This week Robbi Francovich, Cross Cultural Specialist at the BSM at UT Austin shares some suggestions for ministry to international students.
Navigating the world of the university campus and meeting international students can be a “foreign” experience if you are just starting. Of course, the best source of knowledge and experience is your local Baptist Student Ministry staff. The BSM is a “home away from home” for students and a great partner that will walk alongside you in discovering how to use resources and volunteers.
Another great way to get connected is through the University’s international student office. They will have a “friendship” or “host family” program that connects students to members of the local community. Host families are paired with international students in the Fall, but often there are summer needs for short-term programs such as a group of Korean teachers or a leadership camp for Iraqi youth.
The University’s English as a Second Language program or off campus ESL centers need both adult and student volunteers to be conversation partners. At the University of Texas BSM, we have opened our building to the ESL socials program. Once a month they have a lunch or party for the ESL students. They also have a weekly “talk time” and need volunteers to have hour-long conversations to practice English with the students. As we get to know the students, we invite them for Sunday lunch at home, or to go get a coffee. These students not only need to learn English, but they want to be part of community.
Community and partnership are at the core of programs offered off-campus. “Friendship International” in Austin, a non-profit organization of Baptist churches has a weekly morning program offering English and creative classes, cultural programs and childcare for international women in the community. Another similar program called “Coffee Morning” focuses on wives of international students and scholars.
One of our local churches, Hyde Park Baptist Church, has a thriving family-based InternationalSunday School. They offer both a Bible Study and an English conversation class during the Sunday School hour. Throughout the year, several families partner together to host Sunday lunches, trips, and weekly classes at the BSM. They have registered as a student organization and meet new students in the Fall, do a “Welcome to America” retreat, a Spring Break adventure, and holiday home events. Their success in this continued ministry is year-long involvement, deepening friendships, and a loving witness through the Word of God and their lives well lived.
“So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thess 2:8
Contact Robbi Francovich, Cross Cultural Specialist, University of Texas at Austin for more ideas robbiutbsm[at]gmail.com