After 14 years with Reformed University Fellowship-International (RUF-I) — six years as the RUF-I coordinator — Al LaCour will retire at the end of this spring. In his role with RUF-I, LaCour has encouraged PCA churches to welcome the nations in their neighborhoods by reaching out to international students at American colleges and universities. The PCA is one of only four denominations that has an organized denominational effort to reach international students.

What have you found most fulfilling about leading RUF-I? 

Hospitality means we love strangers and welcome them as Christ welcomed us. Biblical hospitality may be the church’s most countercultural practice.

Three strands from previous ministries all converged as I served as coordinator for RUF’s international ministry: to be a mentor for young leaders, to equip Christians and churches in cross-cultural hospitality, and to serve Christ on university campuses. I am profoundly grateful to God for the privilege of getting to do all of these things with RUF-I.

What encourages you about the future of ministry for international students? 

I see God opening the eyes and ears of churches and Christians. Some hear God’s mandate, to Israel and the church, to “welcome the nations.” Missions leaders are discovering a cost-effective way to assess future missionary candidates. Both Christians who have served overseas, and ordinary church members, are learning to disciple future world leaders among an unprecedented 1 million-plus international students who are now on American campuses.

What can churches do to better support international student ministry? 

Churches must begin to define missions biblically, not geographically. I’m saddened when Christians lose church missions support when they work with international students. We can reach the world, not only by “going,” but also by “welcoming.” As the Lausanne Movement says, missions is not “the West going to the rest.” And international student ministry is more than a mercy ministry, where people with resources serve those without resources. Welcoming students is biblical hospitality.

What do you mean by “biblical hospitality”? 

It is the opposite of xenophobia, which is to treat strangers and foreigners with suspicion or to target them as enemies, or at best, view them as our ministry projects. God gifts and calls some Christians for traditional overseas missions. But God commands all to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13). The New Testament word is philoxenia, grace that transforms strangers into friends. Hospitality means we love strangers and welcome them as Christ welcomed us. Biblical hospitality may be the church’s most countercultural practice.