It has been said that an American college campus represents the very microcosm of global culture. Statistics show that approximately a million international students from nearly 200 countries are currently studying in the United States, with China and India making up approximately half of those students. “You could almost say that every tribe from every nation, speaking every tongue, can be found on the world’s university campuses.” —Vernon Rosenau, BMM president 2016–2020.
The world is on our doorstep. Consequently, opening the door to an international outreach can be as simple as offering to spend one hour a week with a student struggling to grasp the English language. Or inviting them into your home for a typical American meal, which may be the first time for them. Handing out Bibles on campus (you may observe a student holding a Bible for the very first time), doing furniture giveaways, or offering to drive them to grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, or even to and from the airport. The possibilities are numerous.
For the most part, internationals arrive either steeped in false religions or devoid of any knowledge of the one true God. If you are blessed enough to lead to Christ and disciple an international student, you would be both challenged and encouraged as the student begins to see God within his own cultural framework. The student slowly but surely develops a personal relationship with God, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. “I came to the CBF Bible study because of the free meal and so that I could strengthen my English. But I found so much more. I learned about Jesus Christ. I held a Bible for the first time. It was a joyous experience—all these things.” —“Rosalyn” from China.
Most students who come from other countries to study in the US are curious about the culture they are entering. They desire to learn new things; some are even trying hard to fit into the American way of life. Others are determined to preserve their cultural anomalies in their temporary new home. Having a simple, heartfelt conversation with an international student is the best way to get to know him or her and open doors for a deeper relationship.
International students arrive in America through a variety of ways. Many of the countries these students come from do not have strong higher education portals. Some students are able to live on American campuses because of being part of a family with diplomatic or high-level government rankings. Other students come on an educational lottery win from their home country. Then there are the students whose parents have worked hard and sacrificed much so that their child could study in the United States. International students, for the most part, take very seriously their opportunity to pursue a degree in America. We would do well to respect and acknowledge that as we encourage them in their pursuits. All the while, we continue to point them to Jesus with a smile, a listening ear, the offer of a new Bible, a cup of coffee, the opportunity to teach them an American game, an invitation to our homes, the offer of a needed piece of furniture, or just taking the time to help them with their English. God is in all of these simple efforts and will reveal Himself to those students who are truly seeking.
With nearly a million international students studying in the United States, more missionaries are certainly needed in reaching them. Will you answer the call? It could make all the difference to a seeking international student, and it will enrich your life immensely as we each fulfill our responsibility of taking the gospel to every nation.