When we think about the unreached people, we look at the locations on the map to see regions, nations, cities, villages that are many miles away from us. But the unreached people from many nations are very much present in the midst and within our neighbourhood. They are from nations where you and I face stiff resistance from people, authorities and rules that hinder us to share the message of Christ in their nations. But God in His Sovereign plan have made this possible for us to meet unreached people in our own cities and even in our neighbourhood. We all desire to see the vision of John in Revelations 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” It is awesome to gather along with people from different nations, languages, tribes and cultures. And this can truly become the reality when we reach out to students from many nations, race, languages and tribes in our own nation.
REACHING THE UNREACHED AT OUR DOORSTEP
International students in Pune, India are from more than a hundred countries, and majority of them are from nations where the Gospel of Christ cannot be preached and conversions visibly cannot take place. Thus, International Student Ministry, brought our task of missions right at our doorstep. I am sharing here with you some of the remarks students from other countries expressed after their encounter with our International Student Ministry.
“After a few months of my arrival in Pune, India, I was introduced to Mr. Emmanuel Benjamin and discussed about my religion with a motive to convert him to my religion. But he suggested that I read the Bible to know about the true God. I was born in a Muslim family in northern Iraq. In Islam when a person is born, he has no choice but will be a Muslim until death.”
“I was curious and wanted to compare the Bible with my scriptures after I was given copies of the Bible in English and in my own language. After that, every week I attended Bible studies with other international students. As I read and studied the Bible, its words kept hitting me like rays of the sun. I learned that the way to heaven was not through good works, but only through God’s grace which was provided by God giving His Son Jesus in order that no one should perish” (John 3:16).
“The Gospel of Matthew chapter 11:28-30 touched my heart. Jesus said, “Come unto me all who are burdened and I will give you peace.” My spiritual eyes opened and I realized that as a sinner I had no relationship with God. During one of those Bible studies with Emmanuel, I prayed and submitted my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“My life changed from that point on. I now feel close to God. I hear Him speak to me when I read the Bible and meditate on it. I believe that there is nothing but truth in Jesus words. I love living for Jesus now and he keeps on challenging me to love others unselfishly the way He loved us. I believe in Jesus Christ because in bad times He is there with me and provides for me the comfort and peace I need. Whenever I fall, He picks me up, whenever I sin; He forgives, whenever I am depressed, He brings joy. What an awesome and loving God He is. He has given me peace. I fear no one. I know that my Lord has my future in his hands. My restlessness has turned to patience and forbearance. My old nature has died with Christ on the cross and He has given me a new nature. He has given me a heart of love and compassion. I even love the very enemies I so hated before. I thank God that now I am part of the big family of a living God, who speaks, hears, cares, guides, heals and gives hope for tomorrow. If I were in my Country, I would never have gotten this great opportunity to become part of the worldwide family of God by trusting in Jesus.“
Testimony of Fadhil from Iraq
I thank God for dear Christian friends who guided me to this loving God. I thank the Church and the pastor for encouraging me in my new faith. I know the consequences I have to face on my return to my Country. One thing I am confident, although my physical body might get the brunt of persecution and even may be death but the spirit is already with the living God in eternity.”
Fadhil has returned to his Country and although has faced severe persecution at home, in community and work place yet nothing has shaken his faith in Christ. He is able to boldly share about Jesus to his family and friends.
The above testimonies are from few of the many students whose lives are transformed while in Pune, India. They are now the ambassadors of Christ in their own unreached places. They can witness well as they know the language, culture, people and understand the sensitivities and strategies. They have the easy access to their families, people in the community and people in the work places. What an opportunity to reach the nations of the world without even going overseas.
GOD’S MISSION TO THE UNREACHED
The great commission of Jesus Christ in Mathew 28:18-20 “…………. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” prompts every Christian to look beyond his/her own place to preach the Gospel of the Lord and make disciples. God has ordained few itinerant preachers to travel to other shores to preach the message of Christ. Few are consecrated to go as short term or long term preachers of the gospel. In this age of post-modern technology the message of Christ can be preached from one particular nation to reach many other nations through internet, televisions, social media and even the literature.
God has enabled all this through His sovereign plan. We are aware of the early apostles who travelled to other nations to share the good news of Jesus. Paul and Barnabas were set apart by the Antioch Church to go as itinerant missionaries to other Countries (Acts 13:1-3). Thousands of missionaries in the past and present have gone to cross-cultural areas being led by the Lord to share His love to the unreached people. God is continuing to send out missionaries and He is at work through His people.
In spite of all the above opportunities there has been many practical challenges one has to face in the cross-cultural locations. Getting visas to go to other Countries are getting too problematic; one has to raise a lot of funds to survive, learning the language to communicate effectively, strict laws against proselyting in most countries, one has to adapt to the local cultural life style and many more. All these challenges create barriers for Christians in moving to other nations. But God also planned that seekers come to us where we do not need to face challenges mentioned earlier for going into cross-cultural ministry.
THE BASIS FOR REACHING THE NATIONS
God’s purpose of building the Temple in Jerusalem was with a mission’s focus. The very fact that King Solomon speaks at the dedication service of the Temple of God shows that the nations of the world were meant to hear the name of the Lord and come to worship Him in this magnificent temple. In other words, the building of the Temple was an evangelistic effort to make known the God of the Bible to the nations of the World. “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name [God]— for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.” (1 Kings 8:41-43) The God of the Bible always instructed the people of Israel to treat strangers well so that they will testify of God’s goodness.
Reaching the nations of the world was God’s concept, and International Student Ministries has followed this track of reaching the world, by reaching the international students God brings to our nations and our neighborhood.
How are aliens, foreigners, strangers and gentiles associated to the biblical history of humanity? According to Genesis 11:1-9 Before the Tower of Babel, humanity was of one race and language. After the Tower of Babel, humanity was dispersed with different languages. This introduced the concept of “foreigners”; one who may be of a different racial, ethnic, clan, family, or linguistic group to the native population. The Hebrew word for “foreigner” means “outsider.” The few versions of the Bible uses ‘Strangers’ meaning they are different in every dimension. Their language, culture, food, dress, set of values, race, colour etc. are all strange compared to the locals were they have sojourned.
In Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah prophesized that in the last days, all nations will come to Jerusalem to learn and live by the Lord and find peace. With the same proposition, God is gathering people at different places in various categories such as International students, migrant workers and refugees who are leaving their homelands and moving cross-culturally. Out of all these; international students are the future trend setters, influencers, innovators and transformers in their coutries of origin and eventually, of the world.
WHY INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN PUNE, INDIA?
Nearly 17% of the global population lives in India, the largest democratic country in the world. India is blessed with a rich cultural heritage which advocates the values of peace, love, harmony and spiritual progress. Several religions co-exist peacefully in this land. India has a glorious history with traditions that are unique. It precedes an ancient civilization gifted with the most ancient source of knowledge. India had several great minds, who contributed to every aspect of life. The concepts of zero, decimal and Pythagorian Theorem were all developed here.
In terms of the arrival of international students, their history goes back to the 7th century B.C. India attracted students from Asian Countries during the era of Buddhism. Some of the most important universities of India in the ancient times were Taxila, Vikramshila and Nalanda. In the 11th century A.D. and thereafter, Muslim rulers established elementary and secondary schools. This led to the forming of a few universities at cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad and a few other places in India too. The medieval period saw excellent interaction between Indian and Islamic traditions in all fields of knowledge like theology, religion, philosophy, fine arts, painting, architecture, mathematics, medicine and astronomy. This attracted students from many different parts of the World. Later, when the British arrived in India, English education came into being with the help of European missionaries. Since then, Western education has made steady advances in India. With hundreds of universities, and thousands of colleges affiliated to them in every discipline. India has positioned itself comfortably as a country that provides quality higher education to its people specifically, and to the world in general. This is the reason why many international students are attracted to study in India.
