The church I am planting is located in a community that is rich with international students and culture. The university that is just a few blocks from our building has over 800 international students from over 120 countries on campus. There are thousands of Iraqis, Saudis, Africans, and Indians living in our community as well. One of our desires as a church is to be used by God to share the gospel with the international community in our own backyard.
Here are 4 tips to help you build relationships with internationals:
1. Invite them into your home for a meal
According to the Mission Society, approximately 75% of internationals are never invited into an American home. Most internationals come from cultures that put great emphasis on hospitality and yet they find that in America there is little hospitality offered to them. In addition, many of them are here alone, separated from family and friends, and would love someone, a family, to be a part of.
Ask them if there is anything that they do not eat (sometimes their religion or culture will have restrictions).
You could ask them if they’d like to teach you how to cook a meal from their culture. You’d be amazed how loved internationals would feel if you tried to cook something from their home (flashbacks of living in Africa and then being given a hamburger… wow!) and you’ll find that many of them would welcome the opportunity to teach you how to cook their food.
Make it simple, and invite them over for coffee or tea (one of our young ladies recently did this with 4 international women)
2. Throw a Christmas party for them
My wife is hosting a Christmas party for nearly a dozen international ladies. These ladies are all from another world religion and are interested in learning about the Christian holiday of Christmas. We are also having a young lady from South Asia over on Christmas Day to celebrate with our family.
Many internationals will be here throughout the Christmas season and will not be invited into the celebration with any Christian. When I lived in Africa I was thrilled to be invited into the celebrations for Muslim holidays. I was able to eat food, drink drinks, laugh, dance, and learn about the culture I was in.
The focus is to celebrate, introduce cultural and Christian traditions, and to make the international guests feel welcomed.
Share the Christmas story. This is your opportunity to share the story of Jesus. It is the central message of the holiday. Don’t miss this opportunity.
3. Take a worldview class with them.
One of our young ladies had an international students at Park University ask her for help understanding the chapter on Christianity in her worldview class. What a great opportunity! Can you imagine a Muslim student asking you to explain Christianity to them for their class? What would you say? How would you explain it? Would you take the opportunity?
What if you took it another step and actually enrolled in and took a worldview class that internationals are taking? You could organize study groups, discuss world religions, and build relationships.
4. Ask them about their culture and religion.
Be a learner. Ask internationals about their culture and their religion. Here are a few sample questions to begin with:
Where are you from? Could you teach me about your religion?
What has been difficult about the adjustment from your home to the United States?
What do you miss the most about your home?
What is your favorite food?
What does it look like for your family to celebrate holidays?