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Reaching the Nations Here and Now

The Bible is one story. It’s a story of 66 books with over 40 authors spending thousands of years, and yet it’s a love story between God and His creation. It’s a story of our wandering, and God drawing us back to Himself. From Genesis to Revelation, we read of the greatest love story of all time, God’s love for us. But not just for you and me, His love for all nations. In the beginning, God created everything for His glory, but man thought that God could not be trusted, and that was that God himself was holding something back from us.

We decided to live for ourselves and not for God. Our choice brought sin throughout the world, and in time God established a covenant with one particular family. It was Abraham’s family. The Lord said to him, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you, and I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse. And all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-2) God’s promise was to make Abraham great, but it was not for His own benefit, rather, it was for the benefit of the entire world.

Centuries later and through one of Abraham’s descendants, the Lord sent His son Jesus, to solve our problem caused by sin and to bring us back into right relationship with Him. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus told his followers that his gospel would be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end would come. To all nations. Nations are not just countries like the United States or Canada.

Rather, this is a Greek word that is called “ethne.” It is a word for people groups, smaller communities of people who identify with one another. They would call themselves us, and other people, them. Ultimately, the Lord has been on mission since Genesis to redeem and restore peoples to Himself. In this love story, God moves people from one land to another as a means to declare His nature to others. On the very heart of God is the person who moves, the foreigner.

In the Old Testament, God told us and his people, “When a foreigner resides among you, in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner resides among you must be treated as a native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt, I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34) When the heart of God meets the people of God, we are compelled to live on mission for God.

We are compelled to love the foreigner among us, our neighbors from the nations. Today on university campuses, millions of students come each year to North America in pursuit of a dream, but what they truly need is Jesus. So why international students? International students make up an exceptionally strategic mission field that one day can become an exceptionally strategic mission force.

Let’s think about it. As these students arrive, they come as leaders from every corner of the world. The majority come from places like China, India, and even Saudi Arabia, while many and many others come from places like Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. International students are brilliant. They are concentrated on campuses and curious about our culture. Yet they’re often lonely. These students make up the top one-tenth of 1% of the world’s population.

They come from the top academic, political and economic families around our planet. When they arrive, they’re often curious about North American culture, and they longed to make friends. But it’s what God is doing in their lives that make them such a strategic mission field. Let me give you one example, Mo, a student from the Middle East, where in his country less than 1% of the population are Christian. There’s extreme persecution. And so one day while he was in his homeland, he met a friend who actually knew Jesus.

When they met, the friend handed him a Bible, and as he handed him the Bible, he said, “This book will save your life.” Mo didn’t realize what God had in store for him. He ended up keeping that bible on him in his backpack every day. He would read it and had trouble understanding it. One day he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he witnessed an armed robbery. He was on a motorcycle, and as he realized that he was coming into this bad situation, he turned around and took off on his bike. The armed robber actually turned and shot Mo.

As he continued on, he finally got to a safe spot and he got off his motorcycle and he realized that the bullet from that gun had not penetrated his back. Rather, he opened up his backpack and found the bullet lodged in the bible. A few months later, he ended up moving to America in order to study as an international student. He was greeted by a group of Christ followers, who had welcomed Mo on his campus. He also noticed that they had bibles at their welcome table. He immediately turned to them and said, “I must talk to you. You see, I encountered this situation where the Bible literally saved my life, but what about Jesus?”
That day as he met with these new friends, he discovered that Jesus Christ could be his lord and savior. He surrendered his life and this is what he ended up telling me months after he had made that decision. He said,

“It’s the difference between night and day, really between being in prison and being set free. My lifestyle in my home country was very bad. I had no hope. I only discovered Jesus’s power to set me free when I came here, and I was able to talk to real Christians on my campus. From them, I realized that God loves me, and wants to set me free from the prison of my sin through Jesus. Because of my faith in Jesus, my fear being punished by God is gone. Now I have hope and peace that comes only from a relationship with Jesus. I am a totally different person because of Christ.”

Mo is just one example of many, where God is at work among international students. Here’s some interesting stats about international students. 80% of the students who come to North America, they will never be invited into someone’s home. Think about that. 80%, will not make friends with a North American, where they would be invited into their home.

And yet, 40% of the world’s heads of state. That’s over 200 heads of state once studied in North America. At best, 20% of international students are touched by ministries. We need you. It’s as easy as setting an extra plate at your dinner table.

