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By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice (Gen 22:16-18).
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:33-34).
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear (Deut 10:17-20).
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev 7:9-12).
It’s a new school year! Time to connect with new students!
Thousands of those new students come from countries where it is actually illegal for people to share the Gospel with them.
But they’re not in those countries anymore, are they?
This is, I firmly believe, makes the college campus—and thus Chi Alpha—the most important missions field. Not just the most important in America; the most important of all.
Take, for example, my own campus, Missouri State University. We are fairly in the middle of nowhere, by global standards. Even by national standards. Yet last year we had more than 1,500 international students from 78 different countries. The two largest international populations on our campus? Chinese and Saudis.
You may recognize these countries. Neither one allows any missionaries across their borders. They have small Christian populations who are not really allowed to share the Gospel. Most of the students that come to us have no idea about Jesus Christ. If they know anything about Him, it is most often just that Jesus is the God of the Westerners, and has nothing to do with them.
Yet, as much as those countries try to keep Christ away from their people, they send their people to us.
Jesus isn’t the God of the West. Our God is the God of the universe; of all people; of every tribe, nation, and tongue.
No matter how large or small your campus is, you have international students on campus with you. And many of them have never once had the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ, to put their faith in Him, and to be transformed and regenerated by Him.
You are that opportunity.
You may be the only chance they have to hear about Christ. You have a small window to connect with them, to be their friend, and to show them Jesus. Very few of them will stay here forever. Most will return to their countries, where it will be almost impossible for them to hear the Gospel.
Take advantage of that window. Use the opportunity God has created to draw them to Him!
Now, some words of caution:
- 1. Becoming Christian doesn’t mean becoming American. You don’t want to make them American, or even a Westerner. A Chinese or Saudi person doesn’t have to stop being Chinese or Saudi just because they gave their life to Christ. Jesus wasn’t American, or Western, for that matter. Christ’s people are from every tribe, nation, and tongue.
- 2. People aren’t projects, and they don’t like being treated that way. And people will sense insincerity. If you say you want to be their friend, you need to actually be their friend. Don’t only hang out with them when they’re willing to talk about Christ. Don’t hide who Christ is in your life. Value them as God values them: as a person, not a project.
So what can you do? Here are some ideas:
- Take internationals to the store to buy stuff! Even if they’re staying in the dorms, they still need to buy stuff to set up their lives here. They probably couldn’t bring their bedding and such with them on the plane. They need to go to the store. But they don’t have a car, they don’t have a driver’s license, and they don’t know where the stores are anyway. Offer to give them a ride! It’s a great way to connect with internationals and to minister to their needs.
- Cook with them! I love cooking with internationals. I love learning new recipes. International food has all sorts of new flavors and methods of cooking and such, and it’s endlessly fascinating. Food is a major part of culture. You don’t have to like everything, but you should try it at least. Cooking and eating together is a great way to connect with people and share cultures.
- Help them find things. Show them around town. If they need furniture, see if you can find it for them. Go with them to walk around campus and find all their classes. They have to do this as, not just as a new student, but in a new language, too. Be there to help them!
Remember: this is the best opportunity they may have to know Christ. Be Christ’s ambassador!