If you want people to reach out to, look no further: International Students.
This is not to say that we should not share the Gospel with our neighbors, our classmates, or co-workers. International students are not any more in need of Jesus than these people. However, speaking from personal experience, there is something incredibly unique about International students.
If you want to start a missional community, then reach out to internationals. If you want to make disciples, then reach out to internationals. Or even if not, make an international friend. You will not regret it.
I just wish somebody let me in on this secret before I came to UT.
It’s almost not fair, really. It’s almost too easy to be Jesus to them and share Jesus with them, if that even makes sense. But hey, perhaps that’s just a glimpse into what it truly means when Christ says the “harvest is plentiful” [Luke 10:2]. The harvest of international students is extremely, extremely plentiful and ripe for an extraordinary bounty of fruit.
For one, there is a clear reason why they are here in the first place. International students are eager to learn about American culture, to experience life, and to receive, listen, and see all that they possibly can in their limited time here. It’s what you do as an exchange student. You’re fully open and ready to absorb anything and everything.
And how does this relate to evangelism? Well, they’re not immediately closed off to Jesus. They don’t carry the prejudices against a broken Christianity, as many people in the States are. They are open. When you share the Gospel with them, there is a clean slate. There is fresh soil ready to accept the seeds of salvation. On a less spiritual level, they’re extremely eager to hang out with you, talk with you, eat with you, simply because you live in America! They want American friends with whom they can experience American life.
Secondly, there are 5,000 international students at the University of Texas. That is 1/10 of the entire student body. Yeah, think about that. That’s a lot. Go get after it.
Finally, the Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all nations. Not just in Matthew 28:18-20, but also in Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, Luke 24:44, and John 20:21. He clearly states that disciples are to be made of all people groups. And by the way, there is nothing optional about any part of the Great Commission. Obeying only a portion of something is called disobedience. We must take the entirety of this command by King Jesus very, very seriously.
It’s So Easy. Almost Too Easy.
Now does this mean we must pack everything up and go live among the unreached of the darkest places on earth? Well, maybe. I personally believe everyone should consider doing exactly that. But for those that are here in the US, obedience is pretty simple.
With international students, the nations are already here. Like in Isaiah 60, they have come to you. They have done all the work. They have arrived and are chilling out in front of your doorstop, waiting to hear the Gospel. And now, as they’re here, they can receive the Good News then bring it back home with them, wherever they go, to the ends of the earth. How convenient is that!
Andy Kampman, one of the pastors at the Austin Stone, explains that it’s as simple as this. Go to Dominican Joe’s [or find them somewhere else, it’s extremely easy]. Lots of internationals hang out there and they want American friends. Be their friend. Then, ask them if they’ve ever read the Bible before. Often times their answer is no. They may even ask you what the Bible is.
Then, ask them if they want to read it with you. Simple as that. Before you know it, you have a bible study and discipleship going down. Then after a few months they’re going back home, to where the Gospel is not prevalent, and they are making disciples everywhere they go. Bam! Great Commission! Simple!
Jesus <3 Internationals
Now, if none of that was convincing enough, well then maybe this will do. You should reach out to internationals, because [drum roll…] of Jesus! Yep, I just pulled the Jesus card. Take a look at your WWJD bracelet. What would Jesus do? Well, He would reach out to internationals! No, but seriously, he totally would. And actually, He did.
Jesus hung out with internationals all the time. Even more than he did with people that looked like him. Two-thirds of Jesus’ interactions with people recorded in the Scriptures are with those unlike him. Only a third of the time was Jesus among Jews.
Here are several examples: Jesus and the Centurion [Matt 8:5-11], Jesus heals two men with demons [Matt 8:28], Jesus heals the sick in Gennesaret [Matt 14:34-36], Jesus and a Canaanite woman [Matt 15:21-28], Jesus cleanses the Temple [Matt 21:12-14], Jesus heals a woman and Jairus’s daughter [Mark 5], Jesus and the Samaritan woman [John 4]. And there are many, many more.
I think it’s probably a good idea to do what Jesus did [Eph 5:1].
Oh, and of course, this children’s classic [which is actually a legit hymn!] says the same thing:
“Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
The Perfect Ending
Now, there is a reason for all this. Over 1600 times in the Scriptures God mentions His heart for the nations. We do not make disciples and we do not pray for revival so that God is glorified only in Austin or the US. No, it is so God will receive glory in the entire world and be worshiped amongst all peoples. The question is not whether He will be glorified in all the earth – He has already promised that it will happen; the question, rather, is whether we will take part in it or not as He executes His global purposes.
So jump in. Reach the nations. Make an international friend. If you’re a student, there are plenty on campus. Hook up with PALS. If not, check out the Burmese refugees in Austin. Share Jesus with them. It’ll be worth it, I promise. You’ll get to play a direct role in fulfilling the promises of this glorious future in Heaven:
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”