The history of GHAFES is not like the history of many organizations. It isn’t the story of exploits of a single God-gifted hero who other people followed. It isn’t a chronicle of something that began in one country and spread world-wide. Rather, it’s the story of how God the Holy Spirit raised up small groups of ordinary Christian students on various campuses – UG, KNUST, UCC, who were determined; despite their weaknesses, to ensure that the gospel of Christ was proclaimed on their campuses. Some had never heard of any other groups elsewhere. But they had a passion in their hearts for the glory of God; and so they were delighted when they heard of students in other countries fired by the same dream.
The young people are like Fire seeds… may be candles being lighted across the campuses and nations, flickers of faith…you may call it…shining like stars in their respective institutions
Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, He has consistently provided leadership in the growth of the Church. Young people and most especially students have been used all over the world to play a decisive role in the forward move of the Church. God has used their energies and vision to propel the Church into renewed efforts for outreach.
Evangelical work in our universities and colleges is linked with the vision of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship – UK. They worked with the assumption that the future of emerging African nations depends to a large extent on how far spiritual and moral forces under girds higher education. For these students are the future leaders and policy makers who may even decide the future of the Church. Therefore they felt it was a strategic priority to concentrate their evangelistic efforts on the educated class.
Eight IVCF graduates working overseas, four in Africa, initiated Inter Varsity Overseas Fellowship. The objective of the fellowship was to create awareness among students in the fellowships of the opportunity for Christian service through secular employment overseas. They decided to also pray that many will respond to take overseas appointments. The leadership of the fellowship began to sensitize their graduates to go overseas to organize Bible studies for students but leave the initiative of Christian fellowships in the hands of those students.
By 1951, there were informal Bible study meetings going on in some lecturers’ homes on the campuses. By 1955 these informal Bible study meetings had been moved to the halls of residence. In Legon, we had Ralph Hulme, Alan Ward in Akuafo, and Mrs Hulme in Volta Hall whiles in the College of Technology, Kumasi, Mr. John Holmes was leading a Bible studies with attendance in the range of 20-30. Other enthusiastic students like Sodzi and Amon also started one.
However the Bible study groups in the College of Technology were the first to formally constitute themselves into Inter-Halls Christian Fellowship (IHCF) in 1956. They were also the first fellowship to affiliate with Pan-African Fellowship of Evangelical Students (PAFES). PAFES was born in 1958 as a result of pan African feelings and also the need to link pockets of young evangelicals across the continent to share experience and encourage each other. For they formed the minority in the Church then.
Six students with 2 young lecturers in the persons of Kwodzo Senanu and Denis Osborne, attended a joint Easter conference with IHCF in 1960. It was at this conference that Legon was challenged to formally constitute themselves into a fellowship. University Christian Fellowship (UCF) was thus formally formed in May 1961. Membership ranged between 20 and 30.
The University College of Cape Coast Christian Fellowship (UCCCF) was established with 5 students with Scripture Union background in 1962 at the inception of the University College.
The first University Mission was held in Legon and Kumasi in 1960. This was run every 3 years till the mid 1990.
Ghana Inter-University Christian Fellowships (GIUCF) was born out of collaboration among the 3 universities at a Christmas conference at Aburi in 1966. Since 1960, these 3 groups have had joint activities, especially their annual Christmas conferences and All for Christ Campaigns. GIUCF was born with a vision to spearhead the formation of authentic Christian witness on all tertiary campuses, calling fellow students to personal faith in Christ and a life of integrity.
In 1968, UCF embarked on an Urban Renewal Project code-named Operation Help Nima (OHN). Out of their social concern for the marginalized and the poor in Nima, the project was later on adopted as a national project by GIUCF.
By 1975, the member fellowships in GIUCF had increased to 8 with, 5 being colleges. The need to change the name to be reflective of others was apparent. So at the Christmas conference at Presbyterian Boys Secondary School in the same year, the name Ghana Fellowship of Evangelical Students (GHAFES) was officially adopted. The new name was to take retrospective effect from April 1976. 1n 1979 GHAFES adopted the motto: Knowing Christ and Making Him Known. 1n 2004 at a SNEC congress, students adopted Know Christ with the response, Make Him Known as a greeting.
In 1985 the annual conference was held in the long vacation rather than the Christmas holidays and the days were extended to 1 week instead of 3 days. It is however now 5 days. Responsibility for planning the conferences also became that of staff and not students. In the same year, the National Leadership Training was institutionalized for December. Today by our strategic plan we are gradually decentralizing some National Conferences like Issacharism and Ezra Conferences to Zonal ones while National Leadership Training seminars are in January.
Eventually, the All for Christ Campaign fizzled out and was replaced by the Student-In-Church-Evangelism (SICE). SICE took a national dimension in 1989/90.
1996 saw GHAFES expanding to embrace the Polytechnics.
In 2004 a maiden mission conference, Students Mission Awareness Conference (SMAC) patterned after the North America IVCF model was organized. In 2005 at Students National Executive Congress (SNEC) students together with staff adopted vision and mission statements.
Today, there are more than 40 million students in colleges, polytechnics and universities all over the world. They are the most influential segment of the entire global generation. They are tomorrow’s leaders in government, law, education, media and business and the church. That makes students a very strategic target. And it makes the GHAFES one of the most strategic ministries in the world today. However, only a tiny percentage of these global generations of students are Christians.
Tomorrow’s leaders that are shaped by a host of non-biblical and destructive alternatives are unlikely to shape their families, business and governments according to biblical values. We want to see not only the number of Christian students increasing but to see God raising up men and women with prophetic vision who will cause SEISMIC SHIFT and impact in their generation.
“Graduates and for that matter Associates have the power by prayerful involvement to make the student work strong, or, by simply forgetting it, they can starve their successors on campus of the resources they need”
GHAFES since 1966 has focused on our core mandate: we are committed to missions, equipping and empowering tertiary Christian students to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ and agents of change on their campuses, in their Churches, communities, the nation (Ghana) and beyond.
We believe in what Charles Malik (former President of the UN General Assembly) once said: ‘Change the University and you change the World’ and so GHAFES is working to see a clear gospel witness firmly established in every Tertiary Institution in Ghana. Our yearning, our longing is to see more and more students in these centers of learning to meet with the Living Christ ‘in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge’.
Beyond our ministry to students, is our ministry to graduates our associates. We want our graduates to be effective witnesses of Jesus Christ and to bring the presence of Jesus Christ into their professions, churches, family life and Society.