How to Witness to International Students (Part 1)
The average college campus has students from 40-80 nations from all around the world. Many colleges I have researched have representation from well over a hundred different countries. This is roughly half the world walking around in an area of roughly a square mile right in our backyards. The majority of the students come from countries that are listed as hostile or restricted to missionary efforts. This really brings a whole new dynamic to campus ministry and world evangelism. On a college campus you have the ability to carryout the entire Great Commission in Acts 1:8. You have students from Jerusalem (home-town), Judea and Samaria (most major universities have students from all counties in that state as well as all 50 states in the country), and the uttermost parts of the earth (this is the nations represented at your school).
A campus minister or campus worker has the opportunity to be a multi-national missionary right here in America. You have the opportunity to make a global impact! I do not want us to miss the opportunity that God is providing the church here in America to reach the world. We must remember that these countries are sending their nation’s leaders to study in America.
In order to reach these international students, we must be intentional. As the American church with a ministry at a local college, it is easy and natural to gather students that are American believers to a weekly meeting and events. There will be the occasional international student that comes through the doors. If we are truly going to maximize the opportunity before us, we will have to intentionally go after these students in the ways we discussed in the previous post about how to minister to international students. As we go after these international students, opportunities to witness and share the gospel will arise.
I start by saying I am not an expert by any means. I can only share what God has taught me, what I have learned from close friends that work on the mission field, and actually working with international students first hand.
As we seek to be intentional to minister to international students many doors will open to share the gospel with these students. There is definitely no 1,2,3 method but here are a few things to think about.
- Research your school to find out what countries are represented there. This is usually available on the website if you dig around. It can be found sometimes on the school’s “about” page under facts, under the international office page, or if all else fails use the search option on the website and search “international student enrollment” or “countries represented”. This will show you how many students are on your campus and where they come from. This is important to see so you have an understanding of your mission field. You will typically find hot pockets of certain countries on a campus.
- Prepare yourself. As you discover what countries, cultures, and religions are represented on your campus then you can take some effort to prepare yourself. If you have a large population from Saudi Arabia you can learn a little about Middle Eastern culture and Islam. If China is your main group, you can learn a little about Chinese culture and Buddhism. You do not have to be a professor of religious studies but a slight understanding of their religion will help you know how and what they are thinking. It will help you to be comfortable starting and navigating a conversation. Really the best way to learn is by asking questions. These students usually love to share about their country, culture, and religion.
- Build a relationship. Asking these questions and showing genuine interest in a person will build a relationship. Spend time learning about each other. These students are very curious about American culture as well. This will naturally bring up questions about the Bible and Christianity.
- Get the student a Bible in their native language and present it to them if one is available. Most students are excited about receiving a Bible. Some will ask you if it is a “Holy book” and ask what they should do with it. A holy book to a Muslim for example must be treated in a certain reverent way. Be ready for this question. You can let them know it is a holy book about Jesus and they should treat it with care by reading it. Bearing Precious Seed or Local Bible Publishers are two great resources to purchase or track down what is available in different languages.
In the next post, we will deal more with communicating the gospel to these students.