Laying the foundations for catalysts to bring change

A diverse cohort of students and scholars– all of them passionate about applying their Christian faith to their academic discipline – joined IFES’ new Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI) in April. Since then, these 36 “catalysts” have benefited from a transformational program of mentoring and training. 

So far, the catalysts have taken part in three online workshops, two e-courses and journeyed together through an online training platform that connects participants from 22 countries across Latin America and Francophone Africa. The goal is to equip these young leaders to run projects that will foster dialogue between theology and the sciences in their universities and local contexts. 

For seismologist Jonás De Basabe, who you may remember from this October edition of IFES Prayerline, the Introduction to Science & Theology e-course was particularly impactful this year.  

“The course gave me the tools to understand the relationship between my faith and academic work, and challenged me to analyze this relationship from a biblical perspective,” said Jonás, who is from Mexico.  

“It left me with a sense that we can meaningfully contribute as Christian scientists to our church and society,” Jonas said. “It also encouraged me to let my academic research be more inspired by the values of the kingdom of God.” 

Photo of Jonas De Basabe
Catalyst Jonás De Basabe from Mexico

For some, it was being part of a learning community that has been most powerful. 

“Being part of the LCI made me realize (as Elijah did) that I am not alone in this journey,” said Deborah Vieira. She recently completed her master’s in literature and now volunteers with several art initiatives with ABUB, the national student movement in Brazil.  

“I was encouraged that there are other Christian students desiring to delve into the Word of God and science in such an intense way so that not only the testimony of their work and experience can testify to Jesus, but the scientific production itself too.” 

In addition to learning about theology of science and biblical hermeneutics, the Logos and Cosmos Initiative is an integrated program. It trains catalysts in the knowledge, skills and character needed to thrive in whole-life discipleship, which includes their academic lives.  

Photo of Deborah Vieira
Catalyst Deborah Vieira from Brazil

Photo of Isaac Daama in graduation regalia
Catalyst Isaac Daama at his recent graduation

Isaac Daama, a geologist from Cameroon, says his studies through the LCI helped him succeed in his recent, six-hour-long PhD defence: it helped him to be a good listener. John Stott’s advice about attentive listening in his book The Contemporary Christian stayed with Isaac long past the assignment he did on this book in May.  

“This chapter taught me how to really listen to what my questioners and respondents were saying,” Isaac said. “It helped me be fully open to them and to not be quick to defend myself or stress my point.” 

Isaac now plans to apply to be a researcher and teacher at his university. “I believe this is where God is calling me for mission,” he said. “My training at the LCI has equipped me sufficiently to engage there as an academic, ready to fully interact with the university for its transformation.” 

His PhD may be complete but, Isaac continues to progress through a personal development plan as part of his training as a catalyst. Top of his list is developing his English skills since Cameroon’s official languages are English and French.  

“If I want to be excellent in my discipline, English is a must,” he said. “My university environment is more and more bilingual so it will also help me to better dialogue about my Christian faith.” 

The catalysts are now on the cusp of an exciting new phase: planning their first projects. Most recently, the catalysts have been conducting field research, pilot projects and consultations with their national movement. Their projects, which could take the form of conferences, publishing initiatives and scholarly networks, will launch in Spring 2022.  

Isaac, for example, wants to start a science and theology group on his university campus. “This ‘cell’ will incubate Christian students for an inclusive, prophetic, constructive dialogue for the glory of Christ,” he said.  

While the current catalysts will apply to progress onto the second year of this five-year program in Spring, the LCI will also be accepting applications for more catalysts. Applications open on 1 February 2022 on the LCI website.   

Please pray with us for the Logos and Cosmos Initiative and the catalysts: 

  • Thank God for the catalysts and their passion to live as disciples of Jesus in their academic communities 
  • Pray for wisdom for the catalysts as they plan their projects and for fruitful collaborations with their national movements 
  • Pray that God would draw the right candidates to apply for the next phase of the program  

The apologetic scientist

God had the answers. Jonas just knew it.  

Though he came from a family of atheists and agnostics, he could never quite deny the existence of God. At 15 years old, he heard the gospel in a small church in Tijuana, Mexico and gave his life to Christ. 

As he grew in his faith, he started to have questions. He did not carry the same skepticism as his family, but he was very interested in apologetics. Frustratingly, he had no one to share this interest with. In his church, they considered having questions as evidence of a lack of faith. Jonas learned to keep his concerns to himself. 

Jonas found peers when he went to university. He helped begin the first student movement in Baja California, which soon became part of the Mexican national student movement, COMPA. 

His friends from COMPA encouraged him to search the Bible for answers. Through their influence he also discovered apologetic authors like C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. Jonas says, 

Photo of Jonas De Basabe

“It gave me great enthusiasm to know that faith is not irrational. On the contrary, I understood that we must include the mind in our devotion to God in order to love Him with all our being.” 

Since leaving university in 1998, he has helped countless students address similar questions. He served as a student leader with COMPA, then as a volunteer. He has also started new apologetic groups around the region. Now working as a researcher, he wants to help students develop an integrated view of science and faith. He became a “Catalyst” in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI), a program from the IFES Engaging the University ministry, receiving mentorship, resources, and support to bring his ideas to fruition. 

“With the help of Logos and Cosmos, I would like to be able to get in touch with Christian and non-Christian students who are struggling with scientific or pseudo-scientific questions about faith and help them find answers and harmonize university knowledge with what they learn in the Bible. I believe it is possible to have an integrated view of reality by doing justice to the Bible and science.”   

Jonas hopes to start small groups and reading circles to discuss issues of science and faith. He is also interested in using his research to explore the theological implications of mathematics, hoping that it will give him opportunities to share his faith with his colleagues and students.  

Pray with us for Jonas and the other LCI Catalysts integrating their faith with academics. 

  • The university where Jonas works is mainly focused on research and graduate studies. This means that it can be difficult to find undergraduate students. Pray that God will lead Jonas to undergraduates who are seeking spiritual answers.  
  • Pray that Jonas will have many spiritual conversations with his colleagues through his research.  
  • Pray for students who have big questions about faith. Pray that they will meet someone like Jonas who can guide them towards answers in Scripture.  

Want to meet Jonas for yourself? Watch this video and hear him explain why he was excited to join the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. 

INTRODUCING YOU TO ONE OF OUR CATALYSTS: Jonás from mexico

Jonás De Basabe is a professor in Earth Sciences and a researcher in the Seismology department at his university in Mexico. He has been involved with COMPA (the IFES movement in Mexico) since he started as a student in 1996, and has kept in touch, staying committed to what COMPA does and acting as a supporter.

Jonás struggled with the disconnect between faith and science as a teenager where questioning one’s faith was viewed as spiritual doubt and was discouraged. He has discovered that faith answers many questions that science raises and vice versa and his hope is to bring these discussions into normal academic life to give both Christian and non-Christian students an integrated view of reality. 

Here he shares how he is benefiting from being a Catalyst in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative.

INTRODUCING YOU TO ONE OF OUR CATALYSTS: Deborah from Brazil

Deborah Vieira has just completed her Master’s in Literature at her university in Brazil. She helped to pioneer the Christian Union in her university when she first began her studies. She has served as secretary of Arts and Culture for her IFES national movement, and has discipled many other members, especially those in the Arts. 

Deborah is part of an Arts and Culture university group where discussions between culture and religion are encouraged, but she has found that these conversations sometimes lack grace and understanding.

Her hope is to further her research about the theological understanding of arts and culture to bridge the gap between Christian and secular beliefs and debate. Here she shares why she wanted to become a Catalyst in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative.

Introducing two of our catalysts: Paul and Remy

Paul Kémo MANSARE  is from the Republic of Guinea (Conakry) and is an Agro-Economist studying towards his doctorate in Accounting Management. He is married to Marguérite  and they have 5 children.   

For the past seven years, Paul has been working for the IFES movement in Guinea (GBEEG) as Travelling Secretary for Middle Guinea. He is passionate about pastoral care and helping young people, particularly in entrepreneurship.

Please pray for Paul, that his participation in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative will strengthen and equip him as she seeks to serve God in the University.
Paul Kémo MANSARE 

Remy Ocon

Remy Ocon is from El Salvador and is studying Sociology. She has been involved in the IFES movement in El Salvador (MUC) for the past six years as a student leader, student representative, student council member, and staff worker. 

Remy is passionate about raising up women of faith in Latin America. She sees an opportunity in her field of Sociology to challenge and change the discussions around society and faith. 

Please pray for Remy, that her participation in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative will strengthen and equip her as she seeks to serve God in the University.

Mentorship and Catalysts

Today, discussions about science and religion are dominated by scholars who have spent their careers in elite Western universities and seminaries. Their work has greatly enhanced the quality and richness of these dialogues but does not benefit from the diverse experiences and perspectives of scientists in the Majority World. There is a need to raise up a new generation of thought leaders and communicators who can creatively address modern audiences with integrity, not only in the West but in the entire world.  

The Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI), funded by the Templeton Foundation, is a five-year project that will focus on mentoring young leaders, particularly from Latin America and Francophone Africa. As part of IFES’ Engaging the University ministry, the program invites students, staff and academics to apply to be “catalysts”. Through biblical mentoring, skills-training and funding, the LCI will equip roughly 80 catalysts over five years to plan and carry out projects that draw together theological and scientific perspectives. Catalysts will run projects that foster dialogue with the sciences, both social and natural.  

Alejandra Ortiz, a co-coordinator for the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in Latin America, is currently selecting the catalysts for her region. As a member of the Engaging the University team in Latin America, she has always encouraged students and staff to connect their disciplines to their faith. Now through LCI, she says this ministry will be emphasized in a strategic way.  

“[We hope LCI will] provide formation for key people in the national movements and subregions, that they may become resources and mentors for others in how they relate their disciplines to their faith. We aim to see staff, students and movements who engage with the whole of the university and to invest in key people to model and inspire.” 

Although these projects will begin at the campus level, they are expected to expand to national and regional levels. Working in close partnership with IFES national movements, the LCI will nurture a new generation of Christian leaders to bring theology to bear on major issues in their disciplines and produce relevant resources in their context. 

Dr Klaingar Ngarial, Regional Secretary from Francophone Africa, writes,  

“We believe that the gospel has something essential to say in all disciplines, whether it be politics, economics and science, or ethics, education and the arts. We want to see the followers of Jesus authentically involved in all aspects of campus life and debate, so that the message of the gospel reaches and transforms all dimensions of the university. The LCI will redefine and redesign the profile of the GBU of tomorrow. We see in the LCI a lot of promise for the development of national movements in Francophone Africa.” 

Pray with us this week for the coordinators, catalysts, and mentors of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative: 

  • Give thanks with us for this new program and for the dedicated team of people working behind the scenes to make it happen.  
  • Pray for many strong applications to the catalyst program. 
  • Pray that this program would have a long-term impact on individuals, movements, the university, church and society.