There are many stories from experienced staff which tell of the impact of Chinese government “student watchers” and group pressure for Muslim students. One Bible study made up of Iranian students was stopped when word came from the government of Iran that all those students were forbidden to attend that group in the future. One group of Chinese scholars at a university were told by their government sponsor that if they attended church in the U.S. or a Bible study that they would be sent back to China immediately.
There are positives and limits of individual evangelistic Bible studies and discipleship. For the time being, and when a group venue is preferred, it is probably best for a student to be part of a small American group. Once the student has a personal relationship with Christ and has started to grow, it is best if he or she become part of an ethnically similar church and learn to follow Christ in a more culturally familiar setting.
As you see from this brief discussion so far, these issues are terribly complex. One solution may be right for one student and not for the next student. The Holy Spirit must guide each step.
Each student must learn to trust the Word of God and the Holy Spirit for leadership and growth. This truth is first modeled for him or her, then the student is assisted while they take initiative, then watched over as the student reaches out to another student, and then launched as the student now only depends upon his or her model for prayer for the student’s ministry efforts. In this way, the student is prepared to function in any situation with minimal support from others.
When students return home and desire fellowship with other believers whom they can trust, they may have to lead individuals to Christ and disciple them in order to be able to trust them!
Principles cited in this blog: Evangelism and discipleship with ethnic students from countries hostile to the gospel may require individual approaches initially.
Application for ISI ministry: Working with local International Students, Inc. staff will help in discerning by the Holy Spirit’s leadership what is best for any particular student at any particular time in their growth as a believer.
Next blog topic: What to do if a student gets in trouble with a professor and feels slighted or attacked
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson