RUF-International (RUF-I) will launch a new ministry this fall at Penn State University. Richard Smith will be the campus minister, and he begins this new ministry after spending 15 years as pastor of Northgate Presbyterian Church in Albany, Georgia.
Smith’s journey to RUF-I started when he realized his church had the opportunity to serve the international students staying in Albany to attend Darton State College. He began by inviting international students to his home for Thanksgiving, and just one student came. Over the years church members hosted social events and led Bible studies for the international students, welcoming them into the life of the church.
Over an eight-year period Smith sensed a call to minister full time to international students. Eventually Smith and his wife Lynne attended RUF-I assessment, but despite being approved for ministry, RUF-I did not have any immediate openings.
As the Smiths waited and continued to pray, an opportunity emerged for a brand-new ministry at Penn State. Penn State hosts the 13th-largest international student population of any university in the United States, with more than 8,400 international students attending the school. RUF-I coordinator Al LaCour spent eight years praying for an opportunity to serve these students, the same amount of time as Smith had sensed a call to international student ministry.
As he prepares to launch this new ministry, Smith knows this will be a daunting task. The large campus and huge international student population make the job feel overwhelming.
Despite these challenges, Smith said he looks forward to investing all his pastoral energy in ministering to international students, to welcoming students and volunteers into his home, and watching the Gospel connect with people from different cultures.
Susquehanna Valley Presbytery is sponsoring the ministry with funds donated by churches in Lancaster and State College, Pennsylvania. Smith will be based at Oakwood Presbyterian Church in State College.