When you think about missions, international student ministry is likely not the first thing that comes to mind. Missions work is often about going “out there” into the world to tell the unreached peoples about the Gospel of Jesus. What is rarely thought about is how many unreached people are coming to us each year from all over the world.
If you do not live on or near a university campus, you may not realize how many international students arrive at universities all over America. Each year, there are 50,000 international students and visiting scholars on New York City campuses alone. Most of these students are here for a year or so. But through international student ministry, they have the chance to gain something more valuable than an impressive international degree. They have a chance to gain eternal life.
What does international student ministry look like?
It looks a lot like love. International students come from all over the world leaving behind their family, culture and friends. Most Americans pass them without a second glance. They gather in close-knit communities with other students from their home countries. Yet they are never offered the opportunity to experience America with Americans.
As I sat down with one student, she told me I am the only person she speaks English with, and she asked how she can talk with Americans. My heart broke, wondering why no Americans were talking to her. She is sweet, funny and super smart – who would not want to talk with her?
International student ministry involves many things, for example: helping them with their English speaking skills, teaching them to drive, exploring the city and having coffee with them. But most of all, it is giving them the opportunity to hear about the One who can change their lives for eternity.
Reaching the world
International student ministry may seem simple — love and care for the foreigner among you. This is not only Biblical, it is fun to do! Yet it is so much more. As these students hear about and become followers of Jesus, they carry fertile seeds back to their home country with them. These seeds can go on to produce a harvest of 30, 60 and 100 fold! The life-changing message spreads into these unreached people groups around the world, not by foreigners, but by the natives themselves.
International student ministry is full of possibilities. It is amazing to see students accept Jesus and pursue a relationship with him through community and Discovery Bible Studies. But it is even more amazing to see them get so excited to return home and share what they have found with friends and family. This Savior is not just for the West, but for the whole world.
Will you join in with the mission to reach the world?