Asian-American Lin to head national campus Christian group

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MADISON, Wisc. – One of the nation’s leading organizations serving Christian college students has named Tom Lin its next leader. He will become InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA’s first Asian-American president in August.

Lin, 43, will take over InterVarsity, an evangelical organization, as it enters its 75th year providing fellowship, outreach and other services on campuses nationwide, according to a statement Monday from the Madison, Wisconsin-based nonprofit group.

In addition to being the first non-white president of the organization, Lin is also its first leader to have started his career working with students on college campuses, in his case in Cambridge and Boston. The Harvard University graduate launched an InterVarsity chapter for Asian-American students at the school after graduating in 1994, and also began another across the Charles River at Boston University.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA is an interdenominational organization that works with more than 41,000 students and faculty on 649 U.S. campuses, both to provide communities for Christians and outreach services to non-Christian students. It also runs a publishing company, InterVarsity Press, and offers students mission opportunities in the U.S. and overseas.

Lin’s appointment to head the organization drew praise from other Christian and InterVarsity leaders:

“The real significance of Tom Lin’s historic appointment as InterVarsity president is not simply that he’s non-white or Asian-American, but that he is an Asian-American who ministers out of his own ethnic experience, who labors for solidarity with black and brown sisters/brothers,” said Duke Kwon, an Asian-American pastor, in a series of tweets.

Lin is currently the organization’s vice president and director of missions and has also spearheaded InterVarsity’s popular triennial student-missions conference, which draws participants from around the nation. He will replace interim President Jim Lundgren, who has been in the job for about a year.  

Lin’s own ethnicity reflects a growing segment of participants in its programs. While about 36 percent of U.S. college students – not including those from other countries – are ethnic minorities, and about 38 percent of active participants in InterVarsity programs are also minorities, according to the InterVarsity website. The group has 29 Black campus ministries, 34 that are Asian-American, five that are Latino chapters and one focused on Native Americans.

After founding chapters in Cambridge and Boston, Lin and his wife, Nancy, spent time on a mission in Mongolia, from 2002 through 2006, working with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, an InterVarsity affiliate based in the U.K.

“In their four years there they saw 500 people become Christians, when there was only one known believer in the country just 15 years earlier,” according to the InterVarsity statement.

Subsequently, they began to work with InterVarsity’s central region, where Lin was regional director serving Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. He started 16 new chapters between 2006 and 2010. The couple, who live in Madison, also began a family and have two young daughters.

Lin has also served on the Wycliffe Bible Translators board of directors and is the author of “Pursuing God’s Call” and “Losing Face & Finding Grace.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.