USA (MNN) — International Missions don’t always mean you have to travel– nor do they always require remote involvement through financial aid.
In the United States we have a unique opportunity to reach the world through a group living right under our nose.
According to a report by Open Doors, the year of 2014 saw a record high of international students at colleges and universities. The number was 886,052 students from other countries.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says this makes up a little more than four percent of all undergraduate and graduate schools. Mark Papai, Director of the International Student Ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says, “It is the highest number ever recorded and so it says to us, again, just how many guests are here among us in U.S. colleges and universities that we have an enormous opportunity to influence.”
InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry is actively involved in establishing contact with these students as they travel overseas to the United States.
The countries most heavily represented by these students are China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia in order from greatest to least amount of students sent.
What kind of welcome do they receive?
While these students are here, one might wonder what they’re learning from the American culture, and what they think of us. You may be wondering how they’re being impacted and if anyone is introducing them to Christ.
Papai says, “One of the disheartening things that we often hear, the numbers again vary, but greater than 50%, at least, of international students that come here never actually see the inside of an American home.”
He continues to explain that sometimes these percentages even reach 80%. That same number is the number of international students who desire to become friends with an American family.
So what happens when the rest of the student body leaves for holidays to spend time with their families? If they’re staying on campus, what kind of opportunities are we missing?
Many of the students come from different religious backgrounds– they’re coming from homelands that receive thousands of American missionaries on a regular basis.
Take Saudi Arabia for instance. This Islamic country sends nearly 100,000 students to the United States a year. The King has signed a scholarship agreement until 2020 to allow citizens to get educated in the United States.
As the country begins to entertain the idea of allowing outside influences, there are possibilities that have never existed before.
What better time to introduce these individuals to Christ than when they’re right here, ready to be ministered to? And what better time than when we’re getting ready to celebrate our Savior’s birth?
“The holiday season is a tremendous opportunity for families to get in contact with the local colleges, with InterVarsity representatives, with many other organizations doing international ministry and get a name or make a contact that they would be able to have to invite one or more of these international students, and they literally are from all over the world, to come into their home and just share their life together,” Papai says.
Papai stresses that families who do this should only do what they normally do for Christmas and to extend love, care, and welcome to these students who take great interest at learning our customs.
This hospitality will be a foundation to discuss what Christmas is all about.
Papai says of those who would like to help: “I would like them to pray for us and all international ministries. Again it is an incredible opportunity and open door right now for international work and to think about the many conflicts in the world, we have an opportunity to make a real difference by these guests who learn our language, who are the cream of the crop from overseas, who come to study in our universities.”
To learn about opportunities with InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry, click here.