Students from all over the world have come to study in the United States. In fact, it was expected that almost 900,000 students from outside the USA would be enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2016. Right now, there are about 75,000 students from Saudi Arabia, a country closed to missionaries and the Gospel. This opens a mission field to us like never before. We now have untold opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with foreigners here in the USA who previously could only be reached by long-term missionaries.
As these students come to know Christ, are discipled, and return home, they become missionaries in their own right. But instead of reaching a people foreign to them, they are reaching their friends and family.
International students are uniquely gifted to reach the world because they:
- Speak at least two languages fluently
- Know their own culture well
- Are future leaders and respected for their education
- Already have many relationships underway back home
- Do not need visas to go to their own countries
- Can open doors for foreign “tentmakers”
Reaching and discipling international students is possibly the most strategic mission in God’s Kingdom today for fulfilling the Great Commission.
- Yosuke Matsuoka attended the University of Oregon. Isoruku Yamamoto studied at Harvard. Both experienced incredible racial prejudice. After returning to Japan they became the foreign Minister of Japan and the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet respectively. They played key roles in leading their nation to attack Pearl Harbor.
- Ho Chi Minh also studied at Harvard and was subjected to extreme racial prejudice. He later studied Marxism and due to his influence all of Southeast Asia came under communist dominion.
- Mengistu Haile Mariam, the communist leader of Ethiopia, went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for military training and was said to have been embittered by the racial discrimination he received while in America. The lack of cooperation the government of Ethiopia exhibited with the nations of the West during the great famine, was a direct result of this embitterment.
- These men came to America for an education – and rather than reaching out to them and loving them, we sent them back as enemies. Their stories should teach us a lesson about the importance of reaching out to international students!
Right now, one fourth to one half of the future leaders of the world are on American campuses. The greatest potential for world evangelism lies in the international students studying in America. God has truly brought the whole world to our doorstep. This is one of God’s most effective strategies for world evangelism.
There are many nations of the world which either prohibit or restrict missionary activity. In American universities, however, there are many Muslim, Chinese, and Southeast Asian students, whose governments are sponsoring their academic endeavors.
These students are already familiar with the people, language and customs of their own country. These international students are the future leaders of their societies, often comprising the top five percent of their nation – often, most people in these nations have never even heard of Jesus Christ. If these students become Christians while studying here in America and are trained in God’s Word, they can go back and begin a spiritual awakening in their own nation – from within!
The foreign students on our campuses are often lonely and are used to living around people in their own nation who show them great respect. Now, living in America, they are treated like another face in the crowd. Most international students come to this country with a real desire to have an American friend. They are looking for people who have genuine love and concern for them. Refugees and immigrants are also among those that are hungry for people to reach out to them.