A few years ago Kathy and I adopted our first international student; a young woman from China. We met in a park near the university where she was studying law.
As we sat down to eat lunch and get to know each other better, we couldn’t believe it when God opened the door for us to have a gospel conversation during our very first chat.
As we shared how much we were looking forward to her joining us for meals and family get-togethers, we also shared how much it had meant to us to be welcomed into the homes of new acquaintances we met when living overseas and how we wanted to extend that opportunity for her to come as often as her schedule allowed.
As our conversation continued, I stated that she was coming to America at a great time of the year. “During this season of the year,” I explained, “we have fall festivals, beautiful decorations, and special foods.” “And then there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas,” I added, describing how we put up the Christmas tree after our Thanksgiving meal. “Of course, you’re invited to join us for Thanksgiving and help us decorate the Christmas tree,” Kathy declared.
We began talking more about our Christmas traditions and decorating the Christmas tree when she asked if it was a real tree. “No,” Kathy answered, adding that since it stays up from Thanksgiving until after the New Year, we chose to use an artificial one. I showed her a photo of the previous year’s tree that was on my phone and she commented how beautiful it was. Then she said, “ I have a question. Is that a star on top of the tree?” I told her it was and she replied, “I have noticed that in movies and magazines, there seems to always be a star on top of the Christmas tree. Does it have significance? she asked.”
While quietly thanking the Lord for her question, I took the opportunity to share that, yes indeed, the star did have significance! Her question was an open door to share the Christmas Story.
So, within the very first hour of being introduced, God not only blessed the beginnings of a wonderful friendship, he provided the opportunity to have a genuine Gospel conversation.
I share that story whenever I have the chance to encourage others to consider the opportunities that God is sending our way when we embrace international students and invite them to be a part of our lives. Yes, we need to develop genuine and deep friendships—but we also need to look for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus as we do life together.
While we definitely need to live a life that glorifies God in all that we do, but it’s just not enough to think that international students will see Jesus as we live our daily lives. We must be alert for every opportunity God is allowing and share the Good News without fear or reservation.
Look for ways to share personally—yet specifically and deliberately. Like myself, you may find it easy to share stories from God’s Word. As you’re doing life together, remember to share stories that slip easily and naturally into the dialogue. “You know, that reminds me of a story from God’s Word …” is a great way to introduce a Bible truth or story into the conversation. And, after sharing a Bible truth or story, it’s easy to gift them with a Bible. “Here’s the book I was sharing from earlier,” you might say. “I’d love for you to have your very own copy.”
It’s not enough to just be a welcomer and friend to international students—we must not hesitate to also introduce them to Jesus.
Terry Sharp is the state, association and diaspora network leader for the International Mission Board.