Gospel Opportunity: Internationals and the COVID-19 pandemic

March 17, 2020
Gospel Opportunity: Internationals and the COVID-19 pandemic

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)

The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. Psalm 146:9 (ESV)


God’s Intent is Known

It is clear what the Lord wants us to do for those among us who are international persons. In the wake of the pandemic as we discover new ways to minister to our people, perhaps we can consider mobilizing them to minister to others.


A portion of your Dixie Jackson offering allows Teresa “Bit” Stephens to serve as International Student Ministry Coordinator with the ABSC College + Young Leaders Team. She states, “I believe God is giving us an opportunity to be intentional with those around us who do not know Jesus. This is especially true for the nations He has dropped in our lap. This is a great time to challenge BCM students and church members to engage international students in various ways.”


Currently there are 206 individuals from 76 ABSC churches and BCM’s who have been working with the 6817 internationals students in Arkansas. But more is needed for a ministry that should be built on relationships instead of programming. Jamie Naramore, International Church Strategists on the ABSC Missions Team says, “While programs certainly have a place in international ministry, internationals respond to relationships based on mutual respect and trust. No one wants to be a target, but almost everyone would like a friend. One of the keys to building a relationship is to maintain a consistent presence among them.  Believers need to be creative and intentional in how they maintain a consistent presence, not only in serving them but also in just being with them. Those that do, have created an environment where they can also maintain a consistent Gospel proclamation.” These relationships form a basis that Jamie highlights in guiding churches as they plant churches among internationals in the workforce of our cities.


Every situation is unique

There is simply no “silver bullet” when engaging the nations. Every situation will provide unique opportunities.


In Magnolia, Immanuel Baptist church pastor Ben Coulter approached Mike Sandusky, BCM Campus Minister at SAU, with the idea of providing 70 Chicken Express pick-up or to-go lunches for international students this Wednesday. The cafeteria is still cooking meals, but this simple act provides a relational ministry contact. “More than anything I believe this is an expression of love that Christ wants us to share toward all people.  In a time of uncertainty, just being able to encourage someone, to let them know we are here for them and praying for them, can make a real difference in their life,” says Sandusky. Mike also encountered a young lady from Slovakia on campus. She indicated that she was “panicking all day long” and talking with her dad in Slovakia trying to decide what to do.  Mike and his wife, Kecia, who have 3 girls, offered a spare bedroom to the panicked student.


Jeremy Woodall, BCM Campus Minister at UAM, immediately connected with the international director at UAM to offer assistance that may arise with the 30 internationals on their campus. The simple act of providing transportation has been one need that has been met.


Tyler Hoffpauir, BCM Campus Minister at ASU, has created an international student survey to circulate among students to discover needs. Among other questions, he asks: “Will you need help understanding online classes? Do you need a ride to the airport? Do you have enough food and supplies? What is your biggest fear?”


Tarvoris “Tee” Uzoigwe, BCM Campus Minister at UAPB, had recently established a relationship with one student from Uganda. From this relationship came other relationships with internationals at UAPB.  Tee took a couple of these students to lunch and God opened the door for a Gospel conversation.  The student is currently considering this good news and Tee will see him again as the BCM Campus Minister continues to follow the Lord’s leading in ministry.


Others are simply making phone calls, providing online Zoom or chat opportunities as a way to care for these students in our midst.


Bit Stephens suggests these guidelines when visiting with international students:

  • Ask about the impact of the Coronavirus restrictions; ask about their thoughts and feelings. This could easily lead to discussion of God’s love, such as, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” 1 John 4:18
  • Ask about their family, friends, food, festivals and future, using the Who, What, When, Where and Why questions.
  • Ask them what they think a Christian is? Have they ever heard the big picture story of God and His relationship with men and women? Ask if they would like for you to tell them?
  • Listen well.  Each of these questions could lead to questions about their faith and your faith.

The Lord loves each of these students that he has brought to Arkansas. We believe that his purposes go way beyond education and that we as Arkansas Baptists will be held accountable to how we ministered to international persons in our midst.  Reaching and discipling these students is literally training potential church planters when they return to their country.  Perhaps that is why He reminds us of how we treat international persons. Their presence in Arkansas may help you take the least expensive international mission trip available…to your own city.


Bruce W. Venable serves as Team Leader for the Collegiate + Young Leaders Team at the ABSC.


The CYL team exists to assist churches in reaching the next generation with the Gospel on the most strategic mission field in the world.


From the Church ~ On the Campus ~ For Every Student