Engaging International Students

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A few weeks ago, many of us were just really getting into the groove with ministry on our campuses. We were gearing up for spring break trips, had gotten to develop deep relationships with our international friends on campus, and some of us had even seen students come to know the Lord and were beginning to disciple them.

With the spread of COVID-19, ministry to students on campus and, specifically, international students, has changed dramatically. Questions and uncertainties grow and change nearly every day. Which students will stay, and which students will go home? What do we do for the ones who stay? What does our new normal look like?

I may not know all the answers to the questions being asked, but one thing I do know that has remained the same amidst all of the chaos is our mission:

We’re still called to reach the nations that God has brought to our campuses and communities with the gospel. Just because the delivery of our ministry is going to have to change drastically does not mean that we stop trying to reach the nations. Some campus ministries and churches have coordinated with university officials to find off-campus housing for international students who have had to move off campus but are remaining in the United States. Having students living with families in our communities presents incredible opportunities for them to be exposed to the gospel. Using this time to reach out to university officials and offer help or resources can strengthen relationships between universities and campus ministries or churches.

We’re still called to make disciples who make disciples. Maybe our international students have had to return to their passport countries, or maybe they’re able to stay in our local communities. Either way, continuing to stay connected with them through social media platforms, or apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Kakao Talk, Zoom, FaceTime, etc. when we can’t meet with them one-on-one is imperative. Starting weekly hangouts on a video conferencing platform can be really helpful in this process.

We’re still called to trust the Lord amidst the unknowns. While the events of the past days and weeks were unknown to us, they were completely known to God. He’s still a good God. He still provides what we need. He is still in absolute control. The way that we handle both the events of the past few days and weeks and the changes they have precipitated speaks volumes to international students who don’t know the Lord. Our trust and reliance in Him as we walk through difficult times shows that He’s real.

As we continue to walk through the rest of our semester be encouraged that we serve a sovereign God. We continue to reach the nations. We continue to disciple students. We continue to trust God.

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