November 16th, 2010 at 4:08 pm
There are many different groups and communities that make up major university campuses. Soon after arriving at Texas A&M University as BSM director, I recognized that international students composed a significant subgroup on my new campus. I was initially struck by the sheer number of international students – approximately 5,000 – when I walked on campus and observed students going past our building.
As I began meeting international students, I was impressed by a second fact. Most of our international guests were graduate students. They were extremely intelligent, highly motivated, unfamiliar with Christianity, and extremely open to relationship with Americans. They came from all corners of the globe and represented the best and brightest from their home countries. In addition to students, I met visiting scholars who had come to A&M for extended periods of time. I knew that engaging and sharing Christ with these internationals in a loving and relevant way should be a priority for our BSM.
Although international students studying in U.S. universities have passed entrance English exams, most still struggle with the language. Understanding and communicating effectively in English is often the most daunting challenge internationals face. While studying a discipline such as engineering can be overwhelming for American students, imagine its complexity if you are learning in a second language. Addressing this basic need is one reason that our BSM teaches weekly conversation classes for internationals. Providing an American friend who will patiently answer questions, introduce vocabulary, and practice speaking is a great gift to our international students.
Conversational English classes also serve as an entry point for international students into our BSM and relationships with believers. Conversation classes help our internationals become involved in different small groups and activities. Many of these students begin attending our Wednesday lunch, which is focused on introducing students to Christ. Others attend small group introductory Bible studies led by our American students. These studies immediately follow each of our weekly classes. Many of our international students are curious about the Bible and enjoy these interactive studies. It is an amazing experience to read the Bible for the first time with someone who has never had the opportunity. These become foundational experiences that God uses in helping internationals eventually choose to follow Christ. The impact on our American students who teach the classes and Bible studies is equally profound. They learn more about the Bible and their own faith as they answer insightful questions posed by the internationals. We have also seen God use these teaching experiences and relationships to call our students into short and long term mission service. Their perspectives expand as they interact with new friends from different parts of the world.
Story by Joel Bratcher, BSM director at Texas A&M University
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