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EveryInternational provides FREE video training to help you befriend and share your faith with international students and immigrants.

Have you ever taken a trip overseas … do you remember planning your trip- the excitement and maybe a little apprehensiveness?

I remember preparing to go to Ethiopia for the first time…. I research all about the country and the city that I would be in. I learned phrases, so that I could communicate with the people. I was excited and also had some fear as well. I remember sitting on Ethiopian airlines, listening to the Ethiopian music playing over the speakers as we flew across the ocean dreaming of what it would be like. After dinner as the stewardesses began to collect dinner trays, I thought now is my chance to try out one of the phrases I had learned. I can say thank you in Amharic when the stewardess takes my tray. I saw her making her way to my row and in my head I rehearsed- ameseginalehu, ameseginalehu, ameseginalehu. She smiled at me, bend down to take my tray, I looked up at her brightly and said, Gracias! Oh- no I failed!!!!

Then we landed and I was in a sea of people, my eyes could not take in all the sites of this new place, and my ears where attuned to listening to the sounds of a language that was not my own, and thinking oh my how will I going to get through this? And then seeing the smiling face of my guide Seyenie, waving her arms in greeting. Her welcoming smile instantly made me feel like I could breathe. So too is our opportunity to welcome, love and serve, the over 1 million international young men and women who make their way to communities all over North American to study at colleges, universities, and English language schools.

Preparing to welcome an international does take time and prayer. I recommend that you find a ministry or church program in your area that is already reaching out to international students. These folks will be great resources for helping you learn how to build friendship across cultures and provide opportunities to connect with students.

The most important thing to remember as you prepare to connect with a student is- you are not alone because you are partnering with God! He desires that we His people welcome those that He is drawing into our communities so that they might know Him.

God is sovereign- He determines the times and places that we all live just as Acts 17 tell us. This means that He has determined which students out of the over 1 million will come to your community. Which makes every international student connection a divine appointment!

International students will be leaving everything familiar; for some it will be the first in their lives they have been away from their family, their friends, the comfort of knowing their community & culture, their food and language. It is an exciting but also a stressful and fearful time in their lives. Demonstrating the love of Jesus to them through friendship, Biblical hospitality, and service is a great way for students to experience the living Christ at this point of deep need. Culture shock, homesickness and the challenges of studying in English often create a crisis point. Having a caring Christian friend to help them these difficulties can create a life-long impression.

Could God be calling you to join Him in serving the sojourners that He is sending to us here? Katie Rawson in her book Crossing Cultures with Jesus, Sharing the Good News with Sensitivity and Grace says that she believes that like in the book of Isaiah, God is asking us (here in N.A.)- Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?

By following the incarnational model of Jesus, listening to and depending on Him, we are enabled by the Spirit to be good news, and sharing our faith becomes a normal part of living in union with Christ. “We do ministry with and in Jesus, not for Jesus.”

Jesus said that they will know you are my disciples by your love. A visiting Chinese scholar told me- “I’ve been in the U.S. for nearly two months, what impressed me most is these Christian friends. I can strongly feel their love for other people. I am not religious, though I am moved by these friendly guys who love people from the bottom of their hearts.”

Building a genuine friendship and practicing Biblical hospitality means welcoming the student into our everyday lives. Sharing your life with your student and inviting them to share theirs with you! We want to be careful not to view our international friends as evangelistic projects. No one wants to be a project. We don’t want to be so eager to share the good news that we fail to build a genuine friendship and love them. We also don’t want to be so focused on being a friend that we fail to have spiritual discussions when the Holy Spirit opens the door for them. Remembering that God is already at work, relying on Him to guide us takes the stress out of cross-cultural evangelism!

Really getting to know your student- having them share stories of their family / growing up in their culture, their beliefs, food- As you share yourself, family, and life with your student- including them in… family dinners & outings, birthday parties, your child or grandchild’s soccer game or dance recital- students love to be a part of our family.
Real friendship is always two-way.

A PHD student thanked me for connecting her with her Friendship Partner. “When I heard you speak about the program, I thought: Yes, I need someone to help me find my way around. Someone who can help me understand these phrases I keep hearing American people use; I don’t know what they mean. And someone who can explain this culture that is so very different than mine. But what I didn’t realize is that I would be meeting someone who would become my best friend. We have shared so many experiences and had so many talks about the things that really matter. Now that I am graduating and moving away, I will always take her with me in my heart. We are friends forever”

Your life is a living testimony of the gospel! Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and praise God, that is how Jesus told us to live.

When we are living as Christ calls us, our everyday lives- the way you interact with others, relate to the world around you, they will speak loudly about your faith and the God you follow. Letting students experience the overflow of Jesus’s love and see the gospel lived out in the ups and downs of life.

I have been so encouraged seeing how God opens the door for spiritual conversations if I am focused on developing a deep genuine friendship and praying over my student. I have found that those conversations happen in times when I might least expect.

Chewing gum ….One afternoon, I was with a group of students and one student offered me a stick of chewing gum. And that led to me telling the story about an encounter with someone smacking gum. Everyone who knows me, knows I can’t stand when someone smacks their gum. I was in a small waiting room and there was only one person in there, an elderly lady and she was smacking her gum. I was so annoyed and didn’t know what to do so, I closed my eyes and prayed silently- “God you know how much smacking gum gets on my nerves, please give me patience to endure or if it is your will have this lady called back for her appointment quickly. Amen” I opened my eyes and the nurse came in and called the ladies name. “I closed my eyes, and said- Thank You Lord!” The students all laughed and then one said- so you can just pray to your God anywhere? And He will hear you? I would have never dreamed that a story about chewing gum would have led to a spiritual conversation.

I have been so encouraged by similar stories that Volunteers have told me- where gospel conversations happened in traffic, standing in line for a movie, during a hike, AND when unexpected / sometimes embarrassing things happen like a child throwing a temper tantrum. God is always at work and His desire is that all come to know Him as Lord.

Opening up your life to your student also means that you allow them to see how you handle adversity. 2 years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I was uncertain how to tell the students, and really worried about how they would feel about God. When I told one of the groups of ladies, some believers and others not, I was so surprised at their reaction. They all got up from their seats, surrounded me and one of the Christian ladies said, we need to pray. So each lady put their hand on my shoulder, arm, or head- and each one, even those who had not professed Jesus, took a turn praying in their own language- for healing from my cancer. While I could not understand all of what they were saying- it was a powerful moment filled with the Spirit.

One student later asked me, I don’t understand. I have known you for 3 years, you eat healthy and are kind to everyone. You are so full of light and love. Why did God allow you to get cancer? These questions are difficult for sure. But it gave me an opportunity to tell her about God’s character, His great love and power and my faith in Him in the midst of uncertainty with cancer.

Let God direct your relationship: He has a plan for the student’s life and has placed them in your life for such a time as this. Maybe it’s to plow the ground or plant the seed. Maybe someone has already plowed and planted in your student’s life and you are to water & nurture the new growth. Sometimes God places us as harvesters and other times as guides in a student’s journey of faith and discipleship.

One year there was a young man named Akmed, who was so hard to befriend. While he participated in our activities, never allowed anyone to get close to him. When it was time for him to return home, we gathered to take them to the airport and I looked over to see him weeping all arms locked around one of the male volunteers. He kept repeating, “I’m so sorry, I’ve wasted my time. I’m so sorry you have cared for me, you wanted to be my friend, and I’ve wasted my time. And now I have to go back to my home.

It broke my heart, and I lamented before the lord why lord why, we had him for a full year and there was no breakthrough. I had to surrender that to the Lord knowing that He was at work even if I didn’t understand. The next fall when the new students arrived – I made my usual presentation and offered the opportunity for them to join us in learning what the bible teaches and who God of the Bible is. To my great surprise and delight several young women from that Akmed’s country joined our study group. After we finished the first night, some of us where hanging and I was talking to one of the girls and asked–so tell me what made you decide to join our group? She said Oh that’s easy- before we came to the U.S., the some of the students who had just returned met with us to get us advice and information. There was one of the former students, you may remember him- Akmed, he said, “When you go to the United States, you’re going to be welcomed, and people are going to offer you friendship…and they’re Christians. They’re going to take care of you, help you find your way around, invite you into their homes, they have fun activities…and this is good. I wasted my time, I kept myself from being a real friend, and I missed out on learning so much. Don’t waste your time.” And so when I heard you speak I remembered what he said and I thought I don’t want to waste my time- I will go to this class! I could not have imagined what that year of plowing hard ground in Akmeds life would yield such a beautiful year of studying the scriptures with those young women. God always does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.
As Paul writes in 1 Corth 6 -9 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. For we are co-workers in God’s service.”

I don’t know what God will have in store for you as you befriend an international, but I am confident that He is at work. We can rest in Him knowing that He will accomplish His purposes, we just need to be faithful to pray for our students, be a genuine friend who love deeply as Jesus modeled, live the good news of the gospel so that our international friend can experience the living Christ, and always being ready to give an answer for the hope we have, doing so in gentleness and respect.

May you be able to say to your international friend as Paul did to the Thessalonians: I loved you so much that I was delighted to share not only the gospel of God but my very life because you had become so dear to me.

Connecting the Gospel to Life

Lea Ann

Plowing new ground, planting seeds or watering new growth — God is placing you in the lives of internationals for one of these roles. Are you ready? Lea Ann teaches how to have the mindset and tools needed to do ministry with and in Jesus, and how to be a genuine friend.

Plowing new ground, planting seeds or watering new growth — God is placing you in the lives of internationals for one of these roles. Are you ready? Lea Ann teaches how to have the mindset and tools needed to do ministry with and in Jesus, and how to be a genuine friend.