For Westerners, it is hard to imagine growing up in a country where rejecting Islam, or any religion for that matter, could cost us our lives. Yet this is a reality for many in the non-Western world. It is the reality of one of my students, Jack [not his real name]. Jack is an international student studying at Texas A&M University.
Growing up in a Muslim country, Jack had no choice when it came to religion. However, as a high school student, Jack decided on his own that Islam was not true and that the Quran was not the true revelation of God. To this day, no one in Jack’s family or home country knows that he has rejected Islam because he fears for his life.
Each year, about 4,600 international students study at Texas A&M University. These students come from almost every country in the world, including countries that are inaccessible to Christian missionaries. Sitting in the coffee shop across from campus on any given afternoon I will see students from Turkey, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Egypt. Many of these students have never heard the gospel. Some are only with us for several years. Therefore the need to reach these students with the gospel is urgent. This might be their only chance to ever hear the truth of Christ’s redemption.
The opportunity to search for truth is one of the main reasons Jack came to the United States to study. We connected through a mutual friend (another minister) and met over coffee to get to know one another. We have met every week since. By the grace of God, I have been able to welcome Jack to Texas A&M.
Sadly, most of the international students at Texas A&M will never be invited into an American home or make any American friends. This is a gap Reformed University Fellowship-International (RUF-I) seeks to fill—offering biblical hospitality to welcome the nations the Lord has gathered on our campuses. In Leviticus 19:34, we read, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” Likewise, the Church of Christ is commanded to welcome the foreigner in Jesus’ name (Matthew 25:35).
Jack is now a skeptical but eager seeker after truth. Through a simple act of hospitality, a relationship of trust has been built which is creating a context for exploring the gospel with him. It is amazing how sharing a meal or cup of coffee builds relationships, even with those much different from us. It is amazing that we no longer have to travel or learn new languages to reach the nations for Christ.
In Genesis 12:3, God promised Abraham that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. Those families, those nations, now live next door. The question facing the church today is this: Will we take advantage of how God has providentially brought all nations together here in the United States or will we let this gospel opportunity slip away?
Jason Pickard serves as the RUF-I minister at Texas A&M University. Pickard is a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, and a student of history and of the intersection of Christianity and culture.