Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

International Evangelism

Did you know that a major test of ancient Israel’s godliness was how orphans, widows, and strangers in the land were treated? Here are a few select texts:

"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt" (Deut. 10:17-19).

"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him" (Lev. 19:33).

"The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked" (Psalm 146:9).

"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan" (Ex. 22:21-22).

It is normal to have compassion on widows and orphans, so it is not surprising when a nation is judged for mistreating them. However, throughout history, aliens have not been treated well. Yet God puts them in the same category as orphans and widows.

Part of my youth was spent in south Omaha. It was there that I heard of dagos, wops and pollocks. They were not aliens; they were the children of immigrants. The long-term residents of the land did not love the newcomers, but they were not alone—the newcomers did not like each other. The German Catholic family to our right would not go to the same Catholic church as the Polish Catholic family who lived on our left. The father of the German family was very vocal as to why he did not go to that Catholic church.

After several generations of English speaking and intermarriage, the problems of the 19th and early 20th centuries have changed only in who the aliens are. Now they are the Mexicans, Muslims, and Asians. The commands given to ancient Israel still apply to Christians today. God’s character has not changed.

Let’s look at the early Church. The Church as we know it today began at Pentecost. About two months after the resurrection, people from sixteen different nations gathered at the festival in Jerusalem. The crowd heard the wonderful works of God declared in all their different languages. The result was a new church made up of 3,000 new believers from at least sixteen different nations. That was an international church. There were no racial problems until Acts 6. That problem was quickly solved by selecting men filled with the Holy Spirit to take care of it.

These 3,000 people were saved when they were away from home. Others in the New Testament who were saved while in a foreign country include the Apostle Paul, Apollos, the Ethiopian, Lydia, Onesimus, Priscilla and Aquila (probably), Cornelius, and Sergius Paulus.

There are many people from foreign lands in this country. We are to love them, take care of them, and “go and make disciples of all nations.” We do not have any other alternative if we intend to obey God. God does not give us multiple choices when it comes to obedience. We do not get to select which commands we are going to obey.

During breaks in the academic year (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break), many universities require students to leave the dormitories or move into a common dorm so that only one dormitory will have to be heated. However, there are always students who do not go home at these times. For about ten years in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I would visit that dorm at our local university on Thanksgiving morning and Christmas morning, going from door to door to invite students to our home for the big dinner. After dinner, we worked on jigsaw puzzles, talked about our different countries, and answered questions about Santa Claus and Jesus.

Towards the end of those years, we held English classes in our home; every room in the house had a class, from beginners to advanced students. Many friendships were formed. When the students were doing well enough in English to survive at the university, they would quit attending the classes.

One day, several years after he had quit coming, a Chinese student called to ask me if I would teach his wife English, and could I use the Bible to teach her. I went to see them. He told me that his wife had become a Christian in their home city in China while he was here in the U.S. He realized he had a brand-new and different wife than the one he had left behind in China. To find out whether she was a real Christian, I talked with her, using him as the interpreter. As a result of his wife’s Christian life and our Bible study, he became a Christian.

His first concern was that I not tell any Chinese about his Christianity, especially a certain man whom he was convinced was a spy for the Communist party in China. He then transferred to a different university for his PhD.

After he had gone, I went to see another Chinese graduate student to talk with him about God. He invited me into his apartment. To my dismay, the room had several other Chinese men and women in it. I realized that I could not talk about God. Consequently, the conversation was general. In the middle of it, an older man, a visiting scholar who was seated across a tiny table from me, said, “I know a verse of Scripture. ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’”

This opened the conversation very wide. One of the women said that she was not a Christian, but that her husband was talking to her about Jesus all the time. Her husband was the man whom the other new Christian had considered a Communist spy.

For several decades, we have had an international church in Pullman, Washington, and in Moscow, Idaho. It was modeled after the International Chapels in Kyoto, Japan. We started by advertising free English conversation classes, free rides to church, and free babysitting. On the first Sunday, we had thirty-five adults and sixteen children. At first, the church was mostly Korean. Later, the Koreans started their own church, and the international church became mostly Chinese. For a few years, a Bible class and the preaching were translated into Mandarin Chinese. We also have had Latin Americans, Iranians, Indians, Japanese, Europeans, and people from both west and south Africa. The church was evangelistic by nature, and over the years many received Christ. However, the teaching and the preaching were primarily for Christians. The evangelism was done in our love for the internationals and through literature, recorded talks, and videos in English and in their own languages. We were not in a hurry to get people to respond to the gospel. Each person gets ready at a different time and receives Christ when he is drawn by God through the Christians speaking the truth in love.

Because this is a university town, our international church was made up of transient people. The size of the church varied from thirty to a eighty. However, hundreds have heard the gospel and been touched by the love of Christ through the Christians there.

If you are interested in reaching out to international students in Moscow, Idaho, you would be most welcome at the International Student Fellowship. It meets for dinner and Bible study Mondays at 6:00 at the Campus Christian Center at UI. Contact Ty Knight at tknight@christkirk.com with any questions.

You can also get involved in the UI Friendship Family program. Friendship Family connects international students at the University of Idaho to local families in the area. The students don’t live with you, but join in occasionally to your family activities, dinners, holidays, or whatever you invite them to do. To get connected, email Alexandra Zenko, the program director, at alexandra.zenko@gmail.com or Ty Knight at tknight@christkirk.com.

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