For the Nations: My Experience with International Connect

by Tabitha Williams

What is international ministry? 

Unity, accountability, more sisters and brothers, and fun. These words describe international ministry. My favorite part of college is and will always be, the unity that is found in international ministry events. Not only are we reaching out to the nations that God has so kindly brought to campus, but we get to experience this with other local church bodies in the Tuscaloosa area. And, to me, this is just a preview of Heaven.

What is International Connect? 

International Connect is a club formed by UA students from different local churches with the purpose to befriend international students to ensure that they have a wonderful experience while in our country. These students are coming from other countries and cultures to ours with a desire to experience our culture. What better way for them to get the American experience than from an American firsthand!

Freshman Year: 

First semester, I was asked weekly if I would like to go to an international ministry meeting/event. After about a month of not going, I said yes and went to my first international ministry equipping night. It was in a house with around 15 people, probably six or seven of whom I knew. That night, I do not remember everything but I do remember the prayers. We prayed as a large group and in groups of 3-4 and I remember feeling the power in the room. That night, I went home encouraged and looking forward to the next week but the next week came around and I had to make myself go as if I was already ‘over’ what I had felt the week before. If I had not been asked to go and driven there, I would not have gone again.            

Over the rest of my freshman year, I went to most if not all of the events, prayed regularly for my friend’s international friends, and for all of the internationals on campus, but I did not have ‘my own’ international friend. All of the internationals I made friends with were guys and most were a good bit older than me so I begged God for a female friend. Still, I watched as my American friends had great conversations and relationships with international friends while I just continued to pray for them and for a friend of my own.

Sophomore Year: 

I went to anything that had the word ‘international’ in it that I could fit into my schedule. I even got a language partner in the spring semester; a 52-year-old Chinese woman. Because she was 52, she did not really want to come to college-age events with me, so a couple who had a heart for the Chinese people specifically befriended her and also poured into her spiritually. This is about how my sophomore year went, I made a friend and someone else would become better friends with them. They were still getting the love they needed, but why did I not get to be the one who gave it? 

Why was God not giving me my own friends who connected with me? Was I trying hard enough? Was I just meant to share other people’s friends? Did I want to minister to these people or did I just want a buddy to show up with at events to make me look good?

Junior Year: 

Before classes even started, I met four new friends from Colombia (if you know me, you know I love the Spanish speakers). I became good friends with one of the girls. We hung out weekly, had Bible studies together with some other friends, and she came to all the international connect events with me. We were real friends, good friends, but of course she was only here for the semester. In December, I waved goodbye to her at the airport in Birmingham, sad to see her leave, but happy for her friendship and her interest in Christ.          

International friends come in all shapes and forms. Some are friends here for many years, some are one-semester friends, and some are only two-week friends. However long they plan on being here is not really that important because we cannot know the future and God may have plans to move us or them sooner than we thought. That makes it oh so important to share Him with them as soon and as many times as possible.

For those of you involved in First College Ministry, I know you have probably heard about these weekly Thursday night events and coffee hours A LOT. It is not always easy to go to the events. It is discouraging when you do not have an international friend and you just go with your American friend. But God said ‘Go’ to us all, not only those with specific callings. He has brought the nations to us giving us no excuse to ignore His calling.

Ministry to the nations is not a club, not something only for college students, or only people who have been called by God overseas. International ministry is something we can do at any age, in any city, with any person. In reality, international ministry is just a normal ministry; it is loving people. I have been changed over the past few years and I know that my relationships with international students have so much to do with that.

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all peoples and nations to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 
1 Timothy 2:3-4 

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