Tammy Junghans (centre) and members of the Segue student group gear up for a campus outreach at the University of Manitoba.

Campus ministry reaching out to the nations

With the majority of foreign students not being Christian, International Student Ministries Canada programs reach out to all nationalities and religions.

WINNIPEG, MB—With an increasing number of international students enrolling at Canadian universities and colleges, Christians are able to reach out to the nations right here at home.

Numerous campus ministries across the country are broadening their international scopes in an effort to help foreign students make new friends and hear the gospel.

“We have the opportunity to show people Jesus’ love. God is mobilizing the world. It’s a great privilege to offer hospitality,” says Twylla Plett, national field director of International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC), which is present on campuses across the nation.

ISMC introduces foreign students to Canadian culture and builds friendships through a variety of activities, such as strawberry picking, corn roasts, and cross-country skiing.

With the majority of foreign students not being Christian, ISMC programs reach out to all nationalities and religions. Last year, 52 countries were represented in ISMC programs.

“Everyone is welcome. Many people who come to the weekly Bible studies are there to learn English,” Plett says, adding some 3,000 students attended ISMC bible studies in 2011-2012. “We see some that do choose to believe and then go on to get baptized in local churches.”

Active on more than 60 campuses across Canada, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) of Canada is another campus ministry that connects with thousands of national and international college and university students annually.

“Students are looking to meet and make new friends, and so I think offering them a community to belong to and genuine friendship is key,” says Mark Moses, IVCF Campus Minister, who works among international students at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “We simply try to build relationships with international students and love and care for them regardless of where they’re at; in the process we have opportunities to share the gospel.”

“International students come from adiversity of cultures and faiths, so we strive to create spaces where respectful dialogue can happen,” says Lynda MacGibbon, director of communications for IVCF. She adds that IVCF offers Bible studies, potlucks, game nights, hiking trips and sports activities to help them develop friendships.

Like her counterparts, Tammy Junghans has also noticed a recent influx of foreign students in the student group she started at the University of Manitoba four years ago. Over 100 national and international students now connect through Segue’s activities, including Bible studies.

“A lot of students are not able to hear about Jesus in their nation, and they are curious about faith. They are very receptive,” Junghans says.

She notes the vast differences in spreading the gospel to foreign students. “With Canadian students it is almost rude to bring up issues of faith. With international students it’s almost expected. In other cultures you can have a heated dialogue (about faith) and still walk away friends. Here (in Canada) it’s a deal breaker.”

“For the most part, international students are much more open to hearing the gospel than many Canadian students,” Moses echoes. “There are many reasons for this but one in particular is that many are from areas of the world where they haven’t had opportunities to hear about Jesus, and so a chance to study the Bible is quite new and exciting.”

Still, there are challenges to introducing foreign students to the gospel, Junghans says. “We have cross-cultural and language barriers. We need to disciple international students to be disciplers of [their fellow] international students.”

In the long term, the increased number of foreign students in Canada is presenting opportunities to spread the gospel that could have far-reaching potential, Plett says. “When they go back (to their counties) they can have a big impact over people. We need to be offering leadership programs to these students as well.”

MacGibbon agrees. “As international students choose to follow Jesus, they will bring the good news of the gospel with them when they return home. They can become witnesses for Jesus Christ in their own countries and among their own families and friends.”

Dear Readers:

If ChristianWeek has made a difference in your life, please take a minute and donate to help give voice to stories that inform, encourage and inspire.

Donations of $20 or more will receive a charitable receipt.
Thank you, from Christianweek.

About the author