Arkansas is quickly becoming home for more and more internationals. The nations are no longer in a diﬃcult geographical location to reach, they are on our college campuses, in our neighborhoods, at our jobs, and in our churches. We can no longer make ‘distance’ our excuse for not reaching them. As Paul said, “I am obligated to both Jews and Greeks.”
My friends, we are obligated as well to Americans and internationals. So, the question is not should I engage them, but how do I engage them? In his book Unscripted, Jeﬀ Iorg says that it is every believer’s responsibility to share the gospel and to learn how to share the gospel better. I say we take that same principle and apply it to our international friends coming to Arkansas.
That means it is every believer’s responsibility to engage internationals, and it is every believer’s responsibility to learn how to engage them better.
When I was serving in a church in College Station, TX, Texas A&M was in our backyard. What is interesting about that university is that it is home to nearly 7,000 international students. That is the same number of international students in the entire state of Arkansas. International students there were engaged through a house church ministry. That ministry has seen incredible growth. They now average 50 students on a weekly basis with nearly 30 of those being international students. They typically see 100+ international students at events they host.
Since beginning the ministry nearly four years ago they now have 10+ students actively seeking the Lord, four are studying Scripture with someone weekly, and one student has surrendered their life to Christ!
Now to note, this entire ministry revolves around two key things: an international family who is passionate about reaching the international students and college students that have the same passion. You don’t have to have a job in ministry to reach internationals. There are five key strategies that you can begin incorporating into your life to engage the international population around you.
#1 You need to be dedicated to the work.
God has called every single believer to live out the Great Commission, and one of the core truths of that calling is sacrifice. To do this work or any ministry work, it will require sacrifice. Our dedication in the western world typically revolves around programs and times, but for the rest of the world it revolves around every facet of life. That means our dedication must rise to meet their dedication, which goes beyond a once-a-week meeting. Start by asking what you are saying yes to currently that makes you say no to engaging internationals. Then set stop and start goals, to refocus on what you can stop doing so you can start engaging internationals.
#2 Be in constant prayer.
If there is no prayer in our actions, then there is no power in our actions. Prayer is the essential part in all of this. Even Jesus said the laborers are few, therefore pray and go! One helpful habit is to set your alarm clock to 10:02 am/pm, and when it goes oﬀ pray Luke 10:02 for the internationals in your area. Also note that praying for internationals is not just something you do, and then move on. Pray for them, then text them to tell them you prayed for them. Or find any excuse to go see them by delivering food, care packages, etc. so you can pray with them. Let prayer be your evangelistic tool as you are engaging internationals.
#3 Find the common ground and do it weekly.
At A&M we did two key things, we played cricket weekly, and we had Indian food every week at house church. Cricket became our big gathering time, and then those that were interested came to the Bible study. We were able to use cricket to draw our large numbers, and they came to us. In fact, as the Indian students arrived, the students already here told them about us and began inviting the new students to cricket and house church without us even advertising for either. The goal is to be consistent with it. When we first started playing cricket, we averaged six to ten and that was typically only three to four Indian students. We did that for almost a year, and then all of the sudden we would have 50 students come and play cricket with us on random days. Consistency is the key here! It communicates to them that you care enough about them to be there even when they are not. Also, make it something they enjoy and not just an American sport. You can play American sports, but finding something that they connect to from their culture, particularly something hard to find in the states like cricket, can really help draw them in.
#4 It’s more than just meeting weekly, it’s living life with them.
If all we do is meet with them during our scheduled time, then you will never truly engage them. They are looking for people to spend their lives with, not just one or two hours a week. This is where dedication and calling come into play. You have to be willing to sacrifice something. The students that were involved in engaging internationals were doing a lot of other activities as well, but they valued their time with internationals and made it a priority. It will take time to build a team like that. Jesus has already told you the workers are few, so do not be surprised when no help shows up! You be consistent and you be faithful. Let the fruit prove the work, because when it does, they will come!
#5 Be open about what you believe from the beginning.
Do not hide that you follow Christ. Most already have preconceived notions about American Christianity. Many of them also come in with the idea that Christians just want to convert them. Our purpose is to love them! Tell them about Christ. If they know you follow Christ, then they will not be surprised by hearing you talk about him. Do not push it on them but talk about Jesus every chance you get. There were two boys that were coming to our house church. One of our college students picked them up every week for everything we did with the international students. After about four months of this they began to become more interested in Jesus. They finally told him that Jesus must be the real God, because of how you love us. Both of those boys began wanting to learn more about following Jesus! Just being open about your faith and loving them, can help them see Jesus in you.
I hope these five key strategies can help you begin engaging internationals in your area. Remember the promises of Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 have already been given to us. That means Jesus is telling us He is already working to see those internationals come to Christ. Be faithful, be focused, and watch Jesus work among the internationals around you!