Revisiting our Roots
UESI is a student ministry that was born out of much prayer, with a single-minded focus on presenting Christ as Savior, Lord, and God to the students in India & discipling them, enabling them to raise a testimony to the historic truths of the Christian faith. This ministry was birthed at a time when other organizations working among students lost their spiritual focus. Though the ministry began in one state, the founder’s vision was for the whole student population of the entire country. They had the daring faith to name the movement as The Union of Evangelical Students of India.
An aspect of passing on the spiritual legacy is by recollecting God’s faithfulness. His glorious deeds in the past were an important aspect for God’s chosen which enabled them to set their hope in the Lord (Ps 78:4). We are to recollect the past, not to boast over or compare but to know why God raised UESI and to be challenged afresh to remain faithful to the God-given vision, and remain focused to serve God’s purpose.
An aspect of passing on the spiritual legacy is by recollecting God’s faithfulness. His glorious deeds in the past were an important aspect for God’s chosen which enabled them to set their hope in the Lord
The doctrinal basis of UESI declares and emphasizes what we believe as the core, central truths of the Bible and is interdenominational. The aims define our mission. The core values that were lived out described who we are and how our lives are characterized. The distinctives were guiding principles in our effective functioning.
From the inception, the thrust was given for personal quiet time, the study of God’s word, personal prayer times, and obedience to God’s word in all areas of our life. Students were clear about their commitment to the Lord, led a life of discipleship, and had a burden and vision to reach out to campuses. Dependence on the Lord was characterized by praying together. They learned to seek His face, by humbling themselves, examining their hearts in prayer, reflecting, and correcting as needed. The Lord was faithful, supplying every need, even as they trusted Him in challenging times.
Students learnt lessons for life – knowing God, trusting Him, the joy of seeing God at work with greater dependence on Him, emulating a life of faith and prayer, and learning to face opposition and ridicule as they gave importance to God’s word. There was a great sense of belonging and eagerness to join for fellowship. They experienced the joy of shared leadership, and teamwork as Students, graduates, and staff all worked together.
Staff traveled extensively, 3 weeks a month, having vast regions to cover. Getting confirmed tickets was a hassle and travel comforts were minimal, mostly wooden berths, with bedding and 5-liter water cans and boxes of useful small books that would be introduced and sold among students. But despite all the hardship, the highlight was the joy of meeting students, staying in hostels, all-night sessions, and being received by student committee members at the station. There were no telephones, only postcards were the primary mode of communication – when the foundation stone was laid for the office in Chennai, post cards were sent to all ICEUs giving them a great sense of belonging. Discipling and follow-up were also done through postcards.
As graduates moved on to other places, they fostered the expansion of the ministry in many places by investing in student lives, enabling them to be lifelong witnesses. Leadership positions were not sought but taken up as a God-given privilege and responsibility to serve Him. Committee members were diligent in excelling in the roles and responsibilities that were expected of them. Being accountable to God and to each other was very evident.
“Students learnt lessons for life – knowing God, trusting Him, the joy of seeing God at work with greater dependence on Him, emulating a life of faith and prayer, and learning to face opposition and ridicule as they gave importance to God’s word.”
Uesi explored many avenues to present the gospel to students – there were undated thought-provoking magazines, radio programs, adventure camps, etc. Professional associate bodies such as EMFI, ETFI, EPFI, and ETSF were initiated.
We Praise God for the growth over the years and with it come challenges and opportunities. We have more staff and graduates today, communication & travel is easier, and more resources are available. Students today have many options, distractions, and pressures. Quality takes a backseat over quantity. As David served God’s purpose in his own generation (Acts 13:36), we become discerning and effective in our generation as we wait on the Lord and listen to Him. As we disciple and mentor, we need to remember we are making disciples of the Lord and not of ourselves. Towards the end of his life, just as Paul testified that he was committed to the heavenly vision and was true to his calling (Acts 26:19), may God continue to equip us and enable us to be obedient to the vision.
As we remember the formation of UESI this month, we remember God’s faithfulness over the past 70 years. Times have changed, situations are different, our challenges are different, and we need faithful laborers who continue to partner with Him and enable the student ministry to be more vibrant and relevant today than ever before. While our approach and methods may vary, we need to reflect and examine our practices today and remain committed to the vision and the mission entrusted to us. Our adherence to the doctrinal basis, the aims, the distinctives, and the core values cannot be compromised. Let us dedicate our lives afresh and align our purposes with the vision given to us. Let us press on, keep focused, serving God’s purposes among college and University students.
Mrs Vijaya Parmar, Retired Staff, UESI.
(This article is a summary of the talk given on our formation day, 2020 for Bangalore EU & EGF)