COVID-19 Statement 

August 2020

What a year 2020 has been so far!

In James’ Bible letter, he writes:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13–14)

With the rest of the world, we made our TSCF mission plans for this year and realise again that we “do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” The impact of COVID-19 has been huge. At present here in NZ, it appears we have been largely spared its worst. However, we watch in sadness as much of the world suffers the ravages of sickness and death. We have been reminded that our lives are “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Across NZ, many students have returned to their studies after lockdown altered their plans in the first half of the year. Some universities are reporting higher mid-year enrolments than in previous years, although many international students are outside NZ and unable to return to their studies. Universities and polytechs are taking different approaches to physical and online study, with most offering a mixed mode of delivery, which brings new challenges and opportunities in reaching students for Christ.

In July, for the first time ever our national conference, Summit, was held online. Whilst we would have preferred our original plans to meet together in person in Queenstown, we had the highest number of students attending Summit in recent years. Over three days students gathered online, focusing on Psalm 19 for our theme “The Heavens Declare.”

Our mission continues into the second half of 2020, both online and in person back on campus, with the resultant busyness of regular student meetings, outreach events and camps. In recent weeks, it has been encouraging to hear of some students making professions of faith in Jesus. Please pray for them to grow deep roots in Jesus to produce lasting fruit.

You may know that in anticipation of a decline in income, TSCF applied for the Government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy. We are thankful to report that we have been able to return the subsidy in full (as well as the interest it accrued). Whilst we have seen some impact on donations received, it has not been the 30 percent decline required to take the subsidy. We continue to trust God to provide all our needs to enable staff to support students in reaching their peers with the good news of Jesus. We are very aware of the generous partnership and support of so many people in uncertain and challenging times, and are thankful for each person who is part of God’s work amongst students in NZ.

We have rescheduled our AGM to take place at 2.30pm on Sunday 20th September, 2020. This will be held online, with a number of hubs around the country that you will be welcome to join. In the coming weeks, we will share further details of this meeting and how you can participate.

Thank you again for your prayer, partnership and encouragement as part of TSCF.

Ben Carswell
National Director, TSCF

May 2020

One of the great questions of the Bible is found in Psalm 137. It comes as part of a song of lament, sung by the Jewish exiles in Babylon as they long for Jerusalem.  

They ask, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4)

Over five weeks ago, across NZ, we went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemicAlthough the change to Level 3 has meant things are a little more relaxed than they were in Level 4we are still in a situation where the student scene is very different. As TSCF students and staff, we are asking the question “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” What does it mean at this time to be witnesses of all that God has done? 

Most universities and polytechnics in NZ are operating online, with a small number of researchers allowed to access buildings. Some students have returned to their homes in NZ and overseas, though many remain living close to the campus where they study. 

Student mission is challenging and has been rapidly changing, as we adapt to the restrictions we have faced. We have sought to look for opportunities, rather than just being frustrated. From the outset, as TSCF, we have been clear – our mission continues.   

In recent weeks, across Aotearoa, it has been brilliant to hear of TSCF student and staff initiatives to share the good news of Jesus with students. In Auckland, each morning students and staff have been joining online with others from across the city for a devotional time to start the day. In Otago, 16 students have remained in our intentional residential community “Harbour Light Base,” where, despite the challenges of isolation, our staff continue to invest in and disciple the student residents.   

In Palmerston North, Scott MacKay, our Manawatu Team Leader, delivered training on outreach for 15 students across the city. The TSCF groups in Hamilton and Tauranga have connected together for joint times of meeting and training. Elsewhere, other student groups are meeting, exploring a range of activities to connect with students on their campus.  

The COVID-19 restrictions have meant we have had to make changes to our national conference, “Summit.” While we were looking forward to all meeting together in Queenstown in July, this is simply no longer possible. We have made the decision that Summit 2020 will be an online gathering of students from across NZ. Dave Hodgkinson (TSCF Team Leader in Waikato/Bay of Plenty), and a small team of students and staff are developing a new programme for Summit, and we will be announcing further details of this in the coming weeks. We trust that the changes will provide new opportunities for more students to benefit from Summit. 

The challenge of helping TSCF students to “sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” is very real. We are thankful for so many people who have partnered with us in this, through prayer and generous financial giving. We know these are uncertain times for many, but would ask you to continue to partner with us in student mission in these challenging times. May the Lord’s song be loudly and clearly heard at this time! 

If you have any questions relating to how TSCF is responding to COVID-19, please get in touch with us at tscf@tscf.org.nz.

Ben Carswell
National Director, TSCF

26 March 2020

20 March 2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a rapidly developing situation, both in New Zealand and around the globe. Its impact is being felt by students, staff and supporters of TSCF, as well as the wider community. COVID-19 is an unprecedented health emergency, which we are trying to respond to in God-honouring practical ways.

As TSCF, we are seeking to make wise decisions in the challenges we face. Romans 12:12 reminds us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We remain joyful in the certain hope of our Lord Jesus, knowing and trusting that He is a good God who is in control, and that He cares for us. We recognise our need to be patient in affliction, knowing that this world’s troubles are only momentary in light of eternity. And we need to be faithful in prayer, praying for God’s mercy to bring an end to the spread of the virus, and for His healing and help for those who are suffering. For many, these are times of uncertainty and fear, so we “cast our worries and cares on Him,” knowing that “He cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Whilst we recognise there may need to be changes to the ways we seek to reach students for Christ and change them for life, we are clear that our mission and ministry to students will continue. Already we have responded by postponing or cancelling several regional camps, and will monitor other events that may need to be changed or cancelled. We are seeking to follow the guidance and direction of Government, health agencies, universities, polytechnics and student associations.

We live in an increasingly digital age, and should it be necessary, we are ready to make even more use of social media and digital networking tools for individual and group meetings. Alongside local churches, we will endeavour to provide ongoing pastoral care and discipleship, as well as supporting and encouraging outreach as students face genuine questions of human frailty, morality and purpose. We welcome your prayers for this, as well as for IFES student movements around the world, particularly in areas of significant lockdown.

Even as we face these uncertain times, we are seeing encouragements in student outreach across NZ. We are thankful for connections with new students in recent orientation weeks, and many conversations helping students respond to Christ in the midst of crisis.

As we face the challenges of student ministry in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would ask you to join us in prayer. Please pray that God would give wisdom as we respond to the rapidly changing situation. Pray that we would be flexible and creative in our response to the challenges. Pray that we would trust God to provide, and know His peace as we look after the spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of students. And please pray that God will use this time to bring students and faculty to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you have any questions relating to how TSCF is responding to COVID-19, please get in touch with us at tscf@tscf.org.nz.

Ben Carswell
National Director, TSCF