In the age of globalization, India and especially the city of Pune, has set out to make its presence felt globally through the educational opportunities the city offers for international students from different parts of the globe. Now, with the prestigious academic institutions in Pune, and coupled with low fees and even lower cost of living, this city has become an attractive university hub for students worldwide. Pune is known as the “Oxford of the East”, with a good number of Universities and colleges, the estimates show that it has nearly 20,000 international students from over 120 countries. They come from almost every continent and the top fifteen Countries are Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Laos and Angola.
Majority of these students are from Countries where there is strong resistance to the Gospel of Christ and Christianity.
International students are attracted to the Indian diverse cultural setting – as many students have commented that Indians are more open for conversations and friendships and invite them home for meals. In Indian cultural context, hospitality is based on the principle Atithi Devo Bhava, (Sanskrit language) meaning “the guest is god”. Indians go extra miles to show hospitality to strangers. Majority of international students who shared meals in our home, remember and write to us about the chicken biryani (rice and chicken dish) they ate than many other things they did. From the model of Jesus too we learn that most of the teaching he did was around meal times. It was very natural for him to bring serious lessons of life to people while they ate food and listened to him. Hospitality is our responsibility and an opportunity to CREATE HOME AWAY FROM HOME FOR STRANGERS.; as we read in the Scripture “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2.
International students come to Pune as most of them receive scholarships from the Government of India. Students who are from economically poor family receive these scholarships after going through thorough proficiency tests in their Countries. That means they are really very intelligent, smart and come with determination to pursue higher studies to uplift the condition of their families, communities and country.
International students come to Pune as they receive quality education that builds their skills further to get better jobs in their countries.
International students come to Pune as they find the cost of education and living much lower than studying in a western country.
THE VULNERABILITY OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS THAT TURNS INTO OPPORTUNITY TO REACH OUT
Over the last many years of my work with international students, I, an international students’ ministry worker have heard strange, shocking and unpleasant stories of students who have faced various kinds of incidents. I would like to share few of these stories here:
“I am from an African Country. I came to Pune to pursue Masters in Economics. By God’s grace my admission procedures were smooth and I got accommodation in the International Students’ Hostel. The hard earned money my family sent for my whole year of boarding and lodging never reached me, it was stolen. I could not inform family because they will go through shock and will get discouraged. I did not know anyone in Pune. I stayed as a destitute in the city railway station for 48 days without money, food, etc. I was only able to deposit my luggage in the station cloak room. I walked a distance of 30 kilometres every day to attend University lectures. One Sunday, I went to a local Church, immediately after the Church service Mr. Emmanuel met me and was interested to know where I am staying. I was reluctant, but he forced me, I had to tell the truth. Then my whole life changed as he took me to his home from Church and stayed in their home for 2 months until he made arrangements for me to stay in a Christian boy’s hostel. There are so many Christians in the Church, but no one had the passion for a foreigner like Emmanuel did. If I had not met him that day I would have cursed my life and people all through my life. International Student Ministry is very strategic to help students like me to find and receive blessings in life.” Robert is from an African Country who came to study Masters in Economics in Pune
Andréa from Romania has shared her experience with us “I come from an Orthodox Christian background. I am completing my studies in Masters of Business Management in Urban Development. Two years ago when I came to Pune, I faced a lot of challenges, from adjusting to the food in the hostel to traveling on the dirt roads with cows, stray dogs, unruly crowd, traffic jams and narrow muddy streets. One incident I cannot forget that is; one day I was going with a friend on her motor bike for shopping, at a traffic junction a young fellow suddenly snatched my purse and ran. My friend and I chased that fellow with few other local people but could not catch the guy. We went to the nearest police station to register the complaint; the police inspector demanded the bribe of Rs. 2000 to register the complaint. After negotiating, he took Rs. 1000 and registered the complaint and promised to help me get my mobile phone and cash. But I never got back anything even after visiting the police station almost every week for three months.”