But when international students who meet Christ return home, they become an exceptionally strategic mission force. Why? Because, they’re culturally attuned. They’re well respected, they’re well prepared, and they’re well connected. I think of my friend Jeff. He came from a country in Asia and I remember the day that not only he came to know Jesus, but he realized that God was calling him to something greater. You see, he studied mining, and so at his university, as he studied, the story of Jesus calling peter to be a fisher of men, he turned and looked to the man discipling them and said, “I’m called to be a miner of men,” and Jeff did just that. He became a miner of men in Asia. He would literally go into the mines in his country and as they were underneath the ground, he would be able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think of another man, a man I’ll call Dr. Rafiki. You see, my wife and I had the privilege of visiting this former international student, now a global leader in New York years ago. Before I tell you about my time in New York City, let me tell you a little bit about my friend. It began in the late 1970s, when he became an international student. Dr. Rafiki had the opportunity of a lifetime. He came to North America to study. He was from a village in a third world country, and at the time, his nation was ravaged by a dictator. He was being confronted, as the entire country was, with genocide. And so it was the needs of his native country that compelled him to return home after having served as an international student.

Over time, and due to the changes in his government, Dr. Rafiki became a leader. In the last 30 years, he has served in every cabinet position in this country. Today, he is the prime minister. Studying in the US had such a positive impact on him that he and his wife sent all three of their sons abroad for higher education. When I met his middle son, who we’ll call Sadiq, I asked him one day, I said, “Tell me about your family.” Well, Sadiq said, “My dad’s a minister.” As a person who’s in Christian work. I thought, “Wow, what denomination is your dad a minister? Is he a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian?”

“No,” he said, “My father is the Minister of Health for our country.” Not long after that conversation, Sadiq’s dad was appointed by the president of his country, to serve in the United Nations. His nation had temporarily been given a seat in the leading body of the UN. It’s a part of the Security Council. Dr. Rafiki served on the Security Council, and my wife and I were invited as their guests, when they lived in New York. Our stay at their home near Park Avenue, will likely never be topped. We had a chef, a butler, and our own driver.

And while we were there, we heard a story of Dr. Rafikis’ experiences, of how the Lord had blessed him, how the Lord had prepared him, and how his leadership had impacted countless lives, not only in his country but honestly around the world. As we sat and listened to these stories of global impact, I felt the Lord prompt me in saying, “Trae, this is my gift to you. As you minister to the nations through international student ministry, you only see these students as students, but the Lord sees them as future leaders.”

Students today will be leaders tomorrow like Dr. Rafiki. They will return and make impacts that are far beyond any that I could ever make in their home nation. Their impact will be multiplied a hundred fold. Dr. Rafiki’s life is a gift from the Lord regarding the after potential of the impact of international student ministry on the world. The late John Stott said, “We must be global Christians, with a global vision because our God is a global God.” When I think about Matthew 28:18, that describes the great commission. Jesus tells us to go therefore and make disciples of all nations.

Jesus command was not the great suggestion. It’s the great commission. It’s going to happen. It is certain. Would you join me in impacting the lives of international students all over North America? It is a fact that every student leaving a college campus will have a message, but the question is, what’s that message and where will they take it?

I want to tell you a story about the day I truly realized the impact of international student ministry. I remember I had just returned from overseas, and a friend of mine said, “You need to meet this guy, his name’s Isaiah.”

Well, I realized when I met Isaiah that he was from Asia. He wasn’t born in the US, and as we sat over lunch and he described to me how he had come to know Jesus, and how he desired to take the Gospel back to his home nation, I was intrigued. And so Isaiah and I sat there and we planned a way for him to connect with friends of mine who lived in that country. He went a few weeks later and when he went, his impact was astounding. You see, I had actually served in that same place for ministry. And over the course of a year, I saw four people put their faith in Jesus.

Isaiah went for one week to the same place that I initially went, and in that week he saw 44 people put their faith in Jesus. As I think about that impact, I realize that the person who may have the greatest impact is going to be someone who was once a local. Who would be a person who says, we need to study the Bible together. We need to explore faith because you and I are so similar. Isaiah went back to serve his Lord full time and the impact of his life was profound. In the first year he met the CEO of a company, that company was a manufacturing company where inside of that company they were able to plant a church and over 600 of the factory workers put their faith in Jesus.

International students today can have a profound impact tomorrow. My desire is that we would be able to pour our lives into these international students so that they in turn can go to their homelands and impact the nations.

Let me tell you about another story. This is my friend Patel. Patel told me this about a year ago. He said, “You know, I had three loves where I grew up.” The name Patel would trigger your thought that, “Yeah, he grew up in India.” He said, “My three loves were physics, my motorcycle and rock and roll.”

He told me that he played bass in a heavy metal band. He said one day he was on his motorcycle and oh, an important point in this is that he told me he was an atheist. And so one day he was on his motorcycle in the middle of his city and a car pulled out right in front of him. He said, “Trae, there is no way I could avoid the car.” And so he slams on the brakes and immediately hits this car. As he flew through the air and landed, he was anticipating death, but when he opened his eyes on the ground, he realized that he was not hurt at all.

He was probably going about 50 miles an hour at impact. He said, “At that moment I was no longer an atheist.” Months later, he shows up in the US. He had questions and he began to meet Christians who showed the love of Christ to him. As he walked across this campus one day he sensed, and as he described it to me, he said, “The God” told him, go into this building I have someone prepared to tell you about me.

What he didn’t realize was in that building was the all faiths chapel. He walked into the building and there was no one he could find. As he was about to walk out, he noticed there was one room in which a man was sitting there in a chair reclining as if he was waiting on Patel to show up. He walked in to this man introduced himself and said, “I have a very strange thing to tell you. I feel like, “The God” has told me to come visit with you.” The gentleman smiled at him and said, “Patel, do you know Jesus?” That was the day of Patel’s salvation. He is on mission today to share the love of Christ, not just with friends from India, but friends from every corner of the world.

The final student that I want to tell you about his Vidu, he’s truly an inspiration. Originally a Buddhist from Sri Lanka. He finished a PhD in biomedical physics at a university in New England. Why New England, you ask? Well, while he was in Sri Lanka, Vidu discovered Jesus. When he sensed God’s call to come to North America, he wanted to go to the darkest place in our continent, and so he felt that opportunities in Texas or California were not the ones that were for him. Instead, he wanted to go to the northeast.

And so when I spoke to him, he shared a story about a Christian conference that truly impacted his life. While he was there, Vidu grew in his faith and as he was waiting to depart this conference, he met another student from China. This student’s name we’ll call Wong. Well Wong, had attended the same conference, and over two hours as they waited for the airport shuttle and for their flights, they discussed the gospel and ultimately they traded contact information. About 10 days later, Vidu received a call from Wong. Wong called Vidu with a sense of urgency.

He had not passed his qualifying exams, and he would soon need to return to China. Having lost face with his family, and the community. You see, his family came from a group of migrant workers, and so they had invested the community’s fortune in Wong. As Vidu listened to Wong he sensed that he needed to pray for him, and so via this conversation, Vidu just said, to Wong, he said, “Wong, do what I do, and let’s see what God will do.” And so together over the phone, they got on their knees and they prayed. Vidu and Wong prayed that Wong would be restored to the university.

They prayed a prayer from Jeremiah 29:11 that says that God knows the plans he has for us, plans to prosper us and to give us a future. Vidu prayed for a miracle. Well, after he hung up the phone and realized what he had just said to Wong. He realized the gravity of his prayer and he thought to himself, “Oh no, what did I just do?” So feeling desperate Vidu could not … he couldn’t sleep. He prayed all night long. And when he realized that through the night as he prayed, that it was daytime in his home country of Sri Lanka, he called his Christian friends, and asked them to pray for Wong as well.

So as he prayed at night, they prayed all day. Days later, Wong called Vidu, and when Vidu answered the phone, all Wong said was, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you brother.” The university had restored Wong. Their prayers had been answered. Since then, Vidu has discipled Wong over Skype. They meet regularly and Wong has begun his own Bible study with a group of other international students on his campus. Vidu told me that Wong has 10 other students who study the Bible with him.

Students like Vidu and Wong are at our doorstep. We are reaching tomorrow’s leaders today.

Reaching the Nations Here and Now


The Bible is the story of God’s love for all nations. You have a unique opportunity to share God’s love and gospel with the multitude of nations he has brought to your doorstep. Through many powerful stories of internationals who went from lost students to Christ-centered laborers, Trae encourages you to reach these future world leaders.

The Bible is the story of God’s love for all nations. You have a unique opportunity to share God’s love and gospel with the multitude of nations he has brought to your doorstep. Through many powerful stories of internationals who went from lost students to Christ-centered laborers, Trae encourages you to reach these future world leaders.