CONWAY, Ark. – International students from across the state gathered recently for a weekend getaway at Cold Springs Retreat in Conway.
The International Student Getaway, Nov. 3-4, offered an opportunity to learn about the Christian faith and included games, activities, food and cultural experiences. Additionally, the event featured two breakout sessions led by Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) College + Young Leader Assistant Team Lead Chris Larmoyeux and Hillcrest Community Church International and Engagement Pastor Pranay Borde.
Other ministry leaders in attendance included Josh Lipscomb of the Southern Arkansas University (SAU) Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), Arkansas State University (ASU) Campus Missionary Wade Simpson, Elaine Fultz, a volunteer with the University of the Ozarks BCM, and Ross Burton of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro.
ABSC International Student Consultant Teresa “Bit” Stephens said the getaway is an opportunity to minister to international students. It also gives the students a safe place to relax and connect with others. This is the third year for the event, and it continues to grow annually.
When speaking with the students in the morning on Saturday, Nov. 4, Stephens told them, “We’re here because Jesus has made an incredible difference in all of our lives. He loves you dearly and He has put a great love in our hearts that He loves you with. That is why we are invested. We know how much He loves you and we love you and we want to be your friend. Whether you trust Christ or not, we want to be your lifelong friend.”
Burton said events like the getaway give the international students an opportunity “to meet Americans that are not their professor or school administrator and have conversations in a non-threatening way.”
More than 50 international students registered for the weekend retreat. Among those in attendance was Breanna Hargis who traveled with a group from the SAU BCM.
“The international getaway retreat to me is a great way to get to know those who aren’t like you, who come from a different culture or maybe a different religion. The retreat for me was a great way to get to know those different people groups, as described in Revelation 7:9-10, and to share the love of Christ while they are here,” Hargis said.