Joseph, a student from Fiji, narrated his situation to us. He came to Pune to do a Masters in Law through an Indian Government scholarship. Being new to the place, he stayed with other Fijian students. Initial days were hard as the scholarship money did not reach him. One day after returning from their classes they were locked out of their house by the house owner as the rent for several months had not been paid. His friends moved to their friends house and Joseph was left alone. He spent the nights on a roadside bench and during the day used his college washroom, attended classes and rested there. Having come from a comfortable life, he was bitter and upset almost decided to return to his country. During this situation Joseph came in contact with International Students Ministry and Christian believers in a church. This encouraged him to trust in God and His plans for his life. Things began to change as he committed the situation into God’s hands. Later through the help of Christian friends form Church he got a comfortable place to live and is a blessing to International Students fellowship, the church, and friends in college. Joseph says if friends in the church had not helped him, he would have returned to his country without completing studies.
International students, as strangers, become victims to many touts and so called agents who take advantage of their vulnerability and cheat them by making false promises.
One of many incidents is about Zwan Hussein from Afghanistan: “I study in University of Pune in the Department of Computer Science. Having lived in my country with threat to life every day and starved of education and social life, I came to India with lots of expectations and dreams. When I first arrived at the airport not knowing anything about India, a man claimed to be a University staff drove me to the University campus and promised to do all my admission process within a day. He took from me US$1500 and all my photocopies of documents saying he will come back in a few hours but never returned. Only later I realized I was cheated. I had no money for my admission and hostel, and I had to stay in a local mosque with minimum facilities till my family sent enough money for the procedures to be completed. During this time I came in contact with Mr. Emmanuel who helped me get better place to stay and introduced Indian and foreign students who provided all the encouragement needed for me at that time.”
The vulnerabilities of international students provide us as Christian believers’ great opportunity to befriend these students, help resolve their challenges, and share the love of Christ through our lives and service. As International students face various kinds of challenges, they are vulnerable, open to friendships, willing to listen to new ideas or suggestions, curious to try new things and willing to alter their concepts and perspectives.
In the unique model of Jesus ministry we learn that Jesus reached out and brought transformation in the lives of people in their most vulnerable situations. As we see few examples such as ‘Woman caught in adultery’ John chapter 8, Woman stood trial before the crowd and teachers of the law to be condemned to death by stoning but Jesus took control of the situation and resolved her problem bringing transformation in her life. Jesus Restores Sight to Bartimaeus in Jericho (Mark 10:46-52), as transformed person he followed Jesus. Wealthy Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) faced with humiliation and insults because of his corrupt way of life but Jesus intervened in his vulnerable life and brought the transformation.
Simple acts of service we provide to strangers in our midst will help them to build trust in our relationship with them and enables us share the message of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the complexity of challenges international students face is beyond the control of the human power. Yet the proximity we have enables us to teach them to trust and depend upon God and even we sit and pray for them; asking God to intervene in their lives. As wonderful and faithful God we trust, He has acted in their lives because of our prayer of faith. That made their hearts to turn towards the God we worship. Classic example we see about the Moabite Ruth in the Bible. In her worst vulnerability God showed His favour to her. Being a foreigner, she might have felt lonely, stressed, unwanted in a new culture but she was accepted in the local cultural life becoming finally wife of Boaz the Israelite who became part of the genealogy of Jesus.
Mathew 25:40 “…..‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” By being with them in their struggles and needs we will be able to win them over to Christ.
In my experience last many years I had the privilege of hosting and interacting with students whose parents occupied very influential positions in their Countries. Some of the students’ parents were Ministers in the Government, Governors, bureaucrats, members of parliament/assemblies, Judges, diplomats in other Countries, heads organisations/institutions, and wealthy business people. With all their great background, students faced challenges which drove them to seek help from local people. In this situation we as local Christians when we open our hearts with compassion and sacrificial attitude by opening our home, we become their friends for lifetime. We all understand the essence and vitality of HOME. Whenever these students stepped into our home, they called us ‘second parents’ because HOME is relationship based where there is love, peace, joy, even sorrow, learning, instruction and mutual support. We belong to a God who is relational, and these students who have become part of our home, they sense those qualities through us in our interactions and behaviour. Coming from various religious backgrounds these students experience that our home is different in every way from their own homes in their respective countries. Because of this relationships and difference serious discussions takes place about lives, God, spirituality, marriage etc. Thus giving us the opportunity to help them become part of the kingdom of God.
