I met Zhu at a weekly conversation and coffee time at Ohio University in the mid 1980’s. I asked him about his family, country of birth, and his experience at OU so far. He was far from home (China), and was lonely. I invited him to my home and he enjoyed meeting my wife (our kids were not born yet) and spending time with us. When it was time to return home a few years later, Zhu thanked me for helping him while in America. We talked about many things (including Christianity), shared a deeper friendship, and he said he was leaving America with gratitude for the kindness Barbara and I had shown him. He said he felt he was part of our family.
As you walk through a college campus today, it is normal to hear students speaking Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish, mixed in with English. Whether you peek into a computer lab, watch an intramural game, or even grab a sandwich in the student center, it is apparent that people from every corner of the planet are in evidence on campus. Indeed, the world has certainly come to us.
An incredible Biblical event has been talking place, and we would do well not to miss it. Starting back in the 1950’s, a little more than 34,000 foreign students studied on American campuses, but that number has now reached close to 700,000. America has been used by God as a staging place for one of the greatest evangelism opportunities in the history of the Church. It seems to me that one part of God’s strategic plan for His world mission effort has been to bring students from other countries to the United States for a few years of academic study – critical when you consider how more countries have closed their doors to traditional missionaries – even in a time of unprecedented global access, travel, economics, and nation resource sharing.
Ministries like Chi Alpha Campus Ministries have been working for decades to alert and mobilize the American Church to play a greater role in fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission through campus ministry. The message continues to be how each church and Christian can reach the world without even leaving campus – simply by reaching out in friendship to the international students here. Imagine the opportunity God has given us by bringing so many of the best and brightest to our shores, all of whom are young, teachable, well-mannered, proficient in English, interested to learn more about American culture, including experiencing life in an American home. Sadly, most internationals never get the chance to be in one of our homes.
We as the Church have an incredible privilege to demonstrate Christ’s love-in-action to these special visitors to our country. Through extending care and meeting their felt needs, we can provide friendship and a “home away from home” during a unique and often stressful period of their lives. Remember that they are far away from home, family, and friends. Even with social media and the access technology provides, international students will respond to almost any gesture of personal friendship on your part while they are studying here in our country.
When you see an international on campus, in class, or in your living area, simply go up and introduce yourself. Most will be pleased you took a moment to talk with them. For those off of campus, schools have conversation partner programs, international clubs, and cultural gatherings you can participate in. Be aware that the young man or woman does not need or want to be treated as a needy “foreigner,” but as an equal. They are one of their countries’ top intellectual, social, or political leaders in training. You will certainly be able to learn much from them.
Live communally. Represent Jesus by extending friendship to someone from another country.
Love is a verb,