Since the mid-1980’s, International Students, Inc. has encouraged American Christians to reach out across cultural barriers to befriend and help new international students as Friendship Partners. (To clarify, this is a friendship relationship and not a housing arrangement.) The Friendship Partner agrees to pray for the student daily, to meet with the student at least monthly, and to contact the student (via text, phone, or email) at least weekly.
New students are very needy when they first arrive. They have hundreds of questions about how to do something and where to get things, so the initial contacts with the student may be more often than mentioned above. The phone calls and texts may even be daily at first!
Think if you were in the student’s home country. Where would you buy postage stamps? What kind of milk would you buy in the store? Would it be safe to drink? What if you became sick, where would you go? Could you get there by walking?
Sometimes the university does a good orientation for the new students, but many times they do not. Imagine how appreciative a student would be to have someone who would answer any question without judgement! Students have many questions about the culture, expectations, and attitudes of people in their new culture. They have to learn American manners and when/how to ask questions in class and in social situations.
As the student’s interest in the culture grows, it is a good time to suggest a six-week one-on-one Bible study in order to understand how the Bible has impacted so much of the American culture and thinking. After the six weeks, see if the student would like to invite some of his or her friends to join you for a small group Bible study (possibly the M28 study promoted by International Students, Inc.; see www.m28global.org).
Principles cited in this blog: New international students need a cultural informant, and Friendship Partners are ideal matches for new students. Learning about the new culture is a perfect time to do an introductory Bible study. If the student likes it, they can invite their friends to join them.
Application for ISI ministry: As we share our lives with our new student friends, they have the opportunity to see God at work in our lives through our dependence upon prayer and his Word.
Next blog topic: Understanding cultures when I don’t like what I see and experience
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson