Students from across the world come to America to study in colleges and universities. In response, Christian ministries on campus are reaching out to international students, helping them overcome loneliness and culture shock by offering friendship and the comfort of Christ.
For Esther and Mark, Friday nights are about more than just eating a free dinner at church. They are there for a special purpose, as thousands of Chinese students come to the United States for advanced education.
Many are professed atheists, but some are finding Christ through campus ministries.
According to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, in 2015 more than 304,000 Chinese were enrolled in American colleges and universities. Twelve percent of those students accepted Christ.
Regent University student Li Xiang struggled with culture shock after arriving in Virginia Beach.
“Loneliness was totally unavoidable for me. No matter how hard I tried to keep myself busy, I just felt empty. Then, I was invited to a church dinner on Friday nights. It felt strange that the people there shared an amazing dinner with me and started to talk to me as friends and buddies,” said Xiang
CBN News joined some members of Agape Chinese Church as they handed out tracts at a Washington, D.C. park. Their main focus was to invite foreign students to church.
Contemporary music is an important part of their outreach. Some of the people that passed by at the park seemed touched by the passionate performance for Jesus.
Singer Josue Parra welcomes the partnership with Chinese American Christians.
“We have been praying for years to have the Chinese community to help us to preach the Gospel," said Parra
"Right now, we have the people who can help us. It’s a blessing for us,” he added.
Church leaders believe music is one way to bridge the gap with the foreign college students.
"Many students told me they have never heard of this type of music. Although they don’t know Jesus, they can sit there quietly to listen and feel the music. They love those songs,” said Xiang
Over time, the Christians established relationships with the students. As a result, they became more willing to discuss faith and the Bible.
The students' lives changed because church members ministered to them and helped them understand the Christian faith.
"I've never thought about the word 'sin.' The more I read about it, the more questions I had," Xiang told CBN News.
"I even compared Christianity with other religions," he continued. "When I got really confused, I tried to pray like other Americans do. I just felt God was next to me and church leaders began to explain more to me.”
"The purpose of this ministry is to allow younger Chinese to know Jesus. They are living in us, and they will face trials and uncertainties. Our church provides help to them. And we want them to feel the same love that Jesus gave to us,” explained Joshua Wang, pastor of Agape Chinese Church
“As a church, we want to use our resources to change the Chinese young people right here in us," he added. "God gave us the mission to make disciples of all people, all races, and all nations."
*If you’re interested in starting an international student ministry on your campus, check out the links below: