Graduation, International Students, and a Marvelous Ministry Opportunity

Last Saturday my wife Kris and I had the privilege of watching our daughter Karis graduate from Purdue with a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.  Flanked on one hand by Karis’ husband Austin and the other by my mother, our little tribe rejoiced at this tremendous accomplishment.  There were hundreds of thoughts swirling through our minds as we watched academic proof unfold that our little girl is “all growed up.”  God is good.

One of the background observations we made was how many international students graduated that day as well.  Of course we recite the statistic frequently–that Purdue has the second highest number of international students of any public university in our country.  But it becomes especially obvious when you hear the names, see their families, and marvel at how the world comes to West Lafayette, IN year after year to study.

It is fascinating to see how many times God commands His people in His Word to have a special place in our hearts for those from foreign lands.  Deuteronomy 10:19 sums it up succinctly — “So show your love for the stranger.” As a church and community, we have the privilege and the responsibility to show love to those God brings to our town from the nations.

When the ceremony was over, the parking garage directed us out along Northwestern Avenue.  In the providence of God, we passed Faith West at 1920 Northwestern as the workers were applying the beautiful shades of finish paint to the upper floors of our student ministry project there.  It takes your breath away to think about the enhanced opportunities the Lord will give us to reach out to college students in the coming days including young men and women from around the world.  A visit to graduation and Faith West on the same day was a wonderful juxtaposition of ideas which resulted in great thanksgiving.

  1. Thank the Lord for Purdue.  It really is amazing that we have a world class university right in our own community.  What we drive across town for–others fly across the world to enjoy.  It is easy to take this fact for granted unless we constantly cultivate a thankful heart.
  2. Thank the Lord for the privilege of ministering to college students.  College is a place where many times life is making up its mind.  We have the opportunity of reaching out to young men and women at a very impressionable time in their lives.
  3. Thank the Lord for international students.  The Lord has literally brought many of the mission fields of the world to our front door.  A good percentage of the young people who received degrees Saturday hail from countries where it is difficult and sometimes impossible for a missionary to enter and serve.  But we have the opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus openly during the time they are in our midst.
  4. Thank the Lord for Faith West.  Because of God’s blessings and the visionary giving of our church family, we are a few weeks away from having a platform for college ministry that is beyond our wildest dreams.  If you are part of helping this unprecedented opportunity come to fruition, thank you for your generosity.

Many will come to Purdue in the coming years from around the world as strangers.  Some will leave as brothers and sisters in Christ, prepared to share the good news of salvation with those in their homeland as leaders in their culture with an American degree.  Thanks be to God for this incredible calling to love the stranger.

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.