Through these relationships we have witnessed God work in the lives of the students in an amazing way. Students whom we thought to be very radical in their particular religious faith God transformed their lives in one to one conversations at home. Few examples are:
Ali from Iran shares his experience: “I was born in a Muslim family in Iran. The strict observance of the Islamic requirements made me think that Allah has no grace and love. He favors only a certain people not everybody.
I often prayed to God. However, it seemed like my communication was one way. I never sensed any response from God. Also, my prayers were in Arabic, a language I did not understand. They seemed to bounce off the ceiling. This made me feel angry and rebellious. I continued to have this kind of confusion about my faith and practices in Islam. I have never experienced peace of God. There was no peace, always disappointed and fought with others. I was fed up with this kind of living, hate and violence in Islam.
I got opportunity to come to Pune India for study. Since, I am away from my family and people I got the freedom to think, learn and practice. So I decided to read and learn from other religions to know which God is true God. I went a temple, bought Hindu books, contacted a Buddhist monk and discussed about God. In my search for true God, I wanted to see the Church, one Sunday morning I was passing the main street and I saw the church building and people standing outside, as I went nearer, I was approached by Mr. Emmanuel Benjamin. He asked me some questions and spoke to me then gave his phone number and invited me to his home. That week, I went to his home and enjoyed meal along with serious conversations about God. (This was first time ever my contact with a Christian family) He gave me the Bible to read and told me that he is available to have discussion anytime. I took the Bible and went to my apartment. I continued to read from all the scriptures but I felt more pulled to read Bible. I continued to read and asked questions and discussed with Emmanuel. Here, In Bible I found that the nature of God is love and this was strange to me as I have not heard the word love in Quran or Islam. I continued to attend regular Bible studies and one to one discussion with Mr. Emmanuel and his family. After few months, I got the complete conviction that Jesus is the Only Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no other way. Thus I trusted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord. If I had not met Mr. Emmanuel in front of the Church that morning then I would continue to search for the truth. Praise God That He worked everything in His sovereign and eternal plan for me.”
Maryam, from a Muslim country, testified how all that changes happened in her life. “I am from Moslem country. My religion was Islam I never knew another religion because I only knew about Islam. I lived in a closed country and I read Koran completely and I knew everything about it. After coming to Pune India I found my husband has converted to Christianity through International Students’ Friendship. I was sad in the beginning. He spoke to me about Jesus, wanted me to come to a Christian international students meeting and research about Jesus but I didn’t like it. One day he read the Bible and left it on the table and went to college. I felt as if someone pushed me towards that table, I took the Holy Bible and read it. I went to Mr Emmanuel Benjamin’s home and discussed about the passages in Bible. Their love and concern towards me drove me to regularly attend international student meetings and read the Bible daily. After five months I understood that I was blindly following Islam. And I came to realize that Jesus is the only Way, the Truth and the Life. John 3:16 that God loved me so much and gave His only Son Jesus for me to die on the cross so that I believe in Him and have eternal life. With this conviction I accepted Him as my saviour and Lord. Now I am very happy I found my real Way, my real God, and my real Creator”.
The power and impact of the hospitality in a home is so profound that we engage in the transformation of lives and help them become effective disciples of the Lord our Master.
Last several years my family and I have ministered to hundreds of students from various parts of the globe and today we can say that we have made deep influence through our little service in their lives and through them in the lives of their families.
APPROACHES OF MINISTRY TO INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
International students in our midst are smart, gifted, inquisitive and coming with high ambitions and goals for their lives and Countries. Having left their home countries first time, they are apprehensive, anxious and desperate in their search for answers for all the doubts and questions they have faced in a foreign land. They are in the age group of 17 years to 55 years. But all go through common academic goals and challenges.
Our three key methods of reaching them have been: 1. Friendship/Fellowship – 2. Food/Family (Hospitality) and 3. Fun Activities
In a foreign land it is obvious that one needs to have social connections for day today life. After arriving international students look for friendships that will make them accepted into local cultural life. With all their limitations of language, communication and cultural barriers they make efforts to integrate into the local system.
