International student ministry is an untapped and disconnected mission field to the local church!
Each year there are now approximately 1,000,000 international students attending American universities (that figure is different depending on the group giving out figures). The local church doesn't realize what is happening.
International students provide a unique opportunity to reach the world for Christ without leaving your own city!
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS On most campuses, the typical international undergraduate student comes for a semester or one year. They are here as a part of an exchange student program or they are here to simply enhance their education through an international study program. However, here at Purdue University, it is common for international undergraduate students to come for their full four-year degree simply because of the academic status of Purdue. Whether they are here for one semester or four years, their lifestyles and expectations are similar. Often most of these students live in the dorm rooms, so their physical needs aren't as many compared to graduate students. The connection to these students comes through exposure to the "Americana" experience. These students typically want to "experience" our culture. The challenge for us, along with other Christians, is to reach these students with intention to not only come along side as they experience our country, but share with them the truth of the love of Christ through friendship, encouragement, and simply being like a family support system. Because of their connection to their families back home, Gospel conversations are easy but conversions are hard.
We are learning as the years go by of the stress, anxiety, and loneliness that these students are experiencing. They are similar, in some circumstances, to their American student counterparts.
GRADUATE STUDENTS The typical international graduate student comes to an American university for much lengthier stay. They are usually here for a minimum of 2 years (although some Masters degree students try to accomplish it in a 1 1/2 years). It is not uncommon for them to continue into doctorate degrees. International graduate students come with a different goal when it comes to their interaction with the American culture. Some come with families, some are single, but either way, by default, they will be older than the undergraduate students. They want to know "why" do we believe and act the way we do. It is more from an intellectual point of view. Not to say that undergraduate students won't want to know some of the same things, these are just some of the differences. Because of their maturity as an adult, Gospel conversations are easier and conversions are more possible.
"THIRD CULTURE KIDS" This is a new group of students that we are encountering on the college campus. The definition of a TCK is someone who has lived someplace distinctively different from where they were born. We also tend to label students who are "American born ___________" (e.g., American born Chinese, Taiwanese, etc.). These are kids who grew up in homes where their parents are from another country, but raised their children here in the U.S. They would be defined as a TCK as well because they are creating a new blended culture.
These students bring a unique perspective to ministry. Some of these students identify more with their parents' culture than the culture they are experiencing in everyday life. A lot of times, they may have an cultural identity crisis. We desire to them to see the best of both worlds and to see their upbringing as special and purposeful in the eyes of God.
Why did we share this with you? The ministry to international students and TCK's require time and a genuine interest in them! They need to know that you will listen and want to know as much about them as they are wanting to know about you.
Here are a three incredible statistics from a variety of resources: approximately 60% of international students come from countries that are either closed or hostile to Christianity; around 5% actually spend any time in an American home. According to various sources, there are over 220 million TCK's throughout the world (U.S. total population is 327 million). These stats show where the local church is missing an incredible strategic mission opportunity and possibilities in cross-cultural missions ! This leads us toOUR MINISTRY: