Cross Church Fayetteville’s International Student Ministry
When it comes to reaching international students, Cross Church College Fayetteville (C3) takes a two-fold approach. First, like most ministries to internationals, their goal is to reach internationals. But, they go one step further too. “This is where we differ from most ministries,” said Hunter Bonham, a Cross Church School of Ministry student and resident minister working with C3. “Our focus is to prepare our American students for international ministry. We spend the majority of our time and efforts to equip them to practice practical evangelism in the cross-cultural context.” The efforts are paying off. “We have a dream team of volunteer American students in our ministry,” said Bonham.
American students at the University of Arkansas live among the nations. Arkansas Baptist State Convention College and Young Leaders Team International Student Ministry Consultant Teresa “Bit” Stephens said there’s 120 nationalities enrolled at the school. The former Little Rock Metro Baptist Collegiate Minister knows the importance of reaching these groups on campus. “Cross Church Fayetteville has great vision and strategic implementation in reaching the U of A international students.for missions and in their workplace.They utilize the campus as their training ground. They seek to build international friendships on campus. Church volunteers partner with them to host dinner events for conversation and friendship building. This church is training, bridging and sending the Gospel to the nations through this strategy,” Stephens said. Since December, the church has baptized eight: students from Korea, China, Kenya, Rowanda, Panama and several from Japan.
The church hosts international student dinner events once a month. Recently, 46 international students plus 40 helpers attended, Bonham said.This dinner is not evangelistic, but rather a family atmosphere. American students follow up with information gathered from internationals at the dinners. Students are encouraged to build relationships which may lead to an evangelistic conversation. “It’s never our job to convert; it’s not in our power” said Bonham, who refers to Jesus’ evangelistic question to Peter in Matthew 16:13-20, ‘Who do people say I am?’ “Our job is to introduce people to Jesus,” he said. Once people introduce internationals to Jesus, He asks them the same question He asked Peter: ‘Who do you say that I am?’
One of the most fruitful ministries both for American students and internationals has been the discipleship groups, said Torry Feole, also a resident minister in the Cross Church School of Ministry working with C3. Feole said these groups usually have three people: a student leader, another American student.who wants to learn discipleship and an international student who is a seeker. These teams start in the evangelistic book of John. “It’s the coolest thing,” said Bonham. “Every person who’s observed or sat in (on the discipleship groups) is now doing their own.” What he did not expect, Bonham said, is for the international students to start evangelizing other internationals, such as the recently baptized Japanese student named Yuko.Yuko was the “seeker” in the group who studied the book of John before giving his life to the Lord while at Slim Chickens restaurant on campus. Now Yuko wants to start his own Bible study group, only this time targeting University of Arkansas Japanese international students like himself..