Many international students say the one thing they are most interested in is “being invited into an American home.” Richard, from Taiwan, felt that way until we met years ago.
I started in campus ministry at Ohio University (OU) in September 1982. I learned in the spring of 1983 that there were two chartered Chi Alpha groups on campus – one supported out of New Life Assembly of God (led by John M. Palmer) and one out of Central Avenue United Methodist Church (led by David Olshine), both in Athens, Ohio. Keith Wasserman (director of campus ministry at Central) and I (with the support of both pastors and churches) decided to partner for Kingdom growth and we created University Christian Community (UCC), a chapter of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at OU.
Christian Friends was birthed in 1983 and was one outreach sponsored by UCC. It was birthed out of love for Jesus and a commitment to see “this gospel of the Kingdom preached in the whole world as a witness to the nations” (Matthew 24:14). Keith began our effort to reach out and serve the 1200-1500 international students at OU. Of the 13 campus ministries at OU, none of them were focused on foreign students.
Through a series of dinner activities, hospitality, films, evangelistic Bible studies (a decade or so before The Alpha Course), picnics, and special outings, many Christians on campus and in area churches became involved with Christian Friends. In December 1983, four area churches sponsored a series of dinner and film events for our international friends. At our first dinner, over 100 people stayed to view the film, “The Hiding Place.”
Keith investigated what OU offered as service opportunities and we quickly became involved with airport pickups, short-term housing, English conversation partners, and the weekly on-campus “coffee and conversation” hour in one of the dorms. Before long, we had a dozen or so of our students and townspeople coming to initiate friendship. I met Richard, a graduate student from Taiwan that fall and we became close friends the year he was on campus. What a joy it was to experience that mutually supportive relationship!
During the summer of 1984, we mobilized families from churches in Athens to partner and participate in our activities ranging from volleyball to Bible study. This event, our largest to date, was called “The Event.” Attendance averaged about 40 each week and touched an estimated 200 students. One of our objectives was to create an environment where American Christians could meet and form friendships with international students.
Read Leviticus 19:34-35.
Many international students coming to college today in America are still interested in “being invited into an American home.” What is it going to take to reach the nations that God has brought to the United States? Our missionaries in Chi Alpha believe we must be 1) Informed: Know the international population on a campus near you and get prepared by our staff to serve the foreign students in your area; 2) Intentional: Hospitality and ministry to internationals does not just happen: and 3) Influential: Join us in influencing your peers on campus as well as local churches to make room in their lives for “one more friend.” Serve globally. Let’s partner in mission by practicing the three I’s of Chi Alpha.
Love is a verb,
©2015 by Mike Olejarz