The Great Commission in Matthew tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28:19) So often this verse is used in sending missionaries to far away countries, but did you know that there is a way to reach “all nations”, right in your own backyard?
International students at universities and colleges are eager to learn about American customs and culture. This includes learning about religion. Campus Lutheran in Columbia, located right next to the University of Missouri, has a thriving church and campus ministry. One unique aspect of this busy congregation is their ministry to international scholars. Different than an undergraduate student, often international scholars visit for about a year’s time to master the English language, bringing their family with them. A wonderful blessing and connection for students is Beth Greimann, an English Language Learner instructor at University of Missouri. Beth also serves as the Director of International Ministry at Campus Lutheran.
“It has come as a natural outreach,” says Beth. While teaching at the university, she is allowed to answer any questions that the students have. And there are easy ways to use Campus Lutheran as a resource, like inviting students to experience Thanksgiving dinner or inviting them to a free English class on Friday mornings at the church. She also teaches a class “Authentic Writing Using Recipes and Cooking”, for which she can utilize Campus Lutheran’s kitchen.
There are many aspects to this ministry, that together, help foster building relationships. For example, there is a free “garage sale” where a number of household items are set up and available for international students. There are always plenty of events, like Easter egg hunts, pumpkin carvings, family fun night. By making sure there is another event scheduled, there is a welcome invitation. Keeping the relationship going can be as simple as having a postcard prepared with the upcoming event information. Plus, there are plenty of meals to be shared.
The harvest does not return empty. In addition to creating many friendships over the years, and planting the seeds of Christianity in students, Campus Lutheran has been blessed to experience the fruit of the Holy Spirit firsthand. There are baptisms that can come out of these relationships, and even a Christian marriage!
If you are involved in a college ministry, the Missouri District Campus Ministry Network has some grant funding available beginning or expanding outreach among international students. Contact our District office about “Reaching the Nations Through Campus Ministry” initiative.