By Jay Rogers
Published April 3, 2008
How would you like to be used of God to change an entire nation?
Armenia was the first nation in the world to become what we would call a “Christian nation.” By the year 300 A.D., virtually everyone within the borders of that country had come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. How did it happen? It was all the result of one man – a foreign student – who went to study in Cappadocia, a province of Asia Minor. He lived there with a Christian family, gave his life to Christ, was taught, and went back to Armenia with a burning desire to preach the gospel there!
One student went to a foreign country … And he brought his whole nation to Christ!
America: A Modern Day Jerusalem
God has a strategic plan for everything He does. When He poured out His Spirit on the first disciples in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, He had a missionary purpose in mind. Acts 2:5 tells us who was observing when the miraculous event occurred:
“Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven.”
Few Americans realize it … But today in the United States, there are over 7 million non-immigrant, non-tourist foreigners and 400,000 international students attending our colleges and universities. This is at least a 2000% increase in just 25 years!
If we believe that God is sovereign and that He works in the affairs of nations, we have to realize that He brought these foreign visitors to America for a reason.
We need to understand that the missionary vision is straight from the heart of God! We can see this throughout the Bible as early as the book of Genesis. God first gave this commission to Abraham:
“Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you. And I will make you a great nation; and I will bless you, and make your name great; so that you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
God’s ultimate purpose in sending Abraham to Canaan was to reach the nations! In that day Canaan was the crossroads of three continents. Caravans from the farthest corners of the inhabited earth traveled there. The land was chosen by God for Israel to dwell in because he wanted His people to carry out a missionary task!
When the land of Israel finally began to take dominion over the land of Caanan, God gave them specific instructions on how to handle foreign visitors:
- Deuteronomy 31:12: “Assemble the alien who is in your town, in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of the law.”
- Leviticus 19:34: “The stranger who resides with you … you must treat him as yourself.”
God’s missionary desire to reach the whole world could not be fully accomplished by His “missionary nation” – Israel. That call and responsibility was handed down to the Church!
It is amazing to see how often international visitors appear in the New Testament! Did you know that Paul himself – one of the greatest apostles that ever lived – was an international student? He came from Tarsus to study in Jerusalem, and you know he rest of the story.
In Acts chapter 8, we find Philip the evangelist preaching to an Ethiopian visitor, who was quite influential in the royal court of his country. Philip led him to the Lord, and the new believer went back to transform his own nation.
Imagine the possibilities! Because Philip was simply obedient to relate the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, all of Africa was introduced to the message of Jesus. The same can happen today when you become a friend to an international student and lead him to Christ! Your obedience to the Spirit of God can affect the destiny of a whole nation or even an entire continent!
When we do not obey God’s commands, however, there can often be tragic results.
- Yosuke Matsuoka attended the University of Oregon. Isoruku Yamamoto studied at Harvard. Both experienced incredible racial prejudice. After returning to Japan they became the foreign Minister of Japan and the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet respectively. They played key roles in leading their nation to attack Pearl Harbor.
- Ho Chi Minh traveled to New York, Boston and Paris as a young man. He was impressed by what he called “the barbarities and ugliness of American capitalism, the Ku Klux Klan mobs, the lynching of Negroes.” In 1924, he published a pamphlet, La Race Noire (“The Black Race”), criticizing racism in America and Europe. He later studied Marxism and due to his influence all of Southeast Asia came under communist dominion.
- Mengistu Haile Mariam, the communist leader of Ethiopia, went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for military training and was said to have been embittered by the racial discrimination he received while in America. The lack of cooperation the government of Ethiopia exhibited with the nations of the West during the great famine, was a direct result of this embitterment.
These men came to America for an education – and rather than reaching out to them and loving them, we sent them back as enemies. Their stories should teach us a lesson about the importance of reaching out to international students!
Right now, one fourth to one half of the future leaders of the world are on American campuses. The greatest potential for world evangelism lies in the international students studying in America. God had truly brought the whole world to our doorstep. This is God’s most effective strategy for world evangelism.
There are many nations of the world which either prohibit or restrict missionary activity. In American universities, however, there are many Muslim, Chinese, and Southeast Asian students, whose governments are sponsoring their academic endeavors.
These students are already familiar with the people, language and customs of their own country. These international students are the future leaders of their societies, often comprising the top five percent of their nation – often, most people in these nations have never even heard of Jesus Christ. If these students become Christians while studying here in America and are trained in God’s Word, they can go back and begin a spiritual awakening in their own nation – from within!
The foreign students on your campus are often lonely and are used to living around people in their own nation who show them great respect. Now, living in America, they are treated like another face in the crowd. Most international students come to this country with a real desire to have an American friend. They are looking for people who have genuine love and concern for them.
The question you should be asking is: “Where are the Christians?” We can no longer afford to sit back in complacency while 400,000 future leaders of the nations remain unreached with the gospel. We literally have the whole world sitting on our doorstep. In the Great Commission, our Lord Jesus Christ told us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” and “make disciples of all nations.”
How will you respond?
An Effective Strategy to Reach Internationals
1. Print 2000 invitations to a Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by your local church.
2. Distribute these invitations to the international students on your local campus. (Most campuses have student groups for international students through which you may be able to distribute these invitations).
3. Invite 2000 international students to a Thanksgiving dinner. (A dinner for 20 to 50 people should be planned.)
4. At this dinner, give a presentation of the gospel in a creative way. This might include an explanation of “the meaning of Thanksgiving.”
5. Make a friend of an international student. Your love and friendship may one day help to change the world.
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