When I reflect on the stories I hear from across the state related to international student ministry, I can only smile. My heart beats with excitement as I think about God’s work in bringing the students to us from some of the hardest-to-reach places. I am filled with joy as I think about American students and Alabama Baptist churches coming together to connect with internationals that call Alabama home for a time.
I can remember as a young boy I had a great interest in learning about people from all over the world and my heart still skips a beat when I get to connect with someone from a different part of the world. I think God gives me that opportunity to see a glimpse of His heart — a heart that is big enough for all people.
My wife and I have personally sought to plug into the unique opportunity of reaching the nations that have come to Alabama. We love the international friends that we get to hang out with and study the Bible with. We love having these students and scholars come to our home to learn about their culture and teach them about ours.
Yet when I hear statistics like 75 percent of international students will never enter an American home while in the United States (www.isionline.org), I’m filled with sadness. I am sad because this is an easily fixable issue. I am sad because hospitality is one of the greatest ways to literally open the door to spiritual conversations. We can do something about this. Alabama Baptists can make this statistic much lower in our state.
I challenge you to see how you might welcome the nations that call Alabama home. During this holiday season consider having a special meal for internationals in your community to tell them about the reason for Christmas. And do not let it stop there. Invite them to church with you, invite them to learn about your community by taking them to various events throughout the year or plan nights with your family and international friends.
Churches can put together special meals with a holiday focus to minister to the internationals in the community. Local churches can look for other ways to connect with internationals — English as a Second Language classes, culture exchanges, etc.
Research the parts of the world that your international friends are from. Learn about how to best connect with them. Go build relationships with these students and see how God works in their life and yours.
Contact me if I can help you think through the best ways to be obedient in making disciples of all nations — in your neighborhood.
This post originally appeared in the December 12, 2014 edition of The Alabama Baptist.