“God gathers brilliant students from nearly every nation on earth to study for four short years in Canada, and then disperses them around the globe. They are tomorrow’s leaders being shaped in Canada today.”
We have greatly enjoyed the smiling faces of international students in our home for over three decades of campus ministry. They are friendly, gracious and inquisitive. I fondly remember David, who stayed with us during Christmas. David was from Africa and was fascinated by our family tradition of building puzzles over the holidays. He stayed up until 3:30 a.m. to fit the last puzzle piece in! We also discovered that David’s dream after graduation was going back to Africa to help develop sustainable agriculture. David was very focused on what God had called him to do and happened to be a part of one of our campus ministries at UBC.
Hospitality for international students is so important. They somehow need to feel at home when separated from family so far away. Our lives are greatly enriched as we discover their cultural practices, challenges, and values. The enrichment is reciprocated as they have opportunity to experience Canadian culture, values, and most importantly, the love of Jesus.
My friend, Alicia Chole, summed up the great commission opportunity we have with students at post-secondary institutions in this way: “Gathered for a season and scattered for a lifetime.” I believe her words crystalize the reality for Christ’s mission on campuses. God gathers brilliant students from nearly every nation on earth to study for four short years in Canada, and then disperses them around the globe. They are tomorrow’s leaders being shaped in Canada today.
International students comprise a significantly growing demographic of our post-secondary institutions. Here are some key facts. Statistics Canada reported that Canada was among the top 10 destination countries for post-secondary education among international students in 2011-2012. In 2018, Canada was listed in the top three most favourable destinations for all levels of international students according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).
The CBIE cites three main reasons why students come to study in Canada. First is the quality of our educational system. Second is our reputation for being a tolerant culture. And thirdly, Canada is known for being a safe nation. 245,895 international students studied at Canada’s post-secondary campuses in 2016-2017. This figure was up 11 per cent from the prior school year and is far outpacing the rise of domestic students. International student numbers are projected to grow with the needs of Canada’s work force rate.
We have a mandate to welcome international students according to Scripture. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 states that God “loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Don’t you appreciate how practical God is? He desires to provide the basic necessities of life to outsiders through the church, so they can become insiders in the family. Will these amazing international students graduate with a favourable experience among other Christians and at a local PAOC church, and having been introduced to a relationship with Jesus?
Practical Tips for Churches
As a local church, there is much you can do. Consider providing transportation from a local campus to your church. New Life Church in Castlegar, B.C., has been busing international students from Selkirk College to their church for years. Develop a network between your church and international students for home hospitality. Kelly Johnson is the Pentecostal chaplain at the University of Calgary and co-director of “Home Away From Home: The Friendship Program.” Home Away From Home works to match international students with host families. According to Kelly, this organization has more than 500 graduate students connected to over 250 families in Calgary. Churches with international students can also utilize and co-ordinate with International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC) through their Friends for Dinner website. Another excellent partnership opportunity is Campus Alpha. Churches can partner with a campus ministry to host Alpha on or near a campus.
SERVE Campus Network Opportunities
Mission Canada’s SERVE Campus Network includes dozens of campus chaplains (like Kelly Johnson), Christian campus clubs, on-campus churches, and church-based and creative initiatives that arrange social events. These events can include all students with a special invitation through the international student office for sightseeing activities and holiday-themed events. Our campus ministries can collaborate with International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC), which provides training. Another practical step is to begin developing relationships with the international student campus offices, asking how we can serve within the values accepted by most universities.
Has God been tugging at your heart to engage the post-secondary mission field and impact the nations with God’s love? The opportunity to reach and disciple those from other countries is not too far away from where you and I are living. Please contact us if you are interested in becoming a Mission Canada campus worker or if you would like to get involved in a volunteer capacity. Our Canadian campuses are some of our greatest mission fields.
John Engels is the national co-ordinator for Mission Canada’s SERVE Campus Network. His focus is identifying and empowering leaders and launching new campus ministries across Canada. John and his wife, Nancy, live in British Columbia, where John also serves as the chaplain at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey. To connect, email John.Engels@paoc.org.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © istockphoto.com.
1. Statistics Canada, “International Students in Canadian Universities 2004-2005 to 2013-2014,” http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-599-x/81-599-x2016011-eng.htm (accessed June 26, 2017).
2. Canadian Bureau for International Education, “International Students in Canada,” https://cbie.ca/infographic (accessed September 26, 2019).
4. Statistics Canada, “Canadian Postsecondary Enrolments and Graduates, 2016/2017,” https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/181128/dq181128c-eng.htm (accessed September 26, 2019).
5. The Friendship Program, http://home-away-from-home.ca (accessed September 27, 2019).
6. Friends for Dinner, https://friendsfordinner.ca (accessed June 20, 2019).
7. Alpha, https://alpha.org/students (accessed October 9, 2019).
8. International Student Ministries Canada, https://ismc.ca (accessed October 10, 2019).