But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge. (Daniel 12:4 NIV)
For Muhammad, it was a dream come true when he won a full scholarship with a monthly stipend to pursue both a masters and PhD in a certain country. Now, he just wants to wake up from the nightmare, he says, and wishes he had chosen to study somewhere else. Muhammad returned to his home in northeast Africa a year ago, when embassies evacuated overseas students during the COVID-19 outbreak. He was among the legions of foreign students compelled to leave their countries of study, and whose futures have been stranded ever since. He is one of thousands of international students who recently signed an online petition and launched a social media campaign calling on certain countries to re-open their borders to them. In addition to having to borrow money from relatives to survive, Muhammad said trying to continue his studies online is a daily struggle, with an internet connection that makes it difficult to access needed materials and resources.
This real story, from an Asian newspaper report I recently read, starkly contrasts with the direct messages from good friends of mine in the last few weeks; they wanted to connect me/ISMC with international students coming to Canada. While the pandemic with its attendant travel and on-campus restrictions have slowed the in-person rush into Canada, students are still being processed to attend schools in Canada online, in-person, or both. There is no stopping of the global international student phenomenon in the light of biblical prophecy and government policy.
At the beginning of January, I had the privilege of leading a workshop on global trends in university policy at a retreat of international student ministry staff of InterVarsity USA. While certain countries have recently had policies that have repelled international students, Canada continues to produce attractive policies, including a recent announcement of 1.2 million new Canadian permanent residents over the next two years, many of whom will be graduated international students.
So, many will still rush to Canada to increase knowledge, for scripture cannot be broken, and Canadian international education policies are doing well to keep the traffic coming our way. May ISMC staff, volunteers, supporters, and partners be of good cheer. Inasmuch as we will have to continually make newer and better wineskins (mission strategies and methodologies) to remain relevant to the changing contexts and needs of students, as for the wine (God’s Spirit and international souls), it will keep flowing from the Lord of the harvest. O God of the nations, help us be faithful and fruitful in season and out of season!
Dr. Yaw Perbi