[Next Generation] Raising the flag for international students in Arkansas

This article was written by Teresa “Bit” Stephens, International Student Consultant, with the College+Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Arkansas Baptists churches have a heart for people all over the world. It is in our DNA through the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. It is expressed through our cooperative efforts and our hands-on impact. Over the course of decades, tens of thousands of international students have come to our great state for their undergrad, graduate, and PhD degrees, as well as visiting scholars. Our churches and Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) began to build bridges, seeing the wonderful opportunity to reach the nations locally. 

In the past five years, 80 known Arkansas Baptist churches have taken advantage of this missional opportunity to help “raise the flags” of our international friends. They have helped provide meals for BCM’s International Student Ministry (ISM) events and have established friendships with the internationals. This has led to organic Gospel conversations. 

One example is a Russellville family, along with their children and grandparents. They have shared their family, faith, friendship, holidays, and other special events with international students. The last one was a young man from East Asia. They never pressured him but spoke of their own personal relationship to Christ and his Lordship in their lives and that it is available for all who would believe in Him. The young man participated in many ISM activities with First Baptist Church in Russellville. Finally, after two years, he asked a question to his “house mom,” Ellen, that led into the beautiful explanation of the Gospel. The conviction of the Holy Spirit immediately helped him to realize his brokenness over the darkness of his soul. In his brokenness, he surrendered whole-heartedly to Christ. There was instant change as he immediately wanted to share his joy with others, which he did.   

BCMs are equipping American and international student leaders not only to seek God for their daily lives but are challenging them to live Christ-centered lives to engage students on campus with the Gospel. The BCM motto is “From the Church on the Campus for Every Student.”  Our campus ministers realize the nations are included in that mission. Both going to the nations and receiving the nations on our campuses are vital for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Some international students who are Christ-followers integrate well into the culture of the local BCM and churches.  

I hope you are considering investing in international students for your church. We can provide all the training you may need to mobilize your church to become Kingdom partners in reaching these precious students from all over the globe. You will be trained in international student ministry (ISM) in these categories:  

Welcoming internationals, from airport pickups to conversational ideas, some do’s and don’ts, friendship families, conversation clubs and/or partnerships, outings, etc.  

Evangelism – sharing the Gospel with ease to an international. 

Discipleship – this will be a transferable model used in studying the Word as a non-believer to becoming a Christ-follower.  

Sending them out into the world as a multiplying disciple-maker and even possibly as a church planter.  Jamie Naramore, ABSC Church Planting Cross-Cultural Strategist, will assist in this area of training.  

Here are some benefits your church will receive. 

  • Love for the nations is enhanced. 
  • Racism is extinguished. 
  • Passion for Christ and His Gospel becomes preeminent. 
  • The Great Commission is lived out in your city through your church body. 
  • The body may have the privilege of seeing international students come to faith in Christ and baptized in your church. 
  • This impact often fuels hearts with a desire to serve God through the church to reach immigrants who live in their neighborhoods. 
  • The family and church family are bonded together for a Kingdom purpose. 
  • Forever friendships are built. 
  • The families and friends of international students are also impacted as they sometimes come to faith in Christ because of His work in the student’s life. 

Most international students in Arkansas who have become Christ-followers will tell you that the overwhelming love that believers shared with them is what drew them to Christ. BCM partnerships with churches help provide a more holistic picture of this love to international students. Together we can provide a beautiful example of the love Christ as we “raise the flag” on behalf of these 5,000 plus international students through our colleges and universities in Arkansas and carry out the privilege of the Great Commission.   

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