How can the church welcome international students?

International students are an integral part of the student mission story. There are few other environments where such a diverse range of cultures can be found in the same place, and yet, as churches and students, we often miss the opportunities in front of us. Distances across oceans and cultural variations provide us with the opportunity to literally make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Yet, how often do we find ourselves intentionally welcoming students from overseas? 

At a recent Fusion Training Day, we heard from 4 people who reflected on their time moving to the UK, as well as sharing insight on how to welcome all students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.  

Aaron, a Fusion Team member shares, “It was after 12 years of being in the UK I had my first invitation to someones house who wasn’t South Asian. We need to remember that people have left everything they know behind, so the impact of an invitation goes so much further than we could ever imagine.”

Josiah, an international student in Southampton adds, “Hospitality was so important. The church has such hospitality and I was welcomed into peoples’ homes.” 

Paul, a member of the Fusion Team shares his experience of welcoming international students into his home. “[We have seen] around 100 - 150 students welcomed into homes. One student shared that it was the first time they had been invited to an English home, and we’ve seen students come to church off the back of that.”

He also shares that “there was a sense that our students were coming along to something [church], but not able to participate in the same way that the local people were. So we spoke to them and asked them what it could look like for their friends, even if they weren’t believers, what vision do you have to serve your community? 

They began to shape it by hosting it themselves in their home. Suddenly there was more of a buzz and more vision. They knew that they weren’t coming just to be served, but instead began to raise up leaders. Otherwise you’re just building something where you’re just getting people through the doors.” 

We asked Aaron, Josiah, Paul and Javed, a student worker in London, what advice they would give to someone wanting to welcome international students. Here are their top tips: 

  • “Start with prayer. Prayer isn’t our fallback strategy. It’s us putting our best foot forward.” 
  • “Reconsider social gatherings around alcohol. Often certain cultures have a negative perception of alcohol.” 
  • “I still remember the guy who would pick me up and drop me home after small group. Acts of service are so helpful for international students.” 
  • “Food opens up doors. Conversations take place around the tables.” 
  • “Ask international students to contribute towards something. It will help them to feel like they are a part of something.” 
  • “Ask people to pray in their own languages.” 
  • “Find an international student who is a person of peace to connect with. If you don’t have that person, pray for that person.” 

How can you invest in the international students in your city? Who can you welcome into your home? 


 

Victoria Seithel

Communications Developer

Viki loves raising up new leaders and is committed to sharing the hope-filled story of student mission with the churches she serves.

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