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I left the Philippines to come to the United States with 2 suitcases, a guitar, a prayer, a purpose and a one-way ticket (that was all my parents could afford)!

I prayed that God would give me a friend, someone who would be a confidante, an encourager and an interpreter of my new culture. My purpose was clear: Return to the Philippines, better equipped to serve my people!

At that time, there were only 100,000 international students in the country.
Even then there was scattered effort by individuals and a handful of churches across the country to love and reach out to them. But it was a tiny drop in the bucket.

An Alternative Proposal

Decades ago, a prayer was printed in an InterVarsity student magazine. It went like this:

Lord Jesus, you have told us to take your gospel to all peoples of all lands. But we find this hard! It means leaving our families, friends and culture to tell your message in a foreign land and language to an alien people. Many of them already have a religion, which is interwoven into their whole culture and daily lifestyle. Besides, we Americans are not welcome in some parts of the world and are even forbidden to talk openly about you in certain countries. And the cost! If we really tried to reach the world in this generation, it would bankrupt us all.

SO, WE PROPOSE AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN: you send the people to us. Have them come at their own expense-and learn English before they come. Make them hungry for our friendship and willing to go to church with us. Send the young, teachable ones. Send those who are bright and vigorous, who will someday be leaders in their home countries. Arrange for them to stay for several years so we can win a hearing for the gospel and have time to teach them after they become believers. Send many from places where missionaries are forbidden to go, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. How many, Lord? Oh, say 450,000, well distributed around the country so that lots of churches and individual Christians can take part.

If you will do this, then we promise to make sharing our lives and our faith with these people a priority. We will get to know them, offer them our friendship and try to learn how to explain your gospel to them clearly.

This all sounds like a lot to ask, but you can do it, can’t you?

At that time the prayer was written there were only about 100,00 international students. TODAY we have well over a million international students in the United States alone!

That prayer has been answered!

Today’s Realities

International students come with a goal of receiving an American education and expand their career options and influence in the future. The 2017 statistics show China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil, as the top 10 sending countries. In Canada there are nearly 500,000 international students with China, India, France, and South Korea as leading sending countries.

Many world changers studied in North America. According to the State Department there are over 300 presidents and prime ministers of countries around the world who were once international students in the US.

For example, the King of Jordan, the crown Prince of Norway, the President of the Philippines, the Crown Princess of Japan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Presidents of Taiwan and Liberia were once students in the US.

And the list goes on…

It is no accident that the future world leaders in government, education, business, health, the church and the home are studying on our campuses.

Our world has changed dramatically. The global movement of people across boundaries is staggering. Yes, we still need Christians who will cross the seas to reach those who do not know Jesus. And yes, we need those who will cross the hallways and the streets to welcome and befriend international students.

God is behind this movement of people, future influencers who are sitting in our classrooms, living in our dorms, eating in our school cafeterias, shopping in our stores. He has sovereignly put them in our midst, at our very doorstep!

Are we making reaching them a priority? Are we going to open the doors of our lives, homes, and churches and welcome them in?

Three Reasons

There are 3 reasons why I believe we should open the doors of our lives, homes, and churches:

1. For God’s Sake

We open the doors so that God’s glory will be made known among the nations.

Imagine the opportunity to reach countries that are closed to the Gospel, or those restrictive towards missionary efforts! The 4 leading countries (China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia) represent the 3 major religions in the world: Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

We do it because God’s desire is for international worshippers from every tribe, language, people and nation.

We bring delight to God when we obey his command to love our neighbors. God is thrilled when we love those He loves for He says He loves the foreigners in our midst.

God is pleased and honored when we make disciples of all nations.

The second reason is…

2. For the international students’ sake

Although many international students today may come from wealthy families, are mostly independent, technologically savvy, and continually connected through social media, they still need us!

They need to experience our radical hospitality, our unconditional love. They need us to be their friends and advocates, especially in our volatile global political climate. They enjoy being part of our family. They appreciate surrogate parents.

They need to see models of Christians in the workplace and at home. They will always remember a home-cooked meal. Unfortunately, a clear majority of them have never been invited to an American home!

