Befriend An International Student



Jesus made it clear we were to take care of those from other places. The New King James translation uses the word strangers.

MATTHEW 25:34-40 NKJ
34 "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, `Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 `for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 `I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'
37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, `Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
38 `When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
39 `Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
40 "And the King will answer and say to them, `Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

1 TIMOTHY 5:9-10 NKJ
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man,
10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.

2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

The following two scripture passages command us to be hospitable.

ROMANS 12:10-13 NKJ
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

1 PETER 4:8-10 NKJ
8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.


Missions should be thought of in terms of people groups, not geography.

The Great Commission Jesus gave believers in Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to make disciples of all people groups -- the literal interpretation of all nations.

The best opportunity most of us will have to reach another people group is by reaching someone who is an international student in our own country.

More than 400,000 international students now attend college in the USA.

These students are destined to be tomorrow's world leaders. Many times they return to high places of influence in government, education, or business.

Many past and present presidents, prime ministers, and princes from around the world have studied at American colleges.

Students even come here from some countries "closed" to traditional missions and missionaries.

These college years are a time of questioning and learning -- making these students more open perhaps to the Gospel than at any other time in their lives.

They may have an openness to new ideas they would have never considered in their home country. Especially, when the official religion of their country is something other than Christianity.

When they come here they are likely to be lonely and experience culture shock. Everything may be new and unfamiliar.

Being isolated from family and friends is particularly difficult for many of them. Finding a new friend in this country can be a big help.

Experts say seven out of ten international students will never enter an American home outside the university community.

How sad that these students live here four or more years and never know typical Americans, or find out much about life in the United States.

Last, but certainly not least, is the impact a student can have on you. Possibly they may change your life!


* What would it be like for you to spend several years in a strange country where another language was spoken and everything would be unfamiliar to you? Put yourself in their place and think what you would like help with.

* Remember there is no typical international student -- they are all individuals.

* You should provide hospitality -- not entertainment. Let them be a part of what you might normally do.

* Be sensitive to their schedule -- especially final exams and breaks.

* Demonstrate the unconditional love of Jesus. Treat them as you would like to be treated.

* Become a trusted friend with whom they can talk. Make sure you let them know you are willing to answer their questions.

* Pray for them and their families.

* Maintain regular contact. A call or a short note lets them know you are thinking of them and that you care.

* Never take anything for granted. Even the simplest things may not be understood.

* Yet, be careful not to be condescending. Most international students are from sophisticated, modern cities.

* Be a real friend. Don't just use them, or consider them a project.

* Ask them if they have any dietary restrictions or preferences before fixing food for them.

* Put yourself in their place and try to think about how they feel. But remem-

ber, with their different cultural background they may think differently than you would even imagine.

* Make it clear about times of arrival and departure, so they will know in advance what to expect. Also, let them know what type of dress is appropriate.

* When dealing with an International Student Advisor at a university, always remember to view things from their perspective. Many are wary of "religious" groups, afraid that their students will be exploited or coerced to convert.


* Look at your friend and speak slowly and clearly when you talk. If you are not sure they understood you -- repeat what you said using different words.

* Listen attentively when they talk. Listen and learn. They know things you don't.

* Learn their name and how to pronounce it correctly. Don't be afraid to ask them several times how to say it until you are sure you have it right.

* Ask thoughtful questions that show your interest in them and their country.

* Don't criticize or condemn. Avoid saying, or asking, anything negative about them or their country.

* Avoid slang and difficult words.

* Be cautious with jokes and humor. It is often very difficult to understand without the cultural context.


* Show Jesus' love in actions of kindness, respect, etc. Be a witness. Let the Holy Spirit convert. Don't you try to convert them immediately.

* You may need to earn the right to be heard. Be sensitive to the timing of the Holy Spirit.

* Don't argue or preach. Respect their opinions.

* Don't force or impose your ideas and beliefs.

* Use an easy-to-understand translation of the Bible. Remember that English is probably not their native language.

* Don't manipulate, or trick, or pressure.

* Focus on Jesus. Remember, Jesus is Savior and Lord -- not people or doctrines or denominations. Focus on who Jesus said He was.

* Share what the Bible says, not what you think.

* Avoid Christian jargon.

* When correcting an answer, always give praise and encouragement first. For example, you could respond, "Good answer. Here's what the Bible says . . . ," or, "That's a very interesting thought. Have you ever considered thinking of it this way . . . ."

* Do not advertise or brag if your friend becomes a Christian. Allow them to choose when and how to tell others of their decision. Be sensitive to the impact it may have on them, especially if Christianity is illegal in their country.


* Involve them in the normal, ordinary activities of your everyday life.

* They may enjoy having somewhere to go beside their dorm and just relaxing.

* Invite them to cook a native meal with you at your house.

* Play games like Pictionary.

* Take pictures with them and give them copies.

* Attend concerts, plays, sporting events, picnics, museums, zoos, restaurants.

* Go fishing, hiking, or camping.

* Share your personal testimony, being sensitive to do it at the right time and in the right way.

* Have a modern translation of the Bible in their language available to give them when the time is right.


International Students Inc., Box C, Colorado Springs, CO 80901. (719) 576-2700

Multi-Language Media, Box 301, Ephrata, PA 17522. (717) 738-0582

International Bible Society, Box 62970, Colorado Springs, CO 80967. (800) 524-1588

American Bible Society, 1865 Broadway, New York, NY 10023. (212) 408-1499

Check out our Information For International Students page for more helpful resources.

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