Part of the Equip program involves doing ministry with international students. This ministry involves students from many New York City universities. I facilitate English conversation groups with students who want to improve speaking English. The hope is to serve students by helping them with their English and transition to the United States. It also serves to build genuine friendships where the gospel of Jesus Christ is lived out and shared.
The English conversation groups have sparked several new friendships. Many of these have in turn led to Discovery Bible Studies. Honestly, I was not all that excited about doing ministry with international students at first.
International student ministry – genuine or artificial gospel sowing?
Before arriving in New York City, my ministry experience was solely relationship-oriented. I lived out the gospel and sought to share organically with people. The Lord used many of those relationships to bring people to faith in Jesus, which was amazing! Facilitating English conversation groups seemed too artificial to me. I was so surprised when it quickly led to new friendships and amazing conversations about Jesus!
To get to know each of my international students, I scheduled individual time with them outside of our conversation group over coffee or a meal. Getting to know them all was a blast, but there was one conversation that rattled me.
God works through international students
I was having dinner with one of my international students who identified himself as a Muslim. This student did not come across as someone who was very religious, but then he began sharing about his past. He told me he was an Imam five years before coming to study in New York City. Once he began to question who God was, however, he left his position in the mosque.
He realized he was following a religion that people told him to follow — instead of following God by his own personal choice. After leaving the mosque, he began dating someone, but his relationship fell through. This devastated him. He started having suicidal thoughts, so he decided to pray. He told God he did not care if He was the Christian god, the Jewish god or the Muslim god.
In the midst of doubt, he knew he needed something consistent in his life, and God was the only thing he knew to turn to. After two weeks of praying, God gave him a dream. In that dream, God told him to move to New York City because it was there he would find the truth he was seeking.
This blew me away! I had the opportunity to share the gospel with him. The former Imam is now interested in studying Scripture with me and starting a Discovery Bible Study with fellow students!
Moral of the story: do not underestimate God’s ability to win people to His Son. In my discomfort about ministering to international students, I doubted the Lord’s ability to use it. God continues to remind me that the Lord is in control and desires those far from him more than I do. Praise God!