and the like influence the students quite deeply. The lifestyle of the leaders counts much in the UESI ministry.
How to win the battle of disciplining one’s own life and that of the students? Only through prayer! In addition to personal prayer, graduates felt the need for collective prayer and gathered quite often for prayer sometimes in twos or threes or in small groups and at other times in All-Night Prayer, Fasting Prayer, Chain prayer, etc.. These were the methods used by the pioneers of the ministry. Most of the prayers were answered and more institutions and lives were opened for the Lord. Intercessory prayer has been another hallmark of the ministry. Thus, gathering on a regular basis becomes mandatory as there would be a lot to pray for.
As the ministry grew, the financial needs of the ministry also grew. More staff workers (full-time workers) were appointed. More retreats, camps, and other training programmes were planned. Sometimes, the basic financial needs of the students, who come from poor families, closed families (i.e. families that do not appreciate their children’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ) and from other faiths had to be met by the graduates. The needs of the ministry were growing on a large scale. How to find the needed funds for the ministry – public appeal? tapping foreign resources? or both?
The aim of the founding fathers of UESI was to establish a movement under God which would be financed by funds from within India. UESI did not want to depend on any foreign funding agency (though foreign contributions from individuals and groups were welcome.) The following article of the Financial Policy of UESI expresses the trust in God for the supply of all the needs of the movement.
“The UESI looks to GOD in faith and prayer for the supply of all needs. Membership fees will not be charged, nor appeals for money made to the general public. However, financial conditions and needs will be made known periodically by the Executive Committee to the members and to those who request for the same.”
Also UESI will not carry out any promotional activities for the specific purpose of raising funds, nor will any staff be deployed for fund raising. The financial position, however, will be made known to anyone or a group (not necessarily an EU) or a church that specifically requests for information of this nature. This will however, be restricted to believers or groups of believers.”
It was no wonder that the graduates had to set apart more money for ministry sometimes sacrificing one’s own needs. There was no compulsion from any one to give except from the Lord. This is known as sacrificial involvement in financial matters or giving in EGF.
Development of EGF
1. Informal fellowships to local EGFs
The ministry among college students, since the inception of UESI in 1954, owes a lot to the wise, timely, and prayerful help and guidance given by many graduates in this country even before the formation of local EGFs. Since the graduates, who were once EU members, could realize the need for their continued support for the growth, development, and strengthening of UESI ministry, they felt they should function as:
Prayer partners of ministry.
Ambassadors and extenders of UESI ministry.
Advisers and helpers to EUs and staff workers where such help is requested.
Counselors and co-workers where they are integrally connected to the UESI.
Such graduates met regularly to pray and plan for the local EU ministry. These local EGFs come together to form the State EGFs to plan and pray for the EU ministry in the whole State.
Eventually, the graduates had concern for the spiritual maturity of the graduates and also a burden to reach their colleagues. Many of those, who had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ from Christian and other religious backgrounds, joined the local EGFs not only for spiritual growth but for getting involved in the EU ministry. Thus, the Holy Spirit moved among the graduates to form EGFs to further the UESI ministry and minister among graduates.
2. State EGFs
The local EGFs became regular and organized as challenges and, of course, opportunities increased. The graduates had the burden to reach the entire State in which God had placed them, not only the students but the graduates. This resulted in the formation of State EGF, through the years, which became an auxiliary of State UESI in decentralized States and as an auxiliary of national UESI in non-decentralized States. Annual Conferences and special programmes were planned through the year for the spiritual growth of the graduates.
3. National EGF (NEGF)
National EGF was functioning actively since 1960s, as an auxiliary of national UESI, to care for spiritual growth and ministerial development of graduates. That is how the vision for National EGF (NEGF) got triggered off in the minds of the pioneers. Mr P.C. Varghese was the first Secretary of NEGF since 1962 and Mr P. Sathkeerthi Rao succeeded him in 1969. The first one-month study centre for graduates was held in 1963 at Kotagiri. After that, State EGFs were formed primarily to help EU ministry and consequently for the ministry among graduates. NEGF bulletins were published thrice a year. NEGF membership was renewed every year. Due to insufficient staff for the student ministry, the NEGF ministry could not be attended to sufficiently after early 1970s.
