I did not want to be a conversation partner. I really didn’t. Spending an hour with someone who had just come to this country and spoke broken English was a terrifying thought. I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to talk about. But Kim (my small group leader) had been encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone, so when Scott (our XAi director) asked me to help out, I said yes. I never knew I could learn, grow, and be changed so much by spending an hour with an international student. After meeting with Xiaoyu, I realized how wrong I was. In that hour, my conversation partner quickly became a good friend.
When I think about how much working with international students has impacted my life, I’m blown away. I can see God’s will for my life—and for theirs—so clearly displayed. Do you ever think about how blessed we are to know Jesus? What about the knowledge that He’s given us for His Word? We have access to Scripture and people to guide us along as we learn about Him, but not everyone does. We were in small group one night, and my lesson was heavily based on David and Goliath. I assumed everyone knew the story, so I started in on the lesson without reading the verses. A few minutes into the lesson, I mentioned David again and one of our international students said, “I don’t know who that is.” After I realized how careless I had been, our entire small group took time to tell the story of David and Goliath the way we heard it when we were young. It was so much fun, and Sijie was intrigued. More importantly, she began asking more questions about other stories in the Bible. God really pushed me to spend time learning more about those stories, the ones I had heard a thousand times. His Word is truly living and active, and I listened as I read. I was pushed to learn so much more about these stories I had grown up hearing, and I thank God that He used Sijie to motivate me.
As I developed friendships with more and more international students, I realized many of them were Chinese. I started taking Mandarin classes at school. Initially, it was something I thought I was just doing for fun, but I slowly began to realize that God had a greater plan, as always. As I began to realize that I was not in the right major, I looked to God for guidance, and He kept telling me to switch to international studies. I did not understand, but I followed. Now, I’m spending my time at school studying Chinese language, culture, and geography. I fought the things He was telling me for a while, but at a certain point, God’s call on my life was unavoidable. As Paul says in Romans, it was irrevocable. The more I prayed about it, the more I began to understand that God has given me a heart for China. I plan to give a year (or two…or three…) in China. I know that it’s not just China that God has placed on my heart. It’s the nations—all of them! He orchestrated each step of this journey and revealed some of the plans that He has for me, and it has been amazing to watch. In hindsight though, I know that it all started with coffee, one hour, and Xiaoyu.