This article was written by Bit Stephens, International Student Consultant for the College + Young Leaders team at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention
“And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us.” Acts 17: 26-27 ESV
The College + Young Leaders Team serves Arkansas churches by reaching next generation leaders with the Gospel on the most strategic mission field in the world. That mission field is home to international students from 120+ different countries studying in our colleges and universities in communities around our state. We are in a prime position to not only send Americans into all the earth but to help internationals “feel their way to Him and find Him.” We can then send them into all the world prayerfully prepared well and ready to minister the Gospel in their communities.
The BCM’s “boots on the ground” approach of student leaders is vital for everyday interactions as they engage international students in their classes, dorms, apartment buildings, and cafeterias. BCM’s partner with local church staff and volunteers connecting these students through welcoming opportunities such as airport pick-ups, welcome gift bags, apartment or dorm room needs, Walmart trips, and other local transportation needs.
Lydia*, an Asian friend who became a Christ-follower while attending UA Little Rock, is now a professor in another state. She is involved in sharing the Gospel and discipling other international students. This is part of her testimony; “The love of Christians first attracted me and helped me want to know more about the Christian’s life. As I got to know more, I saw joy, peace, and unconditional love. Then I found the source of all these are from Jesus. He died for me before I knew Him! Once I open my heart to Jesus, everything is different!”
In Clarksville, First Baptist Church and the BCM have been wonderfully invested for years in the international students that make up at least 20% of the population at the University of the Ozarks. Most colleges have a goal of 10% but most range between 4-7%.
In Fayetteville, college students involved both with BCM and FBC were meeting weekly engaging a group of international students in discovering God’s love and provision for them in Christ through Bible Study. Several of these students were from Japan. God is using these students to help the internationals “feel their way toward Him and find Him.” (Acts 17:27)
In Fort Smith, Grand Avenue Baptist Church has served international students very well the last several years. Conversation Clubs and other activities have led to many wonderful friendships, gospel conversations and conversions.
In Jonesboro, the BCM, Central Baptist Church, FBC, Highland Drive BC, Journey Church, Nettleton BC, Walnut Street BC, and Word Church have developed on-campus relationships. Many students from the BCM and these churches build bridges with internationals. These churches and the BCM coordinate together with the ASU International Department to pass out laundry baskets to all the new incoming students. The BCM hosts weekly conversation club meetings to build friendships and meet social needs as they build bridges to speak the Truth of the Gospel into their lives. Many internationals attend these local churches with their college friends.
In Little Rock, BCM Campus Missionary, Bekah Gulledge focuses on reaching international students. She plans all kinds of activities from hikes to teas to connect them with other Americans from our local Baptist churches to share Christ with them. Many Gospel appointments and engagement in Discovery Bible Studies are made. She is engaged with her local home church Hillcrest Community Church which has a heart to engage internationals “in the city to the nations.”
In Magnolia, Immanuel Baptist Church has been actively involved with the BCM and the International Department at SAU to reach out to international students. They have been able to engage them with welcoming needs and friendships. This has led to great gospel conversations, church involvement and conversions resulting in baptisms.
In Russellville, key volunteers from several churches join together to provide welcoming events, Conversational English meetings, picnics, “family” friendship partners, and many other activities. They have many Gospel Conversations and see some of these students place their faith in Christ.
We are expecting greater involvement with internationals this year with Covid restrictions having been lifted somewhat. Please pray for the new variants to be held at bay.
Pray for 120+ nations “whom God has determined to live in Arkansas at this allotted period, that they would seek Him, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him.”
May we as followers of Christ rise up and love them unconditionally so they will find the source of our love, Jesus.
If you would like to be involved with any of these ministries, please contact Teresa “Bit” Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-472-4861.
*Some names were changed for security purposes.