I have fond memories of our family “adopting” a foreign exchange student from Japan through my father’s involvement in Lion’s Club International. Yoshiyuki Nishakawa came to live with us for three months. Yuki did everything with us – meals, family get-togethers, trips, etc. You name it – we all did it.
He even accompanied us to church on occasion. We had a chance to bring him into our family and to introduce him to the Family of God. It was a rich time for me as a young man and I pray it was a rich experience for Yuki as well. My world grew – a lot.
There is an outstanding ministry opportunity on the horizon for families in our churches in college towns. Each year thousands of international students come to the USA to study and get their degrees before returning to their home countries. Some are believers – most are not. Some are curious about those people called “Christians.” Some are curious to know what “life is like” in an American home.
Almost all of them are, to some extent, homesick and missing time with their families. This opportunity comes with various levels of possible involvement. Imagine how an opportunity like this might stretch your children’s lives – and faith.
I pray that we as Georgia Baptists are constantly looking for ways to use our gifts and share our faith. Hopefully, parents are looking for ways to help their children connect with the Gospel, with their growing faith, and with the world around them. Ministry to international students during the upcoming holidays may be the perfect match for your family.
There is no faster way for you or your family to be involved in The Great Commission than to “adopt” an international student. God will use that relationship to at least plant seeds in the life of a student. Perhaps your relationship, over a longer period of time, will lead to that student becoming a believer. There is no better missionary to any culture than a new believer who calls that culture “home.”
There are multiple ways for you or your family to be part of this – ranging from a small level of commitment all the way up to an on-going commitment.
Volunteer your family to help host an international student fellowship or a meal that is sponsored by the BCM. At this level you are volunteering to show up, help serve food, be friendly, play with international children – whatever needs to be done that matches your interest. It’s a commitment of a few hours.
Volunteer to have an international student or two join your family for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner. This is an outstanding way to introduce the student to your family’s celebration of the holiday. It’s a commitment of a day. If you choose this option, make sure you have a chicken or turkey option. Some student’s religious affiliation won’t allow them to eat pork.
Be open to an international student being a guest in your home during Thanksgiving weekend or during the Christmas holidays. For some of them, the dorms close and they do not have time to return home before classes begin again. Some may be allowed to stay in the dorms but will be very lonely since almost everyone else is gone.
With this option you have an even greater opportunity to build relationships and incorporate your guest into the life of your family. This may include accompanying you to holiday church services. Make sure the student understands that he/she is your guest at church and is not expected to do anything that is uncomfortable.
Most are very curious about this thing called “the church.” Some are curious about this one named Jesus, who their religion considers to be a prophet or a teacher. For others, the Spirit may already be working in their lives. Your job is not to convert him or her. The Holy Spirit will take care of that. Your job is to be a good host and to model an active Christian faith that lifts Jesus high and dialogues in a loving and caring way. This is a 3-10-day commitment.
A final level of involvement is establishing more of a regular, ongoing relationship with an international student or family. You can be a part of orienting them to American life, introducing them to the community and its resources, taking them to Walmart once a week, helping them discover points of interest within an hour or two of the college, etc.
You begin by finding out what they need and then doing whatever you can to help meet that need. For the student or family who are not Christ-followers, it will not be long before they want to know what it is about you that is willing to give so much of yourself to others. It will be an opportunity to begin talking about Jesus and what it means to believe in Him as Savior and Lord.
Your family will see you modeling something that others just talk about. Your children’s lives will be stretched, and their faith strengthened.
Your local Georgia Baptist campus minister stands ready to help your family connect with an international student who is ready for this relationship. Contact your campus minister (info can be found at www.gabcm.org) to begin this process. This is an outstanding opportunity to be a blessing and to be blessed by the experience.