International students are like lamps to be lit so that their life can punch holes in the darkness.
As a teenager, I grew up hearing the impact of Brother Bakth Singh's ministry in India. He was well known as a pioneer in gospel contextualization and a proponent of indigenous Indian churches. He was one of the leading evangelists and Bible teachers in India. He is also known as the father of the indigenous church movements in India. In the words of Dr. J. Edwin Orr, British Church Historian, "Brother Bakht Singh is an Indian equivalent of the greater Western evangelists, as skillful as Finney and as direct as Moody. He is a first-class Bible teacher of the order of Campbell Morgan or Graham Scroggie." The indigenous church planting movement that he started saw more than 10,000 local churches planted during his 70 years of ministry.
Little did I know that Brother Bakht Singh was a Sikh international student in Canada at the University of Manitoba in the early 1930s when he surrendered his life to become a follower of Jesus Christ. Reading his biography, I began to think; thousands and thousands of Bakht Singh's arrive in Canada as International Students every year. In fact, 34 percent of Canada's international students come from India – the land of Bakht Singh.
According to the Feb 2020 Canada Immigration newsletter, Canada's international student population tripled over the past decade to 642,000 in 2019. Canada has moved into third place globally behind the United States of America and Australia. Some 56 percent of Canada's international students come from India and China. Both India and China are becoming increasingly hostile to Christians in recent times. According to the 2020 Open Doors World Watch List, India is in the 10th position, and China is in the 23rd position among the world's most persecuted countries. However, it is from these two countries more than half of the international students arrive in Canada. There are many other nations in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa that either prohibit or restrict missionary activity. Still, the gospel cannot be chained - students from these countries come and study in Canada.
The greatest potential for world evangelism lies in international students studying in Canada. God has indeed brought the nations to our doorstep. 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-best and brightest students, most of who have never even heard of Jesus Christ.
Ministry to international students is compelling! They want to experience Canadian culture, and often, they want to be our friends. They have different needs, and they need our help. In the Old Testament, we read the story of Solomon, who just finished building the temple. In his prayer, he specifically mentions that we should pay attention to the foreigner who has come from a distant place. He says in 1 Kings 8:41-43,
"As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your name.
Why should we help the foreigner/international student in our country? So that all the peoples of the earth may know God's name and fear Him. How does that happen? They hear about Christ, engage in a solid local church, learn to be a disciple who makes other disciples, and ultimately impact their people group either back home or in the current place of residence.
How can we involve in the International Student ministry?
As the world is flooding our campuses with many international students, here are a couple of options for us as a church to impact international students:
Partner with the friendship programs of international student ministry organizations like http://home-away-from-home.ca/ to open our homes for international students to come and experience the love of Christ through our hospitality – the true Canadian hospitality!
Partner with organizations that reach out to international students on the different university campuses of Alberta.
· International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC) - https://ismc.ca/
· Power to Change - http://p2c.com/students/campuses/university-of-alberta/
· Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) - https://ivcf.ca/
I am excited about what God is about to do in our district among the international students. As the songwriter, Aaron Boyd of Bluetree writes,
Greater things have yet to come / And greater things are still to be done in this city.
Stay tuned for webinars, blogs, videos, and other resources on ministering to international students.
Burke, Jack D. Paradigm Shift: Why International Students are so Strategic to Global Missions. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2019