Each week, around 10 unbelieving international students gather with a handful of Christians to enjoy a home-cooked meal, play games and discuss the Bible together. On the first night we had it, individuals showed up simply because they have received a flier—and the Holy Spirit was drawing them—and they were eager to make American friends. For many of them, it was their first time to read from the Bible or even hear about the story of Jesus. Some of the students have lived in America for only a month.
We passed out Bibles, showed them the table of contents and explained what chapters and verses were. We read through chapter four of 1 John, starting with verse seven. They followed along, wide-eyed and intently reading. They had questions. Some of them have religious backgrounds of Buddhism or Hinduism. Many contributed their thoughts about God being identified as love.
After talking several minutes, the opportunity arose to explain how God’s perfect love was shown to us when he sent his only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. We tried to convey the gospel in simple terms, without using church lingo. Foremost, we wanted to embody Christ’s love and build real relationships with them.
On the drive home, a radiant Vietnamese girl said to me: “I am excited! The Bible is easier to understand than I thought.”
The following week, my Chinese friend talked about a time when she felt lonely, sad and afraid. She said: “I remember learning from the Bible that I was loveable and treasured. Then I was comforted and felt the warmth and love of God. I experienced God’s love driving away fear.”
Over the weekend, she and I took our friend’s dog for a walk through the newly harvested wheat fields. We marveled at the majestic sun setting and she said, “Even though I do not know how to pray to him, I do believe that God really is big.”
I tried to explain prayer is simply having a conversation with God. She held my hand as we helped each other walk up and down the steep, rolling hills. We encountered wild deer and skittish mice. Most importantly, though, God’s presence was unmistakable, and our friendship deepened. I am excited she is going to teach me how to cook spring rolls very soon.
Jane Owen is a student missionary correspondent serving with Go Now Missions in the Pacific Northwest.