Frail shoulders, big God 

It was a big calling. Nina raised her head from her prayerful position.  

“No, Lord, that is too big for my frail shoulders.” 

But the idea didn’t go away. Instead, God is using a new IFES initiative to bless and propel the passion he has been nurturing in her.  

Nina has a vision for her country. When she looks around at the criminal justice system in Cote d’Ivoire, she sees so many problems – overcrowding, poor treatment, and poor rehabilitation processes. She knows there is a way to redeem this broken system using her studies in psycho-criminology and theological practices. 

“I seek to contribute to the development of Africa, to develop a network of criminologists who bring solutions and answers to the broken criminal justice system, particularly in Cote d’Ivoire, to be able to open an institute of criminological expertise which will serve the whole of West Africa, where prisons are a real misery. I have always wanted to achieve these objectives, and for that I have committed myself to scientific research.” 

The goal of Nina’s research is to highlight the link between prison overcrowding and criminal careers and to propose a method of in-custody treatment that will help prisoners reintegrate into society and reduce the numbers in prison.  After writing her research plan, Nina still felt that she lacked the mentorship to guide her research along biblical and theological lines. So, Nina applied to be a catalyst through the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. 

The Logos and Cosmos Initiative is a new program from IFES which equips students, staff, and academics in Latin America and Francophone Africa to fund and carry out projects in the university which foster dialogue between theology and the sciences.  Nina was selected for the first cohort and will have the opportunity to be a part of scholarly networks and conferences, curricula and training events for campus fellowships and to publish study guides and articles. Participants are called “catalysts” because of their unique potential to bring gospel-centred change to their societies and universities through their studies. 

Although Nina felt the calling was too big for her, the Logos and Cosmos Initiative is an answer to prayer. 

 “[It is a way to] show through my research… that the solution to the crisis of criminal justice is not found in the construction of bigger prisons, but in Jesus.”  

Nina hopes that through her time with the initiative she will learn how to better integrate theology into her studies, to speak coherently on issues relating to faith and science, and to be able to share the good news through literature and social development work. 

As Nina embarks on this project, she asks that we support her in prayer. 

  • Pray that God will give her an open mind and new understanding of who he is. 
  • Pray that she will gain a new perspective on her field and how she can use it to share hope. 
  • Pray that she will see hearts brought to the Lord through her research, her witness, and the project she will run at the university. 
  • Pray also for the other 35 catalysts who are also participating in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative this year.  

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.