4. Professional Associates
However, since the National Conference in 1974, special attention was given to graduates based on their professions and hence three Professional Associates, Evangelical Teachers Fellowship of India (Teachers), Evangelical Medical Fellowship of India (for Medical Personnel) and Evangelical Professional Fellowship of India (other Working Graduates) were formed and started functioning, addressing especially the spiritual and professional needs and problems of the graduates. However, Evangelical Nurses Fellowship of India (ENFI) had been functioning since 1964 as an associate of UESI. In 1999, ENFI joined the Professional Associates of UESI.
After the National UESI Consultation on Decentralization in December 1975 and as decentralization was opted for, the EGFs in the Decentralized States were self-reliant in terms of financial resources for the respective state ministry whereas, in all other States, the National UESI had to continue its support to the State ministry, by paying for the staff worker(s) based there.
As ministry expanded, new challenges as well as new opportunities were thrown open. The graduates needed advanced teaching and training on contemporary issues which were relevant to them. This resulted in National Training Programmes exclusively designed for graduates. Co-ordination of State EGFs became imperative by this time as more and more State EGFs were formed.
From 1970 to 1989, the ministry among the graduates had taken a backseat at the national level. When the need for the ministry among the graduates was strongly felt and expressed, in 1989 UESI formed the Graduates Ministry Department with the Rev. Itty Mathew as Chairman (1989 – 1992).
The Specific Goals of the NEGF were
- To impart the national vision and promote fellowship among graduates at the national level
- To equip the graduates to minister effectively to students and graduates.
- To provide biblical standards on current social, political, and family issues.
- To provide career guidance through the help of Professional Associates.
- To encourage graduates to be active members of their own churches and mobilize prayer support for the UESI ministry.
- Prof. John Zachariah was Chairman of National Graduates Ministry Department (1992-1997) and Chairman of EGF (1997 to 2000).
A major event during this period was the National Graduates Conference at Nagpur in December 1994 in which 400 delegates took part. Eventually, NEGF was re-formed as an auxiliary of UESI in 1997. MrSurendraParmar was the first NEGF staff worker after the re-organizing of NEGF (1995 to 2004).NEGF is to disciple, teach, train, and equip our graduates and graduating students, thus to get them actively involved in the EU as well as in Church and other Christian ministries.
New Status of NEGF as a Special Body (w.e.f. Jan. 2012)
- As a result of new constitutional amendment of UESI, the UNB in consultation with NEGF Working Committee and other task groups involved in constitutional amendment, proposed to change NEGF status from Auxiliary to a Special Body. This was accepted in UESI AGM 2012 held at Bhopal. NEGF status and roles are therefore redefined as follows:
- that name would remain as NEGF.
- that the Graduates would be the members of UESI.
- that NEGF would no more be an Auxiliary, but be a Special Body under UESI and NEGF WC would report to UNB.
- that unlike other departments of UESI, NEGF would continue to hold Council meetings but this would hold no statutory value in the operations of UESI and Council could make suggestions on graduate ministry matters to UNB through NEGF WC but UNB would have final authority of acceptance of those suggestions.
- that the Chairperson of the NEGF WC would be a member of UNB. The NEGF WC and the office bearers would be chosen by the outgoing NEGF WC and the same be ratified by NEGF Council and subsequently, the UNB (in consultation with outgoing NEGF Chairperson) would approve the Chairperson of NEGF WC and then present the same for ratification by UESI AGM as he/she would be one of the UNB members.
- that NEGF would have two secretaries – one graduate secretary who would be designated as NEGF Secretary and one staff secretary who would act as Graduates Ministry Secretary and both of them would represent NEGF in the UESI AGM along with the Chairperson of NEGF.
- that along with the other objectives, NEGF would also take up Tent-Makers Initiatives (Cell) immediately to strengthen it.
The First EGF
“The formation of the first EGF in the country: Dr Sterrett suggested forming an Evangelical Graduates Fellowship (EGF) in Madras. They decided to meet together with graduates for a time of prayer. Thus, the first EGF meeting started at 39, Spur Tank Road, at the residence of Mrs & Dr. Sterrett, to think about starting weekly meetings for graduates in 1958.” (Excerpt from The Spreading Flame.)