If you have not noticed, the world has come to Oklahoma. You will find people from faraway places living in Oklahoma, even in many of our rural communities.
Certainly in the cities, internationals live in our neighborhoods, their children attend the same schools as our children, they shop at the same stores with us, and they work side by side with us. These are people of different cultures, languages and, in most cases, religions. In a few days, thousands of university students will come from around the globe to study in Oklahoma.
The Great Commission takes on a new meaning when you consider the plethora of internationals who live in our communities. We no longer need to go across the ocean to find mission work. We can go down the street, stop at the coffee shop, or meet someone from another nation in our college class.
But will we? Will we make the effort to engage and befriend people from other lands who live in our neighborhoods? Or, will we ignore them? Interestingly, we will often spend thousands of dollars to go on a mission trip and then walk past many internationals day after day who are just as in need of the love of Christ and a gospel witness as people living on the other side of the world.
God brings the world to us, and we bypass the world who has come to our communities to go around the world to share His love. That seems rather remarkable! Please, do not get me wrong. I am not advocating we stop going to the nations around the world. What I am saying is that it is time we go to the nations next door with the same intentionality.
Many of the internationals who come to live in Oklahoma need friendship. They are interested in how we live, what we think, what is important to us, and, yes, even in what we believe.
I have found this to be especially true of international students. Many of these students relish the opportunity to be invited into the home of an American and want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn the American way.
Our goal for reaching internationals living in Oklahoma is no different than our goal for a mission trip. Our desire is to introduce them to the Good News and our Savior. Our first approach should be to love them and befriend them. If you read the Gospels, you read on several occasions where the text describes Jesus’ love for people. People were not “notches on the gospel belt,” but were people who were first touched by the depth of His love and kindness.
Whether you are talking with an international student or family, developing a friendship is not rocket science. Just take time to engage them, listen to them, and show them kindness. Invite them into your world, and host them for a meal, preferably at your home. Ask lots of questions and let them do the same. Conversation about the Gospel and your relationship to Christ and His church will happen naturally. Seek to understand these international students. Share the Gospel as the Holy Spirit prompts you—and He will!
Reaching international students or families takes the same intentional planning as a mission trip. The Great Commission is not just for “over there,” it is for “right here.” The world is next door. Now go on your mission trip across the street or down the aisle at Walmart. You will be on mission for Christ, and your life will be greatly enriched.