International students share experiences at training event

By Paula Schlueter Ross
 
Even though her grandmother was Christian, Ting, 29, never heard about Jesus in her homeland of China.
 
“She never passed the Word of Jesus to me,” said Ting, whose parents are not Christian.
 
It was only after she came to the United States a year ago to join her husband, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, that Ting intllearned about Christianity from an on-campus “friendship center” for foreign students.

Now, she says with a smile, “I will never give up my faith.”
 
Ting is one of 17 international students who took part in an in-depth training conference May 12-19 in Dittmer, Mo.  The event, held annually, is sponsored by LCMS World Mission and International Student Ministry (ISM) Inc., a mission society based in Stevens Point, Wis.  It is designed to teach the students more about Christianity and how to share their faith with others.

This year’s class was the largest ever, according to organizers, and included students from China, Hong Kong, India, Rwanda, South Korea, Taiwan and Zambia.  Students represented a variety of age groups — from 18-year-old freshmen to a 48-year-old Ph.D. student.  All are Christian, but some have not been Christian very long.

Rev. Carl Selle, ISM director and counselor for international student ministry at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, said it was “amazing” how the group of diverse students really “came together and supported each other,” often sharing their personal stories through tears.
 
More than 75 percent of international students at U.S. universities return to their home countries after graduation, according to Selle.  If they can be “intentional about sharing their faith right where they’re at” — with family members, at work or out in the community — they can have a big impact, he said.
 
The weeklong training event, which is held at a retreat center in a rural area, includes classes on salvation history, catechism and how to organize and lead a small-group ministry.  Students also learn from one another, and ask lots of questions, such as:

  • How can you be a Christian and serve in an army?

  • How can you share your faith with friends who seem happy and well-adjusted with their lives?

  • How can you practice your faith in a country that’s 90 percent Muslim?

  • If you’re praying for someone, should you tell them?

“They are so beautifully honest,” said Rev. Lee Meyer, a campus pastor at Arizona State University, Tempe, who taught the sessions on salvation history.  “They are so desiring to know and experience God in their lives.”
 
For him, the best part of the event is that it brings together people of “different nationalities, different skin colors, different backgrounds — it doesn’t matter — they experience becoming the body of Christ, and what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.”
 
Jacqueline, 30, a master’s degree student at Wayne State University, Detroit, called the training event a “wonderful experience for me.”  Baptized in 2001, Jacqueline said the conference was “very helpful for my knowledge and spiritual life.”
 
She is interested in sharing her faith with non-believers, she said, including her own family.  “The best way is to live a Christian life so they can see the life-change in me,” she said.

For more information about ministries with international students, visit the ISM Inc. Web site at www.isminc.org or call (715) 677-4877.

Posted June 30, 2004

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