There are 4,964 international students in Arkansas. The majority of these come from the 10/40 window. Many of these have no idea of what Jesus Christ has done for them. What can we do to help them really see and experience the love of Christ? The greatest thing we can do is bombard heaven with prayers that God would open their hearts to receive the Gospel. Secondly, we can seek opportunities to build relationships with those internationals that He has brought to our doorsteps.
God is moving in the hearts of many Arkansas Baptist to reach out to these dear friends. Here are five great practices of how some churches in our state are reaching out to Internationals.
1. Churches are partnering together: Churches in Conway and Little Rock come together 16-18 weeks per year and provide a meal and Conversation Club. This is a great opportunity to meet students and begin to develop friendships with them. Student responses have been incredible as they take confidence in the love of their American friends. Many of them spend time in their new American friends’ homes. They also experience Christ’s unconditional love from believers. This gives them a wonderful view of Christ. There have been many internationals who have come to faith in Christ as a result of meeting American friends through Conversation Club meetings.
Partner with other churches.
2. Fayetteville First Baptist Church has many collegiate members involved with their local Baptist Collegiate Ministry who help connect with the international students on campus. Through these relationships, the church has gladly invited international students to the table with them for special events, such as Thanksgiving and Easter, baptisms, road trips and other activities. Bible Studies are especially designed for internationals through Sunday School.
Invite them to Special Church Events.
3. Jonesboro First Baptist Church Education Minister Ross Burton and his wife participated in a Progressive Supper for Internationals sponsored by the Arkansas State BCM. That evening they decided to be host parents to a couple of students. Before the evening was up, their hearts were opened up to more than a half a dozen that soon led to a dozen becoming regular guests in their home. This has opened up many opportunities to provide help with the internationals in their everyday life needs. Some of these needs are learning to drive and practicing English in a comfortable environment. Some of these students have already given their heart to Christ, and Ross has been able to baptize them.
Be open to what God wants to do through you.
4. Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith has developed a great relationship with the international department on campus and does much to help out internationals. They have the opportunity to provide Walmart rides, airport pickups, dorm room/apartment setups and much more.
Connect with your university International Department.
5. First Baptist Russellville has been reaching out to internationals on Friday nights for the past few years. They provide a meal and an opportunity for students to practice English and develop friendships with Americans. Hundreds of students have been impacted by this ministry and many have come to faith in Christ.
Provide a regular activity that meets their need.
If you have a desire to reach out to internationals be sure to reach out in love and stay in it for a long-term friendship. It may be after they return to the other side of the globe before they become a Christ follower. Your sacrifice and commitment to pray for them would be well worth it.
Heaven will be so much sweeter as your friends represent the nations joining us around the throne.
Teresa Bit Stephens is the Metro BCM Campus Minister in Little Rock, Arkansas.