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International students find a mission at campus-based church

TROY, Ala. (BP)–One group of believers is actively preaching the Gospel to all nations while venturing no further than Troy, Ala.

The Baptist Church of All Nations, which meets in the Baptist Campus Ministries building at Troy University, is sharing Christ with international students.

Led by Pastor John Kim, originally from South Korea, the church meets every Friday night for worship, preaching, fellowship and small-group Bible study.

In addition to its goal of reaching lost international students with the Gospel, the church seeks to equip them as missionaries to their motherlands.

Most international students’ time at Troy ranges from a few months to two years as part of the school’s international academic program, so the church practically gets a new congregation each August.

The first four months of the school year are spent helping students understand the basics of Christianity, with most decisions for Christ being made in January.

The rest of the time is spent equipping students to live as Christians when they return home.

Last year, 10 students went back to their countries after accepting Christ, Kim said.

He started the church in November 2003 as God spoke through the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15 to put a burden on his heart to reach out to international students.

At the time, a few international students were traveling to Enterprise, Ala., each Sunday to attend the Korean church at First Baptist Church there. But many non-Christian international students didn’t attend church, Kim said, due to travel time and lack of transportation.

“Jesus Christ is looking for that one sheep,” Kim said. “Biblically, reaching out is the right way. It’s not biblical for them [unbelievers] to come to us. Matthew 28:1820 says, ‘Go.’”

So Kim set out to bring the church to international students.

Troy’s Baptist campus minister, Brad Bensinger, offered to let the Baptist Church of All Nations use the campus facilities. “Providing a place for students is what we’re all about,” he said. “That’s why we’re here — to minister to students.”

Several American Troy students and students from The Baptist College of Florida at Graceville also participate in the church.

Jennifer Kiker, who senses a call to missions in Southeast Asia, makes the hour-and-a-half-trip from Graceville to Troy each week.

For Kiker, serving in the Church of All Nations is training for the future.

“I’m learning more about the culture and their needs,” she said. “I’ve learned about how different religion is and how suppressed some of them are.”

Believers at the church must overcome many barriers in sharing the Gospel with international students.

“Culture shock is strong,” Kim said, explaining that most international students hold scientific beliefs over religious beliefs, such as evolution over creationism. “The culture barrier is a thick wall.”

Kim said church members try to make students feel comfortable and loved by visiting them, keeping each other accountable daily, eating together and serving each other.

Many students prepare for religious oppression as they return to their home countries.

Kim said he is concerned students will be tempted to sin as they lose contact with the church, as communication and the Internet are strictly policed in some countries.

“But they’re God’s children, not mine,” Kim said. “He will take care of them. I don’t worry about them. It was God’s will for them to come here.”

Derong Mai, an art major graduating in May, came to know Christ through the church and plans to take his faith back to China.

He has already made choices between his faith and status among peers.

Mai used to be president of Troy’s Chinese Student Association, but it became difficult to devote time and energy to both, so he gave up the student association.

“In China, people don’t believe anything,” he said. “My goal is quite large. I’m trying to know more about church and the Bible, and I want to use the Chinese way to do that. Using the native language, I want to share with my friends.”

Mai’s girlfriend, Zilu Wang, is preparing to move back to China in May and will graduate with a degree in broadcast journalism.

“When I came here, I learned a lot about the Bible, how to be a Christian and how to love people,” Wang said. “This is like a family.”

She said she realizes she will face difficulties in China but intends to keep her faith.

Mai helps lead worship in the church, while Wang plays piano.

“The good thing is, they are just obedient,” Kim said. “They are joyful in their Bible learning. Their mentality is ‘I’m a missionary.’”
Bethany Dye is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist newsjournal, online at www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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