04 Aug The Nations Among Us
We are living in an unprecedented time of global interconnectedness and mobility. Because of this, old paradigms of missions must be re-examined. Are there other strategies and tactics that are emerging that must be considered as the church continues it’s ancient call of making disciples among all nations? Absolutely! And chief among them must be the ministry of “Welcoming.” A “Welcomer” is a person who engages internationals with the love of Christ through friendship, hospitality and service
The unreached are not stationary. They are on the move like never before. In the past, it was rare that a student would leave their home country to study abroad. That was a privilege reserved only for the wealthy. The costs were too high. But this is no longer the case. Students today are increasingly global about their education. They criss-cross the globe in search of all manner of educational and vocational opportunities. There are over 970,000 international students studying in the United States. But this is not just a western phenomenon. While I lived in Russia, I was surprised at the number of Chinese, Turkish and even African students who migrated to Russia for their education.
This is truly an historical moment. The Nations that we pray for—that we endeavor to reach with the glorious hope of the gospel, are now coming to us in astounding numbers. The Nations are now among us.
Whether they travel to New York City, Beijing, Bangalore, or Nairobi, students spend 6 months to 6 years at the university. After this, nearly all of them return to their home countries to begin their professional careers. What if they could be won to Jesus Christ and trained as disciples during their college years? They would then return home—back to China, India, and the Middle East not just with an education, but as ambassadors for Christ.
We might call this strategy “missions in-reverse.” Internationals already know their language and culture. They re-enter established social and relational networks. They have existing spheres of influence waiting for them when they return home.
But here is the sad reality we must face. Statistics show that most of these students spend their college years almost completely isolated from their host culture. Few are invited home as guests. One survey conducted showed that 80% of international students in the U.S. will never see the inside of an Americans home-the very thing they long for most. I suspect this reality in other cities around the world where foreign students study. This is a tragedy for the church! What a wasted opportunity!
But internationals are like us. They miss their homes and their families. They experience loneliness, culture shock, and sometimes depression. All of this can be changed when believers step out of their routine and initiate with them. Extending friendship to an international can make a world of difference. One of their greatest needs is for friendship and for someone to help them navigate their way through your culture.
While I was living in Samara, Russia I met a student from Indonesia named Timur. He was a bright and promising student at the Aeronautical and Space University, but life in Russia was a challenge for him. I invited Timur over to my house and he became my friend. Timur had believed in Jesus when he was young, but he had never been discipled. As we met together and talked about the Scriptures, a passion for God began to well up within him. Timur was being transformed by the Holy Spirit. The transformation was so impactful that in his final year at the University, Timur announced to our student ministry that God was calling him to return to his country as a missionary. Today, he is a pastor in his home country and leading many to Jesus Christ. What an incredible honor it was to serve and encourage Timur.
I am convinced that one of the greatest missionary opportunities is right here on our doorstep. God is bringing the nations to us. Will we embrace the opportunity to welcome them into our homes and churches?
What is God calling you to do? Welcoming is as easy as making a friend. Imagine a wave of indigenous ambassadors of Jesus Christ flowing back to their nations from universities and major cities wherever the church is present. The Nations are here. The opportunity to impact the world for Jesus Christ is waiting right outside your front door. Will you be a Welcomer?