Editors note: Missions Catalyst e-Magazine is a free, weekly electronic missions digest designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. It includes missions news, practical ministry ideas, and helpful resources. Use it for your prayers, and pass along what you learn to anyone you think would be interested! Resource Reviews, edited by Marti Smith, appear monthly. You can find Missions Catalyst here.
A few days ago a roadside bomb killed nine soldiers in Eastern Turkey. Soldiers get killed every day all around the planet. It s indicative of some deep sin and sickness in our species, but it s also an occupational hazard of soldiering.
The headline caught my eye because of a friend of mine. A couple of years ago we shared some fun times with a handful of Turkish students from the university in our town in Colorado. One of them returned home at the end of the term to complete his military service so he could get married. I wonder if he was on that patrol? My care for him makes this headline jump out at me.
We have now moved to rural Indiana. In the woods a half mile down the road from us lives an octogenarian couple who have changed the world by reaching out to people like my Turkish friends. In 1967 they began to welcome international students from Ball State University into their home and lives. Forty years of caring won them with friends around the planet. They know global leaders in politics, business, and academia. They inspire me.
International student have got to be one of the coolest things about the world today. Imagine flying halfway around the planet to get educated! For most people throughout most of our species history it was unthinkable, and for some it still is. But here in the U.S. more than half a million students are showing up every year. And I would guess the dynamic is at work in many other countries as well.
For people like us who are eager to see God s kingdom grow, international students provide a rich opportunity to delight in God s creation. We have a chance to learn firsthand about some of the winsome peoples and cultures God has created. We can show people who have never seen it before how a follower of Jesus lives and loves. And perhaps we can build relationships of sufficient depth that we can discuss the deep things of God, life, and the world. (If along the way, you get to enjoy some baklava or a great curry, well, that s just a little preview of Heaven, isn t it?)
The other reason I m big on international students is that it gives us (who are also eager to pass on our passion for the nations) a way to show our friends that world even if they never leave their town. In fact, if it works right, the world comes over to their house for dinner and a game of cards.
People will work with great vigor for a vision that has captured their heart. When you ve cried with a Chinese girl, halfway through her first semester in the U.S., because she misses her mom, you lose your heart. When you pray with a young Jordanian man because his father passed away in Amman and he was here, you lose your heart. When you drop your friends at the airport to return home at the end of the term, your heart goes with them to India.
Many of the people we go to church with will, for good or bad reasons, never leave their home country. But some of those might be willing to open their heart and home to an international student. How can we facilitate that?
1. Model it.
I can’t do everything I encourage other people to do. Oh sure, some of it I m just afraid of, but there s also the reality of limited minutes. Even so, I ve lately felt challenged by the importance of modeling. My family and I are not great at hosting international students, but we re giving it a go. I d encourage you to do so as well, if you re asking others to. (In the immortal question posed by Rob Bell, Are you smoking what you re selling? )
2. Connect with International Students Incorporated, or your country s equivalent.
What a great organization! Even if you don t live in the U.S., I encourage you to check out their web site. These guys have been walking the talk for more than 50 years.
3. Decipher the sponsorship/hosting process at the local university.
I ve tried to figure out how it all works at two schools so far, and in both cases it was more difficult to navigate than I thought it would be. This might indicate a couple things: One, that I m a little slow on the uptake, which is likely. And, two, that unless people are very determined, they ll give up. Will you take on the role of figuring out the process and making it accessible to interested folks? I m all for participants demonstrating commitment, but not with an 18-click-deep message that instructs you to call and request a form that you then fill out and mail back. Yikes! [Just a minute ago, a co-worker asked me about the program at our local university. I grabbed the school s application from a file folder and tossed it on her desk. Once she s filled out the form, I ll get it in for her.] How can you make it easy for Lou and Sue in the pew to connect with Nazir from Kashmir?
4. Befriend the international student program staff at the nearest university.
You could file this under subversive mobilization. The woman who heads up international student efforts at the school near us is sharp and I like her. I ve made an effort to get to know her. She s worth that on her own merits. But, just between you and me (oh, she knows it too), I want her to know me. I want to be the go-to guy when Muslim students who come to our school, and I want her to feel good whenever the name of my church comes to her mind. I want to serve her purposes and make her job easier. The easier her job is, the more likely it is that international students will be made welcome and cared for.
5. Set a goal for the number of families from your church you want to connect with international students.
As you’ve heard maybe too many times: If you set a goal, you might not reach it, but you will reach farther than you would have without a goal. For me, this fall, the goal is 20 families. I m a part of a large church and 20 families is sort of lame. But it will be four times as many as we had last year, and I m still a novice at this. It will also mean 20-30 students will get to hang out with some people who love Jesus.
For the “full” edition of this article and the latest feed from Missions Catalyst details, click here!.
Missions Catalyst e-Magazine is a free, weekly electronic missions digest designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Please use it for your prayers, pass along what you learn to others, and forward this edition to anyone you think might be interested.