The world is next door to you
The other night, my wife and I watched a fascinating documentary about a man who spent seven months in the middle of the wilderness — away from his family — to capture the rare Siberian tiger on film. On the rare occasion that someone brought him food, he couldn’t even look the person in the eyes because it made him think about his family, which was too painful.
During the documentary, he expressed how difficult it was to be alone. He said, “Man is not meant for solitude.”
As I watched that documentary, I was reminded of the millions of international students all over the world. These students leave the comforts of their home, family, and even language for education. I can often see that they’re lonely and desperate for someone to reach out to them. It’s our calling to welcome these students and, more importantly, reach them with the Gospel.
Their time in your country may be their best opportunity to meet Christ. You can reach a nation on your own campus.
The Power of Human Connection
Ignoring international students may be the easy thing to do — the language and cultural barriers alone are difficult to break through. However, all people matter to God. Whether they’re a different race or ethnicity than you, the international students on your campus need Jesus just as much as you do. They may even come from a country that doesn’t have the same access to Christianity as yours does and may have never heard the Gospel. You have the opportunity to change that.
Imagine you’re miles away from everyone you know and love. Imagine the language everyone is speaking around you isn’t your first language. Can you then imagine the warmth that would come from a friendly smile? Can you imagine the ease you would feel around someone willing to sit down with you and communicate despite the language barrier?
You are just one smile away from making someone feel more at home. You’re one conversation away from showing someone the love of Jesus.
As time goes on, I’m finding that international students are some of the easiest to win over for Christ because they’re longing for that human connection. They sense the truth that men aren’t created to be alone. Time and time again, the Bible speaks about community and the need to build each other up and encourage one another. In Acts, we see that when community gathers together in unity, great things happen.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The impact of a warm smile and the beginning of a relationship could also be the beginning of an open door to another nation. Without even leaving your own campus, you can respond to an opportunity to reach the world. Don’t be intimidated by the barriers that seem so difficult to cross — you are meant to reach out in boldness and make a difference.
In 1986, an international student named KC from Taiwan came to study at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Like many other international students, he felt empty, confused, and wondered if he had any purpose or meaning in life. Here’s what he had to say about the students who reached out to him:
“My life was radically changed and eternally different by my first Christmas in the States. Thanks to Pastor Ron Lewis and a bunch of young American students who caught a vision to reach international students, I was won to Christ through their kind friendship, passion for Christ, and beautiful life. They walked out their belief that you could reach the world in your backyard (the campuses). Today, I pastor a church in Taipei, which is my sixth church plant, reaching out to the colleges.”
I believe that God is calling us to love people in a greater way. At the end of my life, I don’t want to know that an international student was within my sphere of influence and I did nothing to show them the love of Christ. Now is the time to boldly step up and share your life, love, and the Gospel with international students on your campus.
The world is next door to you. Reach out.