Campus ministry in Philadelphia sharpens focus on international students

(Photo courtesy of the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania /South Jersey)

PHILADELPHIA – Rebekah Gulledge arrived in the city of brotherly love just this summer to serve on the campus of Drexel University with Baptist campus minister Brian Musser. Specifically, she was brought on to minister to international students.

Drexel University alone is home to 50 different nations and roughly 100 different people groups — which for Gulledge, is a dream come true.

Ever since she was a little girl, Gulledge recalls viewing missionaries as “superheroes,” and the mission field as a giant she couldn’t touch. But in late high school she felt a call.

“I was praying, and I finally surrendered my future to God, which was something that was really scary for me, [but] that’s whenever I felt called to be missionary,” she said.

After she graduated high school, Gulledge read every mission book she could get her hands on and talked to every missionary she could find. With no real mission field prospects in front of her, she applied to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Life-changing moment

On her first day there, she found herself walking into the Baptist Campus Ministry, a visit that would change the entire trajectory of her life.

“I was introduced to Bit Stephens and Adam Venters, two of the greatest mentors of my life. They introduced me to Conversation Club, which was an international student outreach. They introduced me to BCM leadership and to something called Nehemiah Teams, which is a 52-day long mission opportunity,” Gulledge noted.

This one-day interaction led Gulledge to a multitude of opportunities. Including two terms with Nehemiah Teams, during which she served in Romania, Indonesia, Czech Republic and Thailand.

“As I’ve been on those trips, and having done a little bit of international student work in America, I started to realize what it’s like to be an international student. How lonely it is and how disconnected people feel from their families and their friends and their culture,” Gulledge noted.

Starting to relate with international students more and more, Gulledge couldn’t help but think about the different nations she could be reaching if she was back in America.

“There were moments overseas where I was just thinking [that] I could be reaching people from 50 different nations right now if I were still in America, but overseas I’m here reaching out to one people group,” she said.

That growing passion led her back to America and, eventually, to Philadelphia.

“God has used the online platform of me googling things to lead me to the right places,” she said. “I googled Baptist campus minister in Philadelphia and I found one name and that was Brian Musser.”

“Brian is the only Southern Baptist campus minister connected to the Baptist churches here in this part of Philadelphia, and then there’s one on the outskirts of Philadelphia. So, 300,000 students and two campus ministers.”

With a high volume of students, many nations present and few workers, it was a no-brainer for Gulledge to follow God’s lead to Philadelphia, but little did she know that God was already opening doors for Musser to reach the nations at Drexel.

“[Musser] has all these open doors to different parts of the campus, specifically with international students,” Gulledge noted. “But international student ministry is time consuming, energy consuming, life consuming — it’s not a side job. So, he was not able to fully step into that role because he has the whole campus to take care of, but I can,” said Gulledge.

‘Bridge builder’

For two years, Gulledge will spend time building relationships with international students at Drexel and a local community college to provide spaces of fellowship and ministry for them.

In the near future, she hopes to start a conversation club for international students, host a survival night, which would equip international students with basic skills for navigating life in America, and connect international students with churches in the area that speak their native language.

Understanding the role of a campus minister as a “bridge builder” between churches and campuses and then churches and students,

Gulledge believes that connecting an international student to a church with ties to their native land can be the key for that student understanding the gospel or growing in their faith.

How you can pray for Rebekah: 

— Pray for Rebekah and the outreach events she is preparing for international students.
— Pray for area churches to catch a vision for reaching international students and college students in general.
— Pray for the Christian students to catch the vision for reaching their peers.

To learn more about Gulledge and how you can pray for her, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Macala Mays and originally published by the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey

Share this article


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *