Want to Go Overseas? Start by Building Relationships with International Students - Radical

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Want to Go Overseas? Start by Building Relationships with International Students

There’s no denying that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Joshua Project estimates more than 3.2 billion people in more than 7,400 people groups are unreached. The enormity of the task is staggering. The need for tens of thousands more cross-cultural workers is abundantly clear.

Zeal is Not Enough to Move Overseas

So, if you recognize this need to go and sense that God is leading you to cross-cultural ministry  overseas, what do you do next? Should you pack your bags and head to the airport tomorrow? Every day you delay means thousands more among the unreached have perished without ever having a chance to hear the gospel, right? Zeal for the worship of Christ among nations is admirable and necessary for cross-cultural workers, but we would be foolish to think zeal is the only requirement for preparing to move overseas.

Zeal for the worship of Christ among nations is admirable and necessary for cross-cultural workers, but we would be foolish to think zeal is the only requirement for preparing to move overseas.

A wise mentor once shared with me a sobering truth. After passionately describing my zeal for wanting to move overseas to make disciples and plant a church, he looked me square in the eyes and said, “How many disciples have you made this past year?” This question cut to my heart, and I sheepishly responded, “None.” 

He continued, “Then what makes you think getting on a Boeing 747 is going to change that? You cannot expect to do what you are not already doing here.” I was speechless, but he was right. I needed to begin practicing what I preached.

Begin by Meeting International Students in Your City

One of the greatest ways you can prepare for moving overseas is to practice the habit of welcoming the nations. Every year, hundreds of thousands of international students move to new countries to study. 

They desire much more than an education; they are curious about the new culture and way of life. Many students come from places that equate the West with Christianity. What would it look like if we allowed our living rooms and dinner tables to influence their understanding of Christianity rather than Hollywood or a wild college party?

Be intrigued with who they are as a person, an image-bearer of God, not just how quickly you can mention Jesus in a rushed conversation.

If you are interested in moving to a Muslim country one day, you should begin by meeting as many Muslims in your community as possible. Start by searching for local universities and learn about the international student population. Find campus organizations or churches that are engaging international students and get involved. 

Research Middle Eastern or Arabic restaurants and grocery stores and build relationships with the owners and patrons. Look for mosques or Islamic schools and ask if you can schedule a tour. Consider moving to an area of town that is densely populated with international students. In all of this, your goal is to become a fascinated, humble learner of these new friends. Be intrigued with who they are as a person, an image-bearer of God, not just how quickly you can mention Jesus in a rushed conversation.

Look for Ways to Serve Your New Friends

Once you have made initial contact with your new friends, very real physical needs are often present. They might not have a car and need a ride to the grocery store. They may be furnishing a brand-new apartment and need a used mattress. Be the available resource and friend that they can go to in times of need. 

Through these relationships and interactions, you can begin sharing with them who you are and why you care about loving your neighbor. Share stories of answered prayer, stories of Jesus, and your own personal testimony. It’s important that you practice this habit of welcoming these students into your friendships with other believers from your local church so that you can share the load and show international students the fellowship of the body of Christ.

Through these relationships and interactions, you can begin sharing with them who you are and why you care about loving your neighbor.

As you spend more time with these friends, you will be able to discern those that are interested in Jesus. Begin inviting them to join you in studying the Bible along with some other believers and international students. Allow them to see the truths of Scripture and leave the results up to God. 

Pray for their salvation and look for ways to share the gospel with them. In this process, you will gain valuable experience in cross-cultural ministry that will become the bedrock for your ministry overseas. This is not time wasted, but time invested. So, you want to go overseas? Start by building relationships with international students. Begin making disciples here, so that one day you can make disciples there.

Patrick Dickson is the Missions Training Coordinator at Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

LESS THAN 1% OF ALL MONEY GIVEN TO MISSIONS GOES TO UNREACHED PEOPLE AND PLACES.

That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!