Senior adult class from Ephesus Baptist Church serves international students at Georgia Tech


ATLANTA, Ga. — The Baptist Campus Ministry under the direction of Eric Swenson is thriving at Georgia Tech. Swenson is giving particular attention to international students because he knows if they become followers of Jesus they will return to their homeland as ambassadors of Christ.

Georgia Tech has a total enrollment of 26,878 students with nearly forty percent (10,525) international students representing 149 different countries. Swenson stated, “For the last several years we have been praying for God to provide opportunities for us to be able to better reach the international students on campus.

Baptist Campus Ministries can provide the salt and light necessary to enhance the educational process and give students a place of refuge and an opportunity to realize their authentic “true north” where they can “discover the freedom and purpose Christ gives to life, find the values they should hold dear, develop the leadership principles they will embrace, and become inspired by the eternal truths of God’s Word.”

Swenson has a laser focus on reaching as many students on the Tech campus as possible and has emphasized his goal to welcome and love international students into the family of God. He started by building a good relationship with the international office on campus. Consequently, he earned the right to welcome international students to the United States by arranging to have 240 students picked up at the airport and transported to the campus. So far, this year he has had personal contacts with 600 of the international students.

The Baptist campus minister pled, “Please pray for continued interaction with the international students and for God to continue to open the doors for Gospel conversations with these precious students.”

Swenson has scheduled monthly dinners for the international students to enhance relationships and create opportunities to share the gospel. As a member of Ephesus Baptist Church in Villa Rica, Swenson approached Matthew Isennock, minister of education at the church, and shared his vision about the dinners for the students from other countries. That contact led to Isennock approaching Kevin Thrash, the teacher of the Helping Hands LifeGroup about preparing a meal for one of the dinners.

Thrash responded by saying, “I was thrilled that Eric had that vision, and that Matthew asked our LifeGroup to serve in this organized event. I also felt fortunate that our class was ready, very ready to say yes.”

The Helping Hands LifeGroup is made up of senior adults who believe faith without works is dead. The members of the class minister to one another with meticulous care. They serve in other ways including helping support the work of two Romanian pastors in Sighisoara, providing gifts for underprivileged children at Christmas, working at the church’s fall festival, and preparing shoeboxes at Christmas for Samaritan’s Purse.  

Thrash explained, “Most of us have not left our friends and family for long periods of time to learn another language, go to another country and confront the challenges and endure the hardships of serving as career missionaries. However, we rejoice that we can bring a brief respite to the student's day by providing a smile from a stranger and a home cooked meal.  We can also provide them the opportunity to fellowship with other students who are experiencing the same adjustments. 

“It was so satisfying to see the students linger for a significant amount of time, just enjoying each other’s company.  I think it is also helpful for us to engage in conversations from people we've never met, to share a laugh, and to extend a welcome.” 

Thrash continued, “Christian service is scariest when we dwell on anticipated awkwardness, rejection, and difficulty. It is so much easier, fulfilling, and joyful when we just say, ‘Yes,’ and see where the Lord leads us.

“I am so incredibly grateful for the fellowship of this class. I learn so much from them. It is not only my vision, but the vision of so many of my class members to show kindness and grace as a reflection of the love Christ extended to us.”

The gathering of international students at GT were not only served a meal by the ladies of the Helping Hands class but heard a stirring testimony.

Swenson explained, “The student leader for our international ministry, Lara Glendenning, shared her testimony of how she came to know the Lord. Her message focused on what happens when we put our hope and trust in Christ. She also had a refugee family with her that she worked with last summer through GenSend.”

It has been said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. In the hands of today’s educators, lives are shaped for the future, and tomorrow’s leaders are equipped to make an impact on our nation and world. Georgia Baptists can be thankful that there are now Baptist Campus Ministries on 42 institutions of higher learning in Georgia. The campus ministers are instrumental in helping to ensure that our future leaders know Christ and are governed by His Word.