- So our activities are directed towards building friendships: Activities such as, Fresher’s orientation, picnics, outings, cultural events and many other events that bring proximity with local friends. We also do one to one meetings, discussion groups on various topics related students and also Bible studies for those who show keen interest to know God and grow in Him.
- As mentioned above Home plays a key role in attracting students and they love to visit home share their problems, joys and blessings with us. Key activities we do with students at home are Cookery classes with discussion, celebrations of birthdays of students, national day of their countries with display of their culture and food, organise and be part of the international food fest.
- Fun activities we do with students are: Indoor and outdoor group games, quiz competitions on various topics, watch movies together and discuss the implications of that on our lives and community, go for a nature walks, visit local places of attractions etc.
All the above activities help us build close rapport with international students and gain their trust for a life time. Because of this relationship, they are willing to openly discuss about their life’s issues, about their families, their goals and about their faith. This is so amazing that we have automatically become their mentors and for many, parents. All this happens with students who have never related with Christians in their Countries, students who never had the opportunity to attend a Christian meeting/Church, students who could never ever read Bible being in their own Country, students who never reasoned about their religion and faith but are able discuss without any fear and students who never would have had the opportunity to learn about many other cultures/Countries but are able to do at our homes.
Students leaving their home countries and coming in our midst is part of the plan of God. As they are coming with the sole aim of gaining knowledge and degrees but God is turning that into a great opportunity for them to look beyond their academic goal. As the Bible says in Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
THE IMPACT OF THE CHANGED LIVES OF RETURNEES
The visible outcomes we have witnessed in students’ lives since the time they have successfully graduated from their courses and returned to their respective countries are amazing. They are able to share their new found faith with their own family members and lead them to Christ.
Sarah, from a Muslim Country trusted Jesus in Pune during her graduate studies. After returning to her country upon completion of the course, she writes to us this testimony “As you are aware that family members are all Muslims and I feared from the day I arrived to tell them that I am now a Christian. I locked my door and read the Bible and sometimes read in the washroom. I always hid the Bible in different places so that my mother and brothers will not know about this. One day, I returned from my work in the evening and my mother opened the door and stood with my Bible in her hand. I was terrified and was shocked ‘how come she got that’ I knew that my secret is out and I will be punished for that. But my mother in peaceful voice asked me from where I got this book? I told her that I got from India. Then she told me that she found this book on my bed (I might have forgotten to hide) and after I left for work she found this and throughout the day she read the Bible. She said it’s a very good book and we both will read together daily. We both began to read and discuss from the Bible when my brothers went away for work. After a few days, I told her that I have become a Christian and she said she too wants to become a Christian and I made her pray and accept Jesus in her life. After a few days my younger brother discovered the changes in my mother and me and wondered how come there is so much calmness and peace at home. One day I told him that I became a Christian; he reacted furiously saying that he will disown me for becoming a Christian. But later in the night he asked questions about why and how all that happened to me. I shared my experience and he showed interest to read the Bible and after a few days he trusted Jesus. My elder brother a pilot by profession one day returned from his job abroad and saw us praying before meals. He was surprised to see we prayed differently. When I told him that we read the Bible and became Christians, he said ‘praise the Lord’ to our surprise he told us that he used to read the Bible which was given to him by a friend a few months ago and has been a secret Christian. At that moment our home was filled with unexplainable happiness and we all celebrated together like never before. I want to thank God for giving me an opportunity to go to Pune to study and through you Emmanuel and Mercy, I believed in the true and living God. I know it was God’s plan to bring hope and peace in my family.”
From the above testimony, Sarah came to study in Pune; after becoming a Christian went back as the missionary to her own family in her Country. She did her part with all the difficulties and limitations as it is very challenging to not only share the gospel of Christ but also live as a Christian. In her Country if any one converts from Islam to any other faith the punishment is death. God created opportunities for Sarah to witness to her family members in spite of the risks involved for her life. Today, Sarah continues to witness to her friends and extended family members about Jesus in her Country.
