“Go and make disciples of all nations …”
What’s wrong with this picture?
It’s lunch time at Average American High School, USA. A group of foreign exchange students are assembled around one table – a young man from Sweden, another young man from Spain, a young lady from Japan and her girlfriend from France. A German student joins them without a word; this is their normal routine. Every day they sit together, learning about one another’s countries and comparing their experiences in America. They laugh at themselves as they practice their English, and they promise to visit each other when the school year is over.
Right next to this table is a table full of Christian students. After saying a prayer over their lunch, they chat excitedly about how great the youth group was the night before, and they brainstorm ideas for fundraising. After all, they have to raise enough money by the end of the month to go on a mission trip to Mexico so they can share the gospel and the love of Jesus with people in another country.
HELLOOOOOOOO?! News flash! There’s a mission field less than 10 yards from you! Going there is free! You don’t have to fund-raise! You don’t have to have a passport! You don’t have to get any shots! You don’t have to learn another language! The mission field has already done all that! Yes, THEY’ve done the hard work, they’re here, and now all you have to do is obey Jesus and “preach the gospel” – with or without words.
Maybe my description is an exaggeration. I hope so. But I remember having a French student living with us years ago. Her best friends at the local high school were the German student, the Japanese student, and an American atheist. These girls were always welcome at our house, but whenever they came over, I had to wonder – Where are the Christian kids? Are they clustered somewhere in their little prayer groups and Bible studies, or – worse – trying to remain incognito, with their faith visible only on Sunday mornings?
We have the message the world is literally dying to hear – that God loved all of us so much that He was willing to give His only begotten Son to die in our place, to pay for our sins, so that we could be forgiven, be adopted into God’s family, and live forever! Do we really believe that? Do we really believe what Jesus said about being the only way to eternal life – that without Him we are utterly and eternally lost? (John 14:6) If we do, then our hearts should be breaking for anyone who doesn’t know the Good News. If our hearts aren’t breaking over a lost and dying world, maybe it’s time to reevaluate our own faith.
Reaching out to the foreign students is a great idea, not only because it is far easier and more economical than mission trips, but also because it’s a great strategy. Think about it: most people in the world are fortunate if they have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on their tables. The families that can afford to send their children to the US are usually wealthier, more influential citizens in their countries. Often these students are the sons and daughters of political leaders, even heads of state!
Imagine if you shared the gospel with the son of a prime minister, and he made a commitment to Christ. When summer arrives, that student goes home and is asked by family and friends (and the press) about his experience in America. And he tells about his experience in America – in other words, he gives his testimony! He doesn’t need to learn the language, he speaks it fluently! He doesn’t need to work at making connections and building relationships – he already has them! And his country is watching.
When I was in high school, our class had one exchange student. This year just one of our local high schools has 29 of them.
What a mission field! What are we waiting for?
Prayer: Father, You have told us to take the gospel into the whole world, and today there are so many ways in which it is easier than ever to do just that. Make us aware of every opportunity to reach out to others, offering them our friendship, so that through us You can offer them Life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.