USA (MNN) — Over one-million international students are studying in the United States right now. The number of international students studying in the U.S. is at an all-time high, despite the fact the number of new enrollments for international students studying on college campuses has slightly declined.
Marc Papai, Director of International Student Ministry for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, says there are many different ways international students are counted. For example, students in exchanged programs or who are studying at language schools are sometimes counted, too.
International Students and YOU
Either way, Papai says building genuine relationships with international students is an excellent opportunity to reach the nations.
“Now we have about 500 chapters in InterVarsity that have international students involved in them. And they become a part of the flow of the chapter life together. So, that includes social outings, meals together, lots of tea and coffee drinking together, and building those kinds of friendships in the context of which we have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus,” Papai says.
But, as much as 75 percent of international students in the U.S. never see the inside of an American home. This Thanksgiving is a chance to change this statistic. InterVarsity is helping every-day Americans connect with international students to host them in their homes.
“You can search on [InterVarsity’s] website to make a connection with a staff member in your city or near your location, who’d be elated to hear from you about having an international student, or two, or ten; we’ve had 24 at our house for Thanksgiving in the past. It’s such a delight to bring the world around your dining room table,” Papai says.
This week, as preparations are underway to thaw a turkey, bake bread crumbs for stuffing, and recreate grandma’s famous cranberry sauce, take a moment to consider inviting an international student, who is far from home this holiday season, to a seat at the dining room table.
Invite a New Thanksgiving Guest
InterVarsity has connections with hundreds of international students, and Papai says the organization is happy to connect believers to students looking for a place to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Another option Papai suggests is to talk to a church leader and ask if the church has any connections to help extend a Thanksgiving invitation to an international student this week.
“I cannot tell you how many families have told me that they are the winners, so to say, in this relationship. That they feel blessed…and it can become the beginning of a very long relationship,” Papai says.
Hosting or not, please pray for international students and God’s work in their lives. Pray for international students to feel welcomed in U.S. homes. Pray for the connections made this holiday season to build trust and life-long relationships where the truth, love, and hope of Christ is experienced.
To learn more about InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry, click here.
Header photo by SJ Baren on Unsplash.