Missionary Diary: The fruit of fatigue

Peter and Terry Blowes are Church Missionary (CMS) missionaries serving with the Argentine University Bible Association (ABUA). They served in north-eastern Argentina from 1986 to 2004. After ten years of Peter working for CMS Australia as a Mission Personnel Secretary, they returned to Argentina in 2015 to work with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students or IFES (Peter) and with ABUA, focusing on the capital city of Buenos Aires. Here Terry writes of her amazement at what God has been able to achieve this year while everyone has felt so tired and worn out.

The fruit of fatigue

2019 was a very fruitful year for our ministry among students with the Asociación Bíblica Universitaria Argentina (ABUA) in the mega-city of Buenos Aires. We work mostly through small Bible reading groups led by Christian students in the huge university faculties of the city. We were really encouraged by new and enthusiastic Christians who joined our groups and got stuck into outreach among their peers.

Then 2020 happened!

For all of 2020 and 2021, university classes were online.

Surprisingly, 2020 was another fruitful year as even more students joined our (now online) small groups, and they had time and inclination to add some extra Bible study to their programs, so we were able to teach several subjects of the MOCLAM seminary (Moore College Certificate in Theology in Spanish). It was so great to be able to add this strong biblical foundation – especially for our student leadership.

As 2021 progressed, universities and churches began to add more and more to their programs. Many of our students had to get jobs to help support their families. Students became more tired and stressed. And the isolation wore away at resilience and emotional health.

The team that ran Bible study groups while Peter and Terry were on deputation in Australia

Over the summer of 2021-22, we were in Australia on deputation, and our dedicated group of leaders ran our summer program and got the new year on campus up and running. By the time we returned at the end of April, they were totally washed out and gladly handed the wheel back to Terry as their local staff worker.

This year in-person classes mostly resumed, but after two years of no campus life, the new generation has no idea of how to enjoy the social and cultural opportunities offered on campus. They are so used to studying at home that they leave campus as soon as they can. Where groups used to study together and there was a lot of collaboration and mutual support, it’s more like “everyone for themselves” now, and the faculties sometimes feel more like a morgue than the busy, dynamic centres of activity they used to be.

Students having fun

So we have a worn-out group of leaders trying to encourage unwilling students to join and faithfully attend our groups. Because of the two years off campus, we have very few first and second-year students committed and ready to take on responsibilities. Ministry in 2022 has felt like pushing a wagon (or a wagon train!) through a bog!

And it’s not just the students who are tired and feel more comfortable in their homes in front of their computers. So do we! For everyone, it has been a real struggle to find the necessary energy to attend meetings, participate regularly and with zeal, and even respond with enthusiasm in WhatsApp groups!

So as the year draws to an end, I look over where we have got to and stop, open-mouthed, as I realise what God has achieved during this weary year. We have three new cell groups – not large but faithfully meeting up. In most groups, there are one or two younger students who are beginning to take on leadership. In a couple of groups, several non-Christians are exploring the faith. And we are celebrating three baptisms in these months of students who have come to faith in the past couple of years.

But apart from the statistics, God has worked despite our fatigue and has given the student leaders and us enough energy to persevere faithfully until the end of the year. Four out of five days a week, I travel on public transport between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours to different faculties to participate in their small groups. Sometimes three attend and sometimes eight to ten, but there are always opportunities to encourage careful Bible reading, to help with understanding of theological concepts and to counsel regarding difficult life experiences that the students are experiencing. I have also helped trainee teachers work through assignments for the course on “Integrated Sexual Education,” which has lots of challenges for Christian students.

The contacts and locations of all the Blowes’ cell groups

In student ministry, we regularly prepare workshops and Bible studies to train Christian students, but long term, the greatest fruit comes from the regular discipleship over the word of God as we model and teach it and see individual growth, and as we pray with people and love them with gospel-shaped love. I am so thankful for the mature group of leaders that God has enabled us to equip who are creative and wise regarding their own generation. I ask for your prayers regarding the new leadership that we need for 2023 and into the future.

None of us knows what 2023 will be like! Creating a post-pandemic campus ministry that has energy and vision, with Christ as the centre and foundation, is a great challenge and a goal that only God can achieve.

And we are so thankful that his power is made perfect in our weakness!