International Student Ministry

Students from all over the world study in the United States. In the last several years, over one million students from outside the U.S. have enrolled in American colleges and universities each year. Among the top five countries sending their best and brightest to the States for further education are China, India, and Saudi Arabia – countries that are closed or hostile to missionaries and the gospel. The presence of international students opens a mission field to us like never before. We now have untold opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with foreigners who previously could be reached only by long-term missionaries.

Engaging with and befriending these students is not difficult, but requires time and intentionality. Imagine sharing your life with a young person who is thousands of miles away from everything they know and are familiar with. Picture how much it would mean to a student who has left their family and friends and come to a country where they know no one to be welcomed into a loving and caring family. It is in this context that the gospel of Jesus Christ is put on display, and through this embodiment of good news that they might come to know Christ and be discipled. Upon their return home, they have become a missionary in their own right – only 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.
  • 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 befriending them, Americans ignored and viewed them 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. Could it be that the greatest potential for world evangelism lies in the international students studying in America? God has truly brought the whole world to our doorstep. There are many nations of the world which either prohibit or restrict missionary activity. In American universities, however, there are many Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Atheist 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 nations. Most in their nations have never 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. In their own nations, they are used to people showing them great respect. Living in America, however, they are treated like another face in the crowd. Most international students come to this country with a desire to have an American friend; they look for people who will show them genuine love and concern. Refugees and immigrants are also among those who are hungry for people to reach out to them.