Five steps to reaching international studentsby Sammy Joo, Collegiate Partnerships
International students have the potential to not only make a global impact, they can make a significant Kingdom impact, as well.
Reaching these students for Christ while they are here so they can take the gospel back to the people in their home countries is a strategic investment. But how can the local church reach international students? Here are five steps you and your church can take to reach international students.
Like all other ministries, reaching international students starts with bended knees. International student ministry does not happen without total surrender and dependence on the Lord. Most international students are coming from a non-Christian background. Like Moses, many will need a burning bush experience to meet Christ and follow Him as their Savior and Lord. Only God can do this. Not us. So we need to pray that the Lord would meet them where they are, save them and empower them to lead their people to Christ.
Meet their physical needs.
When new international students arrive at the airport in their host city for the first time, they bring nothing but one or two suitcases. They do not have cars to drive, mattresses to sleep on or microwaves to use for cooking. They are in dire need of help. Meeting physical needs provides a great opportunity to engage international students in your city. Pick them up from the airport or take them to the grocery or furniture stores. Consider donating mattresses, desks or bookshelves you are not using to them.
To learn about specific needs they may have, visit global affairs offices located on colleges across the state. Volunteer with these offices to help with the newly arrived international students. By communicating with these offices, you will create positive relations with both the global affairs office and the students they serve.
Meet their emotional needs.
During their first year, international students may experience a “honeymoon” period when they will be excited to learn new things about America. As their time here progresses and the honeymoon period comes to an end, emotional turmoil heightens, and they begin to feel as though they are in a virtual wilderness. Many international students suffer from homesickness and an identity crisis. As they ry to assimilate into this new culture, they experience numerous challenges such as language barriers, culture shock and loneliness. Students desire community because they just want to belong somewhere.
Churches and Christians can and should meet the emotional needs of international students in their city. Invite them into your home for dinner or a cookout. Don’t hesitate to accept if they invite you to their home. Allow them to stay in your home for few days during holidays. In this way, you will become a family to them away from family — a home away from home. Seek to build genuine friendships with them. Get to know them and allow them know you. Such openness will open huge doors to share the gospel.
Meet their spiritual needs.
As you become a friends and establish trust with international students, they will likely share more about themselves. As you listen to their struggles and pains, share about difficulties in your life. Share your story of how you met Christ and how He has walked with you in your life. Offer to study the Bible together with students who show interest. Read the Bible together and use questions to teach them to observe Scripture carefully and to discover the truth for themselves. Let them ask questions and ponder what they find. Take time to explain terms they do not understand. Be intentional to naturally bring Christ into conversations you are having with international students.
Make them disciple maker.
When international students come to Christ, encourage and celebrate baptism with them. Immediately teach them to share the gospel with their non-believing friends. Let the students learn from your example and challenge them to reproduce themselves as you have with them. Continue to encourage them as they may face persecution from family and friends back home. Pray for and with the students who come to faith that they will live the life of a true Christian in the face of danger.
Do you want to reach the world with the gospel? Be the burning bush that God uses to reach international students in your community and send them out to bring their people to Christ
Editor’s Note: Sammy Joo serves as a consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s collegiate partnerships team. This is the second of a two-part article series on reaching international students. In part one, Sammy shared how international students are like a modern-day Moses. These articles were adapted from the free resource, 21st Century Moses International Student Training Manual.