Ivan from an East-Central African Country completed his studies in the University of Pune with a Master of Business Economics degree. After he returned to his Country, he got selected to work with UNDP in his Country and later was posted with higher position in another Country. Ivan wrote to us about two years ago saying that he is now posted in Juba the capital of South Sudan as the General Director of UNDP project to provide rehabilitations and provide health care for displaced people due to ethnic war in South Sudan. Here is part of the letter he wrote; “Dear Emmanuel Sir, thank you for your prayers, by God’s grace I am doing well and now in a very critical and important assignment given by UNDP in South Sudan. I do have over 300 people working under me with the funds to spend for all the work for people is US$200 million. It is a very sensitive task and I need God’s grace to discharge my responsibilities with fairness, justice, with integrity and strength. My thanks to you for teaching the values of life in the weekly International students’ fellowships. Those values I treasure now and use for the glory of God. I am sure many students continue to be blessed by your work with international students in Pune. In Christ, your brother Ivan”.
There are more stories of our returnee students who have risen to positions of great influence in their Countries. Each one of them is effectively involved in the development of their Countries, providing leadership in the local Churches, have uplifted the economic status of their families and communities, are engaged in dialogues to bring peace and harmony among ethnic groups in their places, are involved in the rehabilitation of people effected by famine, wars, ethnic violence, some of them are very skilled in innovations and research providing new technologies for development in different areas of their country.
We are not just preparing them as leaders but leaders with a difference, Leaders who are and will bring transformation in the society and Country. We are also preparing them to stand for the truth, justice and peace among the people of their Country. We have come to know about most of our returnee students who are serving with integrity, justice and truth. Through them we are going to see a new world where there will be peace, justice, love and more over God is worshipped and glorified.
As I write this I remember the parable Jesus told in Luke 15.3-7.
I like to compare international students to the one lost sheep. The shepherd left all 99 sheep and went in search of one (minority) sheep. International students are few, look insignificant in our culture and they are in a situation where they are away from their home, faith, culture etc. They are vulnerable to every kind of strange things in a foreign land and we need to have that compassion and love towards them and go with urgency in search of them to bring them to the body of Christ. Even, if we have to leave the rest of the crowd. (Locals as they are in a big group, comfortable and taken care.)
Yes, there will be a great rejoicing in the Church when these foreign students become part of the fellowship of believers and testify to their people about their transformed lives.
So, for the World evangelization ISM (International Students Ministry) is a very unique option to consider.
With my years of experience, I found ISM is a unique ministry, where I have learned how to befriend and show hospitality to international students. I have gained knowledge about various cultures, languages, people groups and met and interacted with people from over a hundred countries. This is in fact a wonderful experience one can have serving international students. I and my family are blessed hosting them in our home, getting to know about their family members back in their countries, enjoy the cultural things/gifts they bring from countries, learn about the socio-economic, politics and cultural values of their countries and becoming partners with them in serving their nations.
Our efforts in reaching them will produce enormous harvest for the kingdom of God, Churches strengthened/ expanded, communities transformed and finally we fulfil the great commission of Jesus Christ. This is my desire to see that no student (no matter what ever country) returns to his country without being met by a Christian friend.
Mathew 9:36-38 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
I pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into this vast unreached field of international students in every city of India to reap the ready harvest. May nations be reached and God be glorified.
Maheshwari VK “ Education During Medieval Period in India”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History of Education in the Indian-Subcontinent
Lau, Lawson. “The World at Your Doorstep – Hand Book for ISM” 1984(IVP, Downers Grove, IL) p.11-27 & 66-78
ICCR Scholars in India-ICCR annual report 2013-2014; Annexure-IV p 34-35
Phillips, Tom. & Norsworthy, Bob. “The World at Your Door: Reaching international Students in Your Home, Church, and School.” 1997 (Bethany House Minneapolis) p 28-46
Emmanuel F. Benjamin
Emmanuel F. Benjamin has worked with International students in India for nearly 20 years. He and his wife Mercy are involved in casting vision of reaching international students and training Christian believers in various cities to effectively involve in ISM.
Founder Director of International Students Friendship; One of the Directors of Komensky Consultancy (For Inter-Culture and language training); Member of India European trade Council; They are based in Pune, blessed with three adult sons Arpit 24, Ashrit 21 and Adarsh 19 and are members of Oldham Methodist Church in Pune India.