This article was written by Tyler Hoffpauir, the BCM Campus Minister at Arkansas State University. He is married to Jana and they live in Jonesboro, AR.
Editors Note: Names have been changed for security
What would you do if you were dropped off in an unfamiliar place, had no friends, knew little of the language or culture, and were far away from family and friends? This is the reality for over 1 million international students who come to the United States to study at American colleges and universities. Most of them come to America hoping to get a great education and to enjoy the land of opportunity. These students begin to settle and make new friends, but they are typically left on the campus with no one around and nothing to do during the holidays and various breaks from class.
Johnna Berryhill, a sophomore at Arkansas State University, leads the Baptist Collegiate Ministry’s (BCM) international student outreach efforts. She has made friends with several students through the BCM’s weekly International Conversation Club. Despite COVID-19, she invited several international students to spend Thanksgiving with her. Two students from Asia took her up on the offer.
“I never really even thought about it,” Berryhill said. “I just didn’t want them to be alone, so I invited them over.”
Esther and Ruth were able to meet Berryhill’s family, enjoy a traditional American Thanksgiving meal, enjoy the nature around Berryhill’s home, and play soccer with the family.
“I met Johnna’s family and they were so sweet,” Ruth said. “My favorite part was getting to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal and eat turkey.”
Esther and Ruth are two of several students who were brought home by BCM students and Campus Ministers over the holidays. Berryhill says this is a great way to be able to spend extra time with international students and talk to them about Jesus.
As Southern Baptists, the Great Commission is dear to our hearts as it tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The beautiful thing about the college campus is that the nations come to us. Even during COVID-19, nearly 6,000 international students have come to study in Arkansas.
In almost every culture across the globe, one of the greatest honors is to be invited into a person’s home. It is impossible to enter someone’s home and not see their family, values, culture, and faith or lack thereof. In Scripture we see Jesus enter homes to minister and teach. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the ministry still happens in homes and by sharing life together. Would you make it a priority to share your home and life with the next generation even now?