By Gordon Govier

International Student Ministry Still Growing

A little more than 4 percent of all U.S. undergraduate and graduate school enrollments are international students, and the number continues to grow. InterVarsity’s ministry to international students is also continuing to grow.

The just-released Open Doors 2014 report from the Institute of International Education tallies 886,052 students who came to the U.S. from other countries for their college education in the 2013-2014 academic year. That’s the highest number ever. China sends the most—more than 31 percent of all internationals—followed by India and South Korea.

InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry actively works to welcome these students to campus, introducing them to the local community, and sharing the good news of the gospel with them. During the 2013-2014 school  year, staff across the country worked with 4,829 international students.  

Over the last five years, 13 ISM chapters have been planted and overall international student participation has increased by 32%. At least 523 InterVarsity chapters around the country have international students involved.

California is the state with the most international students on its campuses. An InterVarsity staff member at one California school was amazed this fall when hundreds of international students stopped by the table he had set up on campus. Since then students from all over the world have been attending this chapter’s large groups, conferences, and weekly events.   

International student fellowshipInterVarsity has 129 staff members, plus hundreds of additional volunteers, who are dedicated to working with international students. Sixty-one of our campus fellowships are focused specifically for international students. Marc Papai, who was recently named director of InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry, said, “What group of people has more power to impact the world for Christ than these wonderful students from overseas? Seeing them welcomed genuinely and developed fully as disciples and leaders is the heartbeat of our ministry.”

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are perfect opportunities to show hospitality to international students. InterVarsity has traditionally invited internationals to experience American-style holidays at our retreat centers at Toah Nipi in New Hampshire, Cedar Campus in Michigan, and Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado. But many volunteers also open their homes to students, developing friendships that last for many years and across long distances.

The Bible instructs us to welcome the stranger in our midst. Working with international students can be fun and rewarding but also has a long-term impact on the students. The opportunities to enjoy international friendships with eternal impact continues to grow on and around U.S. college campuses.