International missions knocking at your door

By December 8, 2014
InterVarsity's International Student Ministry seeks to make international students feel welcome (Photo by InterVarsity)

InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry seeks to make international students feel welcome (Photo by InterVarsity)

USA (MNN) — International Missions don’t always mean you have to travel– nor do they always require remote involvement through financial aid.

In the United States we have a unique opportunity to reach the world through a group living right under our nose.

According to a report by Open Doors, the year of 2014 saw a record high of international students at colleges and universities. The number was 886,052 students from other countries.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says this makes up a little more than four percent of all undergraduate and graduate schools. Mark Papai, Director of the International Student Ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says, “It is the highest number ever recorded and so it says to us, again, just how many guests are here among us in U.S. colleges and universities that we have an enormous opportunity to influence.”

InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry is actively involved in establishing contact with these students as they travel overseas to the United States.

The countries most heavily represented by these students are China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia in order from greatest to least amount of students sent.

What kind of welcome do they receive?

Photo by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

(Photo by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)

While these students are here, one might wonder what they’re learning from the American culture, and what they think of us. You may be wondering how they’re being impacted and if anyone is introducing them to Christ.

Papai says, “One of the disheartening things that we often hear, the numbers again vary, but greater than 50%, at least, of international students that come here never actually see the inside of an American home.”

He continues to explain that sometimes these percentages even reach 80%. That same number is the number of international students who desire to become friends with an American family.

So what happens when the rest of the student body leaves for holidays to spend time with their families? If they’re staying on campus, what kind of opportunities are we missing?

Many of the students come from different religious backgrounds– they’re coming from homelands that receive thousands of American missionaries on a regular basis.

Take Saudi Arabia for instance. This Islamic country sends nearly 100,000 students to the United States a year. The King has signed a scholarship agreement until 2020 to allow citizens to get educated in the United States.

As the country begins to entertain the idea of allowing outside influences, there are possibilities that have never existed before.

What better time to introduce these individuals to Christ than when they’re right here, ready to be ministered to? And what better time than when we’re getting ready to celebrate our Savior’s birth?

“The holiday season is a tremendous opportunity for families to get in contact with the local colleges, with InterVarsity representatives, with many other organizations doing international ministry and get a name or make a contact that they would be able to have to invite one or more of these international students, and they literally are from all over the world, to come into their home and just share their life together,” Papai says.

Papai stresses that families who do this should only do what they normally do for Christmas and to extend love, care, and welcome to these students who take great interest at learning our customs.

This hospitality will be a foundation to discuss what Christmas is all about.

Papai says of those who would like to help: “I would like them to pray for us and all international ministries. Again it is an incredible opportunity and open door right now for international work and to think about the many conflicts in the world, we have an opportunity to make a real difference by these guests who learn our language, who are the cream of the crop from overseas, who come to study in our universities.”

To learn about opportunities with InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry, click here.


  • Anonymous says:

    If only America was still a god fearing nation i would have rejoice at this news. But with so much watered down gospel and apostasy, i fear this unreached people coming into america will get the wrong perception of christianity. To some extend this is bad news. Personally i’m even of the opinion that much of our missionary effort be suspended until we put our home churches right. VAL, nigeria

  • Roberta says:

    In spite of watered down gospel and apostasy, America still has Bible believing churches whose members are “praying without ceasing” for mission activity and unreached people, as well as the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. Both the saved and the unsaved in our colleges and Universities need prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon. I will be praying that foreign students will be warmly welcomed into loving Christian homes for Christmas and that they will be blessed.

  • Kwasi says:

    Whatt a wonderful experience for our international students. As someone who came here 33 years ago, I can say that America and Americans have strengthened my catholic faith by really helping me to put my words into Christian action. Luckily for these students many campuses provide opportunities for them to grow in their faith.

    Kwasi– Boston

  • Marc Papai says:

    I hear your concern. We in America need keenly to follow Jesus all the way, radically, and with clarity and joy. The gospel remains the power of God unto salvation, and we are not in a position to change this. May God strengthen your faith and mine, the Nigerian church and the North American. God bless.

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