Alexander Best is a graduate of University of Toronto School of Theology, Director of ServeToronto, and Publisher of ThisCity.He was formerly Canadian Director of the Lausanne Movement, Toronto Director of International Student Ministries Canada, and Chairman of the Global Campus Conference Steering Committee.
International students are the key to global mission. Let me give you ten reasons why.
1 – Global Growth
The growth in the number of international students is explosive: it has tripled since 1990; it will double in the next decade.
In 2018, there were five million international students. In 2025, there are expected to be at least seven million. With a global population of seven billion, maybe that does not sound like a lot. But it is. It is one in every thousand people on the earth.
Consider what this means here in North America. With over one million international students in America, that means, one out of 300 people living in the United States is an international student. In Canada, there are half a million international students among a population of 36 million. That means, one in every hundred people is an international student.
2 – Global Reach
In 1982, Dr. Charles Malik famously said, “Change the university, and you can change the world.” In 2019, on the global campus, it is literally true. The five million international students studying around the world today will be leaders in their countries, tomorrow. We have a short window of opportunity to make a global impact.
3 – Global Unreached
It is estimated that two-thirds of international students in the U.S.come from the 10/40 Window. In Canada, it is nearly three quarters.The Joshua Project estimates, 60 percent of these are “least reached” by the gospel.If you want to reach the unreached,find a global campus near you.The 10/40 Window is open, right now, right here.
4 – Global Culture
God has provided the opportunity for young people from across the world to study in our midst. What is critical—to their future and ours—is what they encounter when they get here.
On the global campus they meet faces and voices, ideas and practices, not just of their hosts, but of their fellow internationals. How often does a Saudi sit next to a Jew, a Korean with a Japanese, an Indian with a Pakistani?
The global campus is not an American melting pot, nor a Canadian mosaic; instead, it is a global kaleidoscope, in dizzying technicolour.
The challenge and opportunity for Christian ministry is not just bridging language or religious experience, or reaching the unreachable. It is drawing this diverse cohort of young people into an encounter with God.
He has invited students here“from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” to stand together “before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev.7:9–10).
The global campus holds the promise of Pentecost, but also the danger of Babel.
On the global campus, International students—like their domestic peers—are marinated in a global youth culture: selfie-liked identity, app-abbreviated relationships, 15-minute YouTube heroes, tweet-size thoughts. On the global campus, trends are transferred and new ones are started. The future is being shaped here and disseminated around the world by pixel, and by hand.
A tower is built in our midst. Each continent is sending its future engineers (mechanical and social) to learn how to build their nation’s tallest totems, each in an industrial arms race
to reach heaven first.
The worldview that permeates the global campus is a kumbaya of undocumented human goodness and a trust in human ingenuity, with little memory of our histories. On the global campus, young hearts and minds are being shaped, and not in the Image of God.
5 – Global Ministry
In cities like Toronto, the diaspora church is essential to reach international students. They know the language and culture. They have living communities of faith in mother tongues.
An initiative like Toronto’s Welcome Project brings together Christians of many ethnic backgrounds, their churches, campus ministries, and mission agencies to greet the 100,000 students arriving at Canada’s busiest airport. In cities across North America, similar work is happening. More is needed.
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Source: Christianity Today