|Chi Alpha International groups meet at college and university campuses across America, focusing on ministering to students from other nations.|
Qian came to the United States from China in 2007 to study at Southern Illinois University. She had difficulty adjusting during her first two years on the Carbondale campus. The pressure Qian felt to excel academically almost became unbearable in what she perceived to be a lonely, foreign country.
"I was so sad, so homesick, so scared, and so depressed," Qian recalls.
Then Sayaka Ikeda, an international student from Chiba, Japan, who became a Christian through Chi Alpha, approached Qian and befriended her. Ikeda taught Qian about God's redemptive story and, in 2009, Qian accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior.
"I felt so much joy and freedom," Qian recounts of her salvation experience. "I want to wait on the Lord to show me when is the right time to witness to my parents and see them come to know the Lord."
Qian has never been trained as a missionary. She's not financially supported by anyone. But she will never need to break through the culture barrier of her hometown. And she will return home to be the beloved daughter, sister and friend she had been before becoming a Christian. She has amazing ministry potential.
According to the Institute of International Education, more than 700,000 international students are currently studying at universities and colleges in the United States. Chi Alpha is the Assemblies of God ministry to college students, with officially chartered groups at 304 universities across the country. There are 30,000 students involved in Chi Alpha, and 20 percent of those are from foreign countries.
Chi Alpha Internationals (XAi) is a branch of Chi Alpha that focuses on students from other nations who are studying at American schools.
"The nations of the world are sending us many of their best and brightest scholars," says Crystal Martin, national director of XAi.
Martin says the goal of XAi is to effectively reach these students with the gospel, disciple them, show them the love of God, and then equip them for their return home, often in an environment where there are few other Christians. XAi students sometimes are able to lead family members and friends to the Lord in situations where there has been resistance to missionary outreaches.
While Qian, who is pursuing a master's degree in English reading and language studies, connected with another student in Chi Alpha who mentored her, there aren't enough international students who have become Christians to disciple others who are interested in the faith. So, one method of taking XAi's reach further is to connect international students with local Christian families.
Most students studying in the United States from other countries have never set foot inside the home of a Christian. They have never observed prayer before meals or reading Scripture or other foundational traditions of a Christian home. The relationships built with Christian families draw international students who want to know more about Jesus.
For recent converts to Christianity, the relationship built with a Christian family may provide the only living example they will ever see of how to have a Christian home of their own someday.
Katie Oller, an affiliated staff member of Murray State University's Chi Alpha ministry in the Kentucky city of the same name, served as Ivy's English teacher. Oller knew Ivy came from China, and invited her to XAi's international night. She then followed up with her for other ministry activities. Oller learned that Ivy felt lonely and that she had nowhere to spend the Thanksgiving recess when the school shut down.
So Oller asked a family from her church if they would host Ivy during the Thanksgiving break so she wouldn't be alone during the holiday.
Jim and Jacqie Kruger welcomed Ivy and another student into their home for a week during the Thanksgiving break.
"We prayed and read the Bible with them every evening," Jacqie says. Ivy enjoyed the visit so much that she agreed to return to the Kruger home again during the lengthy Christmas break.
"It was on one of those nights around Christmas that I asked Ivy if she'd ever asked Jesus to be her Savior and forgive all her sins," Jacqie says. "She said no, and so I asked her if she would like to, and she said yes. Right there in our living room we prayed and she accepted Christ."
After her salvation experience, Ivy had a deep desire to study the Bible more. She went to church with the Krugers and was filled with the Holy Spirit. She later was water baptized at a Chi Alpha baptismal service.
"When I go back home, I can teach somebody to follow Jesus," says Ivy, who is pursuing a master's degree in music education. "If they don't know the Bible, I can teach them now."
Martin encourages families to connect with local college Chi Alpha groups to volunteer for opportunities to open their home to international students or to serve them in other ways. Many universities also are seeking English "conversation partners" to help international students learn English.
"Each student represents a God story, and each one deserves Kingdom hospitality as guests living in our nation," Martin says.
For more information about Chi Alpha Internationals, click here.
Author: Jordan Haymes Schrandt, Pentecostal Evangel