The Mission Field Next Door

by Christian Townson

“I have nothing to lose by following Christ, but everything to lose by not following Him.” - Aleesia

Just a few years ago, Aleesia traveled from her home in Europe to enroll in a U.S. university. She arrived alone and without the hope of the Gospel. Now, after 15 months of intentional discipleship from faithful believers, she’s returning home having gained an adoptive family in the states and a blossoming relationship in Christ. She said there are too many “coincidences” to not believe in Jesus.  She now understands the differences between a relationship with God versus an empty obligation to God in a cold, works-based religion. 

This would not have happened if a group from our local church (The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN) had not welcomed international students studying at our local university into their lives. These believers started by partnering with the university to explore ways to engage international students. They decided to host a weekly dinner on-campus to create a neutral and open opportunity for conversations. They showed a genuine interest in their lives. They invited them into their homes, listened to their hurts, and laughed with them in their joys. They knew they were not there to transform them - only God can. However, they exemplified a 1 Thessalonians 2:8 life - they “were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but [their] lives as well.” They were the aroma of Christ. Through this effort, God began to work in the hearts of the students. 

It was through these relationships they were able to begin a Discovery Bible Study. Because of their relational trust and love, the students came. They proclaimed the Gospel and discipled many international students who had no families close by and no faith to cling to. These meetings started small but grew over time. Aleesia was part of this group and returned often to learn about the Gospel, leading to her eventually placing her faith in Christ.

Each year, the United States hosts more than one million international students at its colleges and universities. That number has more than doubled over the past twenty years. These students come from approximately 200 countries, many of which are led by regimes hostile to the Gospel. In fact, over half of international students originate from India and China. Saudi Arabia, officially walled off from the Gospel of Christ, sends over 30,000 students to the United States to study each year. Every person reading this article likely has hundreds, if not thousands, of international students living within close proximity at local colleges and universities.

Welcoming international students matters because many of these students never step foot into an American’s home. They see themselves as the “other,” and with this, they often feel isolated from the world and have no one sharing the truth of the Gospel with them. Through this simple, yet sacrificial, act of opening up their lives to these students, Christians were able to share their lives and the Gospel. God worked through this to bring Aleesia to Himself. 

Now, Aleesia will carry the Good News of Jesus Christ back home. No one at the church in Tennessee would have likely traveled to take the Gospel to her hometown in Europe. But now she will be able to share the hope of Jesus with her family, friends, and community. 

This is one simple yet impactful way the Church can take part in the Great Commission and develop World Christians. 

Praise be to God that He works in and through our simple obedience. Is this not a worthy cause? As believers in Christ, we should welcome unbelievers with our lives and the Gospel. We should show them the transforming work of Christ, but we cannot do that if we stay isolated and closed off. There are many international students likely living in your community who have not yet heard the Gospel. How might God use you in reaching the nations in your own backyard?

Photo Credit: IMB

Christian serves as the Director of Mobilization/Missions as he leads the For the Nations ministry for The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He will be married to Danyel as of September 2022. 


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