When the time came to begin filling shoe boxes for Christmas, the ladies from Crossroads New Baptist Church started thinking out of the box and into bags.
Having recently watched the videos promoting the Dixie Jackson State Missions Offering about how many international students are in school in Arkansas, these ladies desired to reach out to some of those students. After contacting Bit Stephens, international student consultant with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) and Bekah Gulledge, international student missionary at the Little Rock Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), it was decided to promote an outreach to international students in Little Rock.
Kraft paper gift bags were ordered. A list was developed with dietary restrictions in mind and the collecting began. A goal of 100 bags was set, half for men and half for women. The goal was to have the bags available for delivery during the break when most American students would be going home for Christmas.
Since many students come to Arkansas from countries with milder temperatures, it was decided to put gloves, hats, and fun socks into the bags. Other suggested items were popcorn, hot chocolate packets, microwaveable soup mixes, Chapstick, protein bars, and candy canes. Of course, a Gospel tract was included to share the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Bags of mandarin oranges were purchased to be added to the bags.
Stephens and Gulledge also mentioned that some students do not have warm coats for when the temperatures drop. About 20-25 jackets and coats, some new, were donated and delivered to help meet that need.
Several ladies from the church met and packed the bags, tying colored ribbon on the handles to denote if the bag was for a male or female. Then three ladies loaded the bags and coats into the back of an SUV and arranged to meet Gulledge at the Little Rock BCM a couple of weeks before Christmas. Later that day, she sent a picture of two students that she met on campus and used the bags to open a conversation!
The most exciting part of this project was receiving an invitation to join Gulledge and her family on Christmas Day when they welcomed approximately 20 international students for dinner. Spending time with these students on a day when we celebrate the birth of our Savior was a blessing and reminded us that Jesus came for every nation.
A small bag of snacks, socks and gloves can open a door to share about the greatest Gift ever given. Next Christmas we plan to add restaurant gift cards to the bags and are thinking of something we might do at Easter to provide an opportunity for a witness.
If your church would like to begin making plans for a missions project to reach internationals on the college campus near you, contact Bit Stephens by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.