Students from around the world are saying, ‘“Me, too!” to Jesus. They want to know their Creator in a real and personal way—a way they never knew was possible!
I have served as part of the ISMC team on the Pacific coast for 19 years; what a pleasure to hear students saying, “Yes!” to God!
Dora*, a student from Hungary said, “Me, too! I want to know Jesus!” She said yes to a relationship with God. Our personal friendship grew into a friendship with her Creator. Hani*, from a Muslim background, became my friend and a friend of our extended family, but soon became Jesus’ friend. She said, “Me too! I want to know Jesus!” What a thrill to meet amazing students from around the world and become friends. They become a big part of our lives and we love being invited into their lives. How exciting to see them understand that God cares about all aspects of their life, including family and marriage.
An Iranian student was grieving over a broken relationship and through her tears, I learned she was also missing her family. I invited her to dinner several times, as well as to our Focus Club (an international students club), to church, and to fun events with my family and sisters. One day, she gave her life to Jesus and enrolled in the Alpha evangelistic course, going through it twice and serving as a volunteer. Her sister has just arrived in Canada and we are praying she will also say “Me, too” to Jesus.
Dora, the Hungarian student, had told me, “I trust God has a great husband for me like He gave you, Skye.” Years earlier, I accepted a mission call to instruct at a teachers college in Szombathely, Hungary, in the Department of Canadian Studies. I had already entrusted my future to God; little did I know He had prepared a handsome Nova Scotia forester, Randy, for me. We married in 1994, taught at different universities in western Hungary, and lead Alpha courses for students who had known only Communism. Years later, thanks to the Internet and snail mail, I reconnected with Dora, who had prayed for a Christian husband. How exciting to learn she was marrying a joy-filled Christian man. Now, this dynamic couple reaches out through education and ministry in Budapest.
For the past twenty years after returning from Europe, Randy and I have served with ISMC, ministering to university students in Vancouver. We and our family have had many opportunities to inspire a sense of wonder and faith in international students, introducing them to the Creator who already knows and loves them deeply.
It is simple to befriend international students. It’s a ministry that could be in everyone’s heart, being kind to one of the tens of thousands of international students God is bringing to Canada. They don’t need anything from us—money, housing, or food. All they need is a friend. We can do that. Every church could and should have a ministry to international students, from high school to university.
One day I met a Saudi student in a park. He and his little family were flying home to the Middle East the next day, after six years at UBC. I wanted to cry when he told me that not once had he been invited to a Canadian home for a meal—never mind a Christian home. What a missed opportunity for Canadian Christians to show hospitality to a stranger and demonstrate God’s love in a practical way.
I volunteer as a university chaplain in a multi-faith centre at a Vancouver university and Randy instructs international university students. Each week, Randy joins male students at an Alpha Bible study or just hangs out with them over chicken wings. The rest of the week is spent teaching, tutoring, and coaching students from China, India, and Iran. Our children, Chloe, 21, and Luke, 19, grew up serving international students. Each Saturday night for 16 years, they helped us host Focus Club and dinners for internationals at our Richmond church. Many nights, they gave up their beds for an international student who needed a place to stay. Chloe and Luke attend Trinity Western University; Chloe served a term with YWAM in Papua New Guinea and Luke plays soccer for the TWU Spartans.
Randy and I encourage every church to be intentional in reaching international students—high school or university—as well as immigrants. Encourage students in your church to invite internationals for dinner or to church or social events like Christmas, Easter, or a hockey game. Like I said, international students need friends far more than they need money, a place to stay, or ESL lessons. All it takes is a simple invitation to your home and into your life. What a great opening for them to learn about your spiritual journey.
As Dr. David Aikman, former Time magazine bureau chief (Beijing, Moscow, Jerusalem) told me, “Reaching international students is probably the most strategic and cost effective missionary work possible. All they need is a friend.”
I would love to see every Canadian church ministering to international students. Randy and I have a passion to help churches reach them. We invite you to contact us if we can help you get started!
Skye and Randy Fulton
Campus Directors, ISMC Vancouver