They need an intelligent conversation about the world and life in general. A Chinese student upon finding an InterVarsity group on campus says: After being disillusioned by the shallowness of the party culture in American colleges, this group of Christian friends shattered my stereotype of Christians by sharing with me the most intelligent, mature, and genuine conversations about life’s big questions. I soon became a serious seeker.

Later he became a follower of Jesus and is now pursuing a PhD with hopes of making an impact back in his home country.

They need Jesus. They need to hear about Him, prayerfully, sensitively, and powerfully shared.

A visiting scholar from Korea was invited to international ministry of Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, Virginia, which my husband and I started 33 years ago. Here’s what he wrote, For foreigners, showing kindness means a lot, but in addition to that we were treated like brothers and sisters, and this made us wonder, “Why are these people so kind?”

That kindness caused him to hunger for more. Eventually he came to believe in Jesus and wrote after returning home to Korea: You told us the Good news and motivated us to begin our lives as Christians. You supported us during the difficult cultural transition period. We now know that what you did was what Jesus did. We will hope to follow your example of reaching out to foreigners in our land.

The 3rd reason why I believe we should open the doors of our lives, homes, and churches is

3. For our sake

Oh, how we need them! Our worldviews are in dire need of expansion and befriending internationals will do just that!

One out of 12 students in the class of 2010 at Yale University was from another country. The president welcomed them with these words; it means that each of you can, without much effort, become close friends with at least one classmate from a country quite different from your own. This can be a very important start in broadening your perspective on the world… right here in New Haven.

We need the Christian international’s vibrant faith and passion for the Gospel. A pastor even came to understand the Gospel fully through the witness of an African seminary student! We need Christian international students to teach us how to pray, how to live by faith, and how to live simply.

International student converts from other faiths know the full cost of following Jesus. Their suffering and commitment put us to shame for the petty things we complain about.

Truly, international students are the low-hanging fruit of missions. We can be involved here and now. No passport, no visa, no immunizations necessary. Learning another language is not even required. You don’t even have to move!

We reach them for God’s sake, for their sake and our sake.

A church in the middle of nowhere

A pastor of a small historic church in the south, in the middle of nowhere, wanted her church to be involved in missions. After attending a missions conference with 2 of the church’s leaders, they decided to offer their resources: homes, guest houses, private lakes, and farms as a needed retreat place for returning missionaries.

My husband and I were consulted on the matter. We visited their place and listened to their leadership’s desire to reach out to others. A refreshing place for returning missionaries was a brilliant idea! But at the end of the meeting, the focus shifted to the world at their doorstep. Although the nearest campus was an hour away they were willing to enter into a new adventure: Invite the students to their homes for a weekend of southern hospitality and relaxation.

What happens when you mix sincere hospitality, great southern food, warm comfortable beds, lakes to fish and kayak in, a hayride, spiritual conversations, prayer coverage, a Christian worship service and an appropriate book about Jesus to take back home in one sunny weekend? You have a Blast! A perfect spiritual storm!

The students could not have enough of the love showered on them. The church members, many have not personally engaged with people from other countries could not stop talking about how eye opening and wonderful the experience was. In the end, there was frantic email address exchange. Cell phones clicked away for just one more photo. Hearts were full. Love was genuine. God was smiling. One of those who joined the weekend getaway was an Indian graduate student. He was welcomed and loved by a Christian group on campus. He was busy with his studies and sporadically attended Bible studies but was open to a free weekend in the country. Although he did not know what to expect he was blown away by the love, graciousness of his hosts, and the refreshing time away from the campus.

He returned on campus with a softer heart for God. He watched a documentary on the Case for Easter based on the book given to him by the church and joined others for an Easter service. After the service he texted his campus staff. “I now believe in Jesus! Just thought you’d like to know!”

The world is here. We need you. Come and join us and make reaching international students a priority.

Embracing World Leaders in Our Midst


Truly, international students are the low-hanging fruit of missions. Are you opening the doors of your life, home and church to them? With a contagious vision, Lisa shows why we need to cross the street or hallway to welcome and befriend these students.

Truly, international students are the low-hanging fruit of missions. Are you opening the doors of your life, home and church to them? With a contagious vision, Lisa shows why we need to cross the street or hallway to welcome and befriend these students.

Webinar: "Perseverance, Growth, and Change in ISM Over Four Decades" June 26th at 10:30 Central