Global missions will always involve cross-cultural relationships. But one of the easiest ways to take part in cross-cultural missions is through interacting with the more than a million international students and scholars who have come to study on nearly every campus across the United States this fall. Almost all are hoping to be part of genuine friendships with real Americans. And since the majority of international students are from countries in the 10/40 window, you have an amazing opportunity to spread the gospel globally without having to get a visa, learn a new language, or even leave your city.
Here’s what you need to know to start ministry among internationals:
First of all, start with some context. Crossing Cultures Here and Now is a 22-page booklet with solid advice on cultural differences, relational skills, and practical tips for forming cross-cultural connections. It’s written by Lisa Espineli Chinn, a former international student and former director of InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry (ISM). If you’re looking for a more in-depth treatment of these topics, read A Beginner's Guide to Crossing Cultures.
Next, take a look at this video which walks through the Approaching Differences diagram and learn how to make the best of the missteps and dissonance that come with crossing cultures.
Tools and Tips
With this background knowledge, you’re ready to get started. But what to do?
- Go where international students are. Do something you enjoy that also draws students from other cultures (like a choir or cooking club) and spend time just getting to know people.
- Many campuses offer English tutoring or conversation partners for international students. Find a group and join it. If your campus doesn’t have a group that offers these kind of resources, start one.
- Start an investigative Bible study or I-GIG (International Groups Investigating God).
- Make your campus group gatherings more welcoming to international students with these tips.
- Participate in the International Students Track at Urbana 15 and get equipped to bring God's shalom to the world.
- Browse the International Student Ministry website for more resources like these.
Crossing cultures takes time and effort, but the friendships you can make and the impact you may have will make it all feel worth it. Recently, one ISM staff received this email from a student who had just returned to their home country:
“This last week we had our second Bible Study here with my friends …I didn't imagine the need that people have about faith and God's love. I think all that was missing between my friends was the initiative of someone to start the Bible Study. I want to thank you for arousing the faith in God inside me and helping me to have courage to have this initiative. You cannot imagine how you grow even more the faith in God inside me and the desire to bring God to other people.”