Why international students? [1]


God desires all nations to know and worship him

Throughout the Bible, we see a central theme of God’s concern for the nations. God calls Abraham so that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). He speaks of his temple through the prophet Isaiah as “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). God sent his Son Jesus to give his life for the world because he loves it so much (John 3:16).

If we are to have God’s heart then we, too, are to love the nations. In case they hadn’t already got the message Jesus specifically commanded his disciples – and through them, us – to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). He spoke with the supreme authority given to him by his heavenly Father (verse 18). In obeying our Lord Jesus, we can have the privilege of aligning ourselves with God’s purposes for the nations of the world, which is none other than the vision he imparts to the apostle John of heaven populated with “a great multitude … from every nation, tribe, people and language…” (Revelation 7:9).


God welcomes the stranger

God’s heart for the nations of the world encompasses a tender concern for those who are particularly vulnerable in our societies. He commanded his ancient people: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Lev.19:33-34) and “God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deut.10:18-19).

 The concept of the generous hospitality provided by God for his redeemed people is a recurring theme in Scripture (e.g. Deut. 8:7-9; Ps. 23:5; Joel 2:23,24). The people look back to the provision of land for a fledgling nation of escaped slaves and forward to “the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).

 Jesus commends his true followers for practising the same hospitality – “Then the King will say to those on his right. ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance … for … I was a stranger and you invited me in’” (Matt. 25:34-36). When we understand that we were once ourselves strangers to the God who welcomed us (Eph. 2: 12,13), and that we now have been invited to the “wedding supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9), we are freed to practise the same generosity towards others.

 Thus even if we never have the opportunity to share the gospel with our international friends, by offering a welcome we are both obedient to our Lord and model His hospitality to others.


God has given us a strategic opportunity

No longer are students restricted to their city, their region, their country, or even their continent. They are on the move and doors around the world are open to them. An estimated 5 million students study outside of their home countries, and this number is only rising. Of these, nearly 2 million choose to study in Europe, where they enroll in language schools, colleges, and universities. A significant proportion of these students come from countries where they are not able to hear the gospel. Many of them are open to learning more about Christianity, and in so doing, have the chance to encounter Jesus Christ.

While many students choose to settle in the country where they study, this is not the case for most students who study in Europe; the majority of them return home. It’s very likely that they will return to their countries and acquire positions of influence in business, science, education and politics. Examples from an earlier generation of students include:

  • Hassan Rouhani (President of Iran) who studied at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland;

  • Michelle Bachelet (President of Chile) who studied at Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany;

  • Sigmund Freud (Austrian founder of psychoanalysis) who studied at Claus's zoological research station Trieste, Italy


While they are studying in Europe international students often struggle with understanding the culture and customs, with making friends, dealing with everyday life, and with their studies. They face the difficulty of functioning in a foreign language and both their studies and everyday life can be significantly affected. We get the opportunity to meet these students where they are and walk alongside them for a season that will probably shape their futures in significant ways. What’s more, we get the chance to introduce them to Jesus Christ, who wants to walk alongside them their whole lives and to shape their eternal destiny. 





[1] Catherine Weston, Welcoming International Students in your Church, new edition to be published in 2019 (3rd section provided by Hans-Markus Haizmann)