The Nations Come To Us. Will We Welcome Them?
Written by TM of JC on May 20, 2021
What if you and your church could introduce Jesus to people who have never had the chance to hear about Him before?
What if there was a way for your whole church to be directly and cross-culturally engaged in the work of the Great Commission?
What if your church family could form real, deep, and lasting friendships with people from hard-to-reach places, unreached people groups, and countries that currently remain closed to the Church?
What if you and your whole church could start doing all of that today, with no travel involved, no passport required, no visa hoops to jump through, no massive setup costs, no years of language learning?
There are places where the nations gather, places that attract a rising generation from across the globe. The best and brightest of the nations are drawn here by ambitions and aspirations — theirs and those of their families, their communities, their nations. They yearn for knowledge and skills to improve their lives, support their families, and perhaps even bring a positive contribution to their nations and the world.
These gathering places are not far off. They are not mysterious or inaccessible. For many of us, they are down the street —at the numerous colleges and universities in our towns and cities.
In international students, the Lord has brought the nations to us. He has given us the opportunity to share the love of Christ with the nations, with a welcoming smile and genuine friendship.
Before the pandemic, there were approximately two million international students and scholars at universities across America and Canada. Around 60% came from countries that have no viable church. Most had never met a follower of Jesus, never heard of the One who loves them beyond their wildest imaginations. They hail from places and peoples that we have been trying to reach for decades. Yet, by some accounts, four out of five of those international students are never invited into a local home, let alone set foot in a local church during their time in our universities.
During the pandemic, the number of international students plummeted. Many found ways to return to their countries of origin. Some found temporary accommodations among local Christians who continue to make it their life’s mission to serve the stranger in our midst. Those involved in international student ministry found themselves as temporary hosts, emergency counselors, grocery deliverers, advocates, peacemakers. Friends.
Now, as vaccines roll out and the world looks towards a new, post-pandemic normal, international students are poised to return to universities across North America. Many who deferred their enrollment last year are now preparing to attend in-person classes, pursuing the education that promises them a better life. Scholars, post-doctorate fellows, and other academics are also planning to return as well, diving back into research projects that were put on hold or delayed due to COVID-related restrictions.
Soon, international students from the nations—the very nations many of us have been praying about for decades—will once again grace our shores. They will be our neighbors, and, if we are willing and welcoming, they can be our friends.
Many international students will be missing home, parents, friends, having left their emotional and community support structures behind. Given everything that has happened over the recent months, some will be fearful of how they will be perceived and treated while they are among us.
However, it is exactly in this place of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and worry that the Church here can make a difference. Sharing the love of Christ with an international student might be as simple as forming a friendship over mugs of chai, chatting about new experiences over a spread of dim sum, or just listening to the challenges of missing home. It is as simple and as deep as being a true friend, as Christ has been to us. International students risk much to pursue an education upon these shores. Would we, as the church, be willing to risk welcoming them as friends?
We cannot know what will happen to the international student whom you befriend. They might become a politician, a prominent academic, a captain of industry, or a community leader who serves “the least of these brothers of mine.” They may become an educator, shaping the minds of thousands in the years to come.
We cannot know, but God does. For this season, for this moment in time, He has brought and continues to bring the nations to our doorstep. For now, here is where the nations gather.
We know what it means to be strangers accepted, wild branches grafted, orphans adopted by a perfect, loving Father. Should we not then welcome the strangers of the nations who are among us? We who have been blessed to know Christ, should we not be a blessing to the sojourners in our midst? We who know and understand that the Master